The end of the road for social media consultants? Pretty much

Interesting couple of posts kicking around on how the time of the social media consultant is (pretty much) over. Shel Israel puts it this way, that a “decade of social media disruption is now coming to an end” and because of that many of those one time consultants are now taking full-time jobs.

It certainly feels that way. All you have to do is think about the news agenda in recent weeks with all those super injunction stories or  Lionel Messi racking up seven million Facebook Likes in seven hours. It is big and it is global and it all shows how far it has come and how far we as a society accept and understand it. Social media is no longer a mystery it is commonplace. The days of the bandwagon are over.

What’s happening now, in terms of brands and business, is that the hard work of integrating and refining our use of social media throughout the organisation now that people have gotten over its newness and stopped viewing it as a standalone process.

It is no longer a surprise to see ads featuring Facebook links and TV and radio presenters asking for your tweets. That would suggest that social media consultants are moving on as Israel suggests.

“Consultants are for new waves of change. In the years I have been in the workplace, I’ve seen consultants for IT, for ethernet connection, faxes, email, security and firewall issues. I even recall being trained on how to use the new IBM typewriters with the ball, instead of a striker. Likewise there were experts on each of these subjects, who not only consulted, but they wrote books and spoke and conferences where people who were either puzzled or passionate about the new technologies gathered to listen, learn and occasionally be inspired.

“That’s the state of social media today. It is normalizing inside of business. It is becoming an integrated system in place. There are guidelines for ethics. The lawyers have stopped screeching about risk. Operations officers are comfortable measuring results,” Israel writes.

Those people who have spent the last few years advising and consulting are now taking and looking for full-time jobs and there are a lot out there with more sure to come.

There are already a lot of people working  in-house who know about social media and how it should be used. So is it the end of the road completely for social media consultants?

Well Mark Shaw argues not quite. He says that companies will still need those consultants, but that those consultants will need to have a wider knowledge and be able to talk not only about social media but marketing and communications in the widest possible sense.

“This is not to suggest that companies no longer need social media consultants but their roles will be different and arguably less in demand. If you are a social media consultant, you need to be really, really good at providing strategic counsel, as well as have in-depth knowledge of the tools and services need to execute tactically.

“For everyone else, they will need to offer than just social media strategic and tactical services. Instead, they have to offer services that embrace communications, marketing and sales strategies and goals. In other words, it will be the people who are multi-dimensional and able to offer insight about big-picture issues who will thrive.”

I think the best ones always have and have come from a position where they know more about marketing than simply being able to explain Twitter and Facebook pages.

Most of those that I’ve come across haven’t been anything like the “blood-sucking social media gurus” that some spoke of and many have handed out great advice.

This has led to some great uses of social media and interesting campaigns, which are also becoming more commonplace (Social Media is a Budweiser bottle…), but by the same token people are still making stupid and basic mistakes on a daily basis whether that is Samsung tweeting people to buy camera instead of paying the rent, Vodafone claiming it inspired Egyptian revolution or Bing coming a cropper with its #SupportJapan hashtag stunt.

People still need good advice and good ideas it is just more of that will be increasingly internal than external.

  • Simon Dell

    Great article. This was the belief in the foundation of our business – – a complete marketing company that also has a strong understanding of social media. That basis is really paying off.

  • Martin thomas

    Watch how the management consultancies will start moving into this territory during the next few months as clients recognise how much organisational and cultural change is required if they are to truly embrace social media and a (close to)real time way of working. The era of the Twitter expert is about to be replaced by the era of the management and organisational expert.

  • Robin Smith

    Martin – They’re already there. Take the Dachis Group for example.

  • Andrew

    Great points here – I think SM has reached a point where it should be integrated into the business at large – this means it has to be considered across marketing in general (to your point Gordon re: those with a broader knowledge are going to be needed going forward) but also across the whole organisation and integrated into areas from customer service to legal to distribution etc. etc.
    BUT there asre still a lot of so called “Gnu’s” out there and they are starting to be found out !

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