Overrated. It’s probably one of the worst things to say about a movie, a band, a restaurant – or even worse – about a person. We hear it being said about athletes who show big promise, but never live up to the hype. Of course, it isn’t helps by someone – usually an unknown shows up and overperforms – making the label of overrated stick even more to those that are working hard, but just not delivering.
So it got my attention when Media Week’s headline came across my email a few weeks ago – are you ready for this?
“Social Media is the most overrated skill by business, marketers say. “ Wow. Something I never thought I would see, but here we are. Stay with me through the into, and let’s break it down. Until then, what do you think? is social media the most overrated skill?
Social Media skills are overrated – say marketers!
This was based on Marketing Weeks 2023 Career and Salary Survey, and marketers themselves were responding by saying that businesses overvalue and overrate social media skills. 23% of marketers made this claim of social media being overrated. Interestingly, it was 22.4% of Business to Business marketers compared to 24.2 of B2C marketers.
That was a surprise, as I thought B2B marketers would consider businesses as overrating social media skills more than B2C.
Here are the skills that marketers think businesses overrate in order:
Social media skills – 23%
Performance Marketing 16%
Digital Marketing 15%
Advertising and Marketing Technology 13.7%
Content Marketing: 13%
If you listened to an earlier podcast about the LinkedIn Most In-Demand Skills 2023 report, you might remember that social media skills are listed by job postings and recruiters as being one of the most in-demand skills for marketers! MarketingWeek even reported on this a month prior to this article – how quickly things change!
Here we see a significant disconnect between the judgements of marketers and the perceptions of business and HR Recruiting. If you’ve ever been in the agency space, or dealing at all as a consultant or agency, than this probably does not surprise you.
In my experience. many businesses attempt to self-diagnose what they need in their marketing. Many times, it is based on the ad media headlines or on the trend of the moment. For example, how many businesses were jumping on the metaverse train only a year ago, only for NO ONE to be talking about the metaverse now. Google, Disney, Microsoft and many of the big players let their metaverse initiatives go, and those employees were the first to be laid off earlier this year!
There is a divide between perceived needs and actual needs, and sometimes businesses who self-diagnose what they might tend to go with the prevailing trends, which brings us to social media.
An example of this happened in a training session last week. I asked a roomful of marketers about their goals in social media. “Engagement” is always the first answer, and this was no different. I asked – what do you mean by engagement? And that’s where things slow down, as few define engagement the same way. However, when I asked – what is the organization’s goal for social media? What is it that you want to accomplish – then we started to get beyond the pat – or the predictable answers. Then we started evaluating true outcomes that provide measurable impact to an organization.
In a way, we are back to 2007. I would be in a meeting with a company and their stated goal to start the meeting was “we want more website visitors” of course, looking for SEO. But again, I had to push back and ask – is that all? Just visitors? Their response – after a few nudges, would finally come back to some level of tangible outcomes – like leads or sales. But what happened was an assumption, based on their understanding. More visits led to more sales – that’s an assumption. What they didn’t realize was that visits was a KPI, , and that visits didn’t have an direct impact on sales. It was simply one factor, among many, that influenced the desired outcome.
Of course, I could also take this back another few years when a company was asking for more “hits” to their website. And I could go on to define what a “hit” meant. But again, there was a misunderstanding of the terminology and an assumptive line to the outcome, not realizing the additional steps, causal factors and influences that impact the outcome.
I feel like we are seeing this same cycle – but with social media it has been with us for a while. This same cycle says – we want people with social media skills! But there is a strange inability to define just what skills those are…
Do you want people who can create a post, upload a picture, manage comments, and do this across multiple platforms? Are those the skills being requested?
Or is it the skills to identify and target audiences, create on-target messaging, develop entertaining media that educates and persuades people to action – and the ability to measure the impact of their efforts?
Maybe this inability to properly define social media skills is also why we see job postings that list broad, incongruent, and overly optimistic skill requirements for minimal wages. I’ve seen too many postings that are asking for photography skills, video skills, video editing for multiple platforms – not one person can – or should do all of those things – especially for the ridiculously low salaries being offered.
But let’s take another look at this. This is one of the first skills that I have seen where there it is publicly, or at least in the media – derided as overrated. This is big news. This is really big, especially when there is such demand. What is happening?
Here’s what makes social media and social media skills overrated – the inability to show – or translate – how all of that social media activity actually impacts an organization.
I’ve talked to hundreds of social media managers that express this frustration – they come to my training session with one goal in mind – to justify their job. They feel the heat. The heat of reporting all of that activity into something meaningful, tangible and profitable!
Without that ability to justify activity – busy-ness, then social media – or any activity, really, is impossible to justify. Other areas of marketing – especially other areas of the business are able to cost-justify activities and operations. Marketing traditionally has a problem with translating its activities into justifiable activities – especially when companies realize the actual difference between attribution and incrementality.
But I’m not saying that social media is not worthwhile – but here’s the issue. The use of social media and its value to an organization is going to be unique to that organization – but, it will only be a unique value if the organization has clearly defines the purpose, objective, and measurements that support the objectives. Only then can social media – and its accompanying skills be of any value.
So it all comes down to this – did you pick up which skill was not on the list of being overrated?
Notable by its absence is the skill that makes the other skills dynamic and valuable – analytics.
Just 2 weeks after the original article about social media skills being overrated, MarketingWeek followed up with another article – Data analysis is the biggest skills gap for marketing teams”
And there it is….. 40% of businesses responded that they have a lack of data and analysis skills – more than double content copywriting, social media, and ecommerce.
The response to this problem is interesting. 42% of businesses are focused on hiring existing staff of analytics. 45% are also looking to hire external staff. However, only 15% of businesses were going to start with conducting a skills audit of their existing teams!
What makes analytics so valuable is that it is the skill that enables all other skills and increases the impact of other marketing and business activities!
When looking at the skills in demand:
Writing, content marketing, search advertising, display advertising, programmatic, ecommerce, search engine optimization – really any other digital skills – they all require a basic knowledge of analytics to measure the impact of the work. A more in-depth knowledge of analytics can make a deeper impact by drawing from the trends and data to find unique insights that answer the question – why? Why did this happen. Insights draw from comparisons, find causal factors and then develop recommendations.
Without analytics, recommendations are guesses. Usually guesses are based on feelings, headlines, or trends. With analytics, recommendations are based on history, comparison, and results. Recommendations are based in and informed by available data, and what makes it even more powerful is the ability to then translate those recommendations into estimated financial impact.
This is what makes analytics such a powerful skill – and one that lifts the skills of every other digital skill. This is also why analytics – will never be overrated.
So, what do you think? Do you think social media skills are overrated? Leave a message for me on the show page and tell me what you think!
Until then, I look forward to our next coffee and conversation at the Endless Coffee Cup podcast.