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There’s social media experts. SEO experts. Web design experts. Canva experts. You can pick up copywriting experts, graphics, web hosting and domain experts. But what experts do you need to help you?

This is the Regional Australian Digital Marketing podcast, I’m Dante St James

The trouble with working with experts is that they are generally only experts in their one little area of interest. The Instagram expert barely touches anything but Instagram. The Facebook Ads expert is all about the platform. And the LinkedIn expert is almost openly hostile towards any other platform that her particular one of interest. An expert in one platform is not an expert in them all. And this is even more noticeable once you start working with digital agencies, especially the ones that are popping up every other week in regional and rural Australia.

So it’s a good idea to know what kind of experts you are after and how to assess each expert on whether they actually are an expert at what they do.

The website expert

These guys, perhaps more than any other segment of digital marketing, are perhaps the most fragmented. Where a LinkedIn expert will at least work regularly with Facebook and Instagram, a WordPress expert will probably not work with any other website platform. You mention Wix or Squarespace to them and they’ll screw up their face and tell you how they’re not real websites and that WordPress has over 36% of the market. They’ll tell you that any other platform for a website has terrible Google ranking potential (which is not true at all) and how you’ll find it much easier to get support down the track if you stick with WordPress.

This is as much true in reverse. Those who only work in Wix, Squarespace, Duda, ModX, Joomla, Grav or any one of the hundreds of website platforms out there will easily be able to tell you how good their system is and how bad all the others are. And this is where I warn business to veer well away from these people. They are one-trick ponies with just one skill under their belts. In some cases they are not web designers or web developers at all – they are graphic designers who have got by in the past making pretty graphics in Canva, and now found themselves making pretty websites using pre-existing templates on Squarespace or Wix. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Except when they don’t admit that their skills only go so far as how to use that one system, and that the system is very limited in what it allows you to do… unless you understand how to work with code.

One thing that is very important to understand, is that web people are not marketing people. And they are almost always not social media people. The skills needed to build a website don’t cross over much into social media. Web people like projects with defined ends. And they by and large don’t really like to support your website on an ongoing basis. They would rather do the job and then move on. This of course is a generalisation that is mostly to do with sole trader web builders and single-person agencies. Agencies with a number of people in them tend to be much better at follow-up and support. They also tend to have people who are fluent in more than one website system. They may have a WordPress person who happens to know Wix and Joomla as well. Or they may have a few designers who have, between them, worked with a dozen different systems.

The key here is that a web agency should have some experience with a number of systems so that they can provide you with a solution that suits you – not whatever their favourite systems are to work with.

The social media expert

In my hometown, there is a pet grooming service that also touts itself as a social media training business. A quick look at their own social media shows that they’re not all that great at their own social media. They do the same thing everytime. A glamour shot of a groomed pet, posted to their various profiles. That isn’t something you need to train someone in. It’s basically a couple of lines in an email. But it does go to show that anyone and everyone these days is calling themselves social media coaches, trainers, experts and agencies.

The reason they can, is because there are no agreed standards as to what the qualifications of a social media coach or trainer actually is. You can basically call yourself a social media coach with no background in marketing, no training and nothing but a Facebook page. And there’s a whole industry of invented “awards” that help this situation along. At last count, I saw over 200 such social media or work-from-home “awards” out there. From Mumpreneur Awards to Social Media Marketing awards and some bizarrely named awards by self-professed social media experts who have found a way to make money on entries from work-from-home mums and dads who nominate themselves to be judged by an unnamed set of equally unqualified “experts” to dole out awards that have little to no credibility because no one has ever heard of them – and there is no industry body for social media practitioners that owns the concept.

When you’re after a social media guide, look for one that covers, or at least knows the principles behind EVERY social network. Not just Instagram. Not just Facebook. Not just LinkedIn. They should be across the ways to work with every single network. Tik Tok. Byte. Pinterest. Twitter. And the rest. While they may have a particular network that they work with the most, they should be able to advise you on how to use them all.

This is because any coach or trainer who is only versed in the one network will over-burden you with tasks on their one network they know and will under-task you on the others.

The Instagram oriented expert will have you on 30-day challenges one after another. They’ll make you produce 16 Instagram stories a day, and post multiple feed posts at the same time. You’ll be doing Instagram Live videos that no actual potential customers will ever see, and make short little Reels videos that further dilute the objectives of your business.

Meanwhile, you’ll just be sending your Instagram posts over to Facebook, oblivious to the fact that your audience there is local and cares little for your cute dances on Instagram stories – and they can’t interact with your Facebook stories, because you’ve just been pushing the same material across from Insta. And that makes no mention of Pinterest, LinkedIn and TikTok.

Look for social media guides who do different things on each network. They don’t need to be active on all of them, but see how they craft different content for Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Watch how they play to very different audiences. This is the sign of a social media expert, as opposed to an Instagram coach.

Skills that most are short on

There is a big shortage of agencies or individuals who can advise across multiple disciplines. Web designers who work across WordPress, Joomla, Wix and Oncord are like hen’s teeth. Likewise the social media coaches who can guide you through Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest. The most rare of all, are the agencies who are certified by the networks, and regularly work across all of them – PLUS build websites across multiple platforms.

And the unicorns are those who work across web, social media, Google advertising, SEO, TV, radio, press and graphics. Keep them close!

Dante St James is the founder of Clickstarter, a regional Australian digital agency. He is also an accredited Lead Trainer for Facebook Australia & New Zealand and digital literacy trainer with Google’s Digital Springboard program. He is currently the Digital Lead at Treeti Business Consulting and a prolific digital content creator. Dante is the host of the Regional Australian Digital Marketing Podcast.