‘If you can speak in cliche, you can get the job’: Confessions of a disillusioned social strategist

Social media strategist is a position that didn’t exist a decade ago and now is used by 288,610 people on LinkedIn. But for those working in the trenches — on the front lines at agencies as social strategists — the reality is far from rosy. In this edition of Confessions, a social media strategist talks about why social media is actually a bubble built on cliches, not strategy.

What’s the biggest problem with social strategy roles?
I’ve been working in social and digital for seven years. When I graduated high school, social was not a thing. Now, there are classes in digital and social in college. I have burned out on social. What is happening is there are too many platforms that brands don’t need to be on, but they’re being advised by younger millennials with no training in strategy. It’s really BS.

Everyone thinks if they have a Facebook account, they can work in digital marketing. But the people getting the job are people talking in online buzzwords, like “content is king.” I’m finding that there are so many students and entry-level grads that don’t know enough about business or marketing. Creating cool content does not mean we’re properly marketing. There’s a huge lack of strategy and insights. There’s a huge canyon between executives and entry-level. That’s why the bubble is going to pop, so I’m not hitching my tractor to that. Social is not about platforms, but it’s about consumer and human behavior.

Are agencies hiring these people?
Yes. Every agency executive says, “You’re 25, you know how to Snapchat, now go,” but these people have no formal training in marketing or strategy. When I look at people who have positioned themselves as ninjas or gurus or other bullshit, you know it’s nonsense. If you can speak in cliché, you can get the job.

Everyone’s telling me, everything is digital, it’s going to be digital in 10 years. But I see the writing on the wall. I don’t want to position myself as a digital or social expert now. I have to look beyond it.

But client dollars are supposedly going toward social.
There is an issue where you have agency execs who don’t know enough about digital talking to clients. Not every client should be on Snapchat or Twitter. Not enough clients are being educated. We’re not doing our jobs. There are too many agencies who have for too long not prepared themselves for digital, but they’re trying to get any digital business at all. So they’re doing this.

What about the brands?
It’s easy to get caught up in the smoke and mirrors if your agency is selling you on some social stuff. Clients, they’re so big. There’s so little communication between the arms of business. Everyone is reacting to each other. Competing brands are reacting. Pepsi does something, Coke does it. They’re focused on that. The problem with social is that it’s easy for brands to see what everyone is doing. Everyone is reacting — to each other and to their bosses. Ultimately, agencies aren’t doing due diligence when it comes to advising on platforms. The prices are so high on some of the new ones, too. But it doesn’t matter to agencies. They just want to be “digital.”

How much do things like measurement errors on platforms matter?
Not much. That’s not what scares me about social. But platforms keep analytics close to the vest. [Agencies] are making so much money off of measuring their platforms. There are entire agencies dedicated to social analytics. And that’s going. Now, we can’t drive insightful recommendations. Five years ago, you got data, but now you get no data from Snapchat and Instagram. Agencies are losing business. That’s a small example of why I don’t want to hitch my career on social. It’s such a fickle beast.


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