By Megan Denty
If you've signed in to Twitter or a similar social media site lately and checked out users' bios or profiles, you may have noticed some students describing themselves as "social media experts." A social media expert is presumably someone who can help set up a Facebook account for a business and uses their social media skills to market a product to the public. But what sort of credentials does the social media expert actually have? How can he or she justify the amount of their salary to the overall worth of the business?
Firstly, the supposed social media expert will say they know how to use Facebook, for example. He or she states they know which links to click in order to upload photos in the correct album and how to change the description of a page with minimal effort. However, those are not exactly tasks that require a master's degree. Facebook, one of the top sites in the world, may just be the world's most user-friendly site. So figuring those things out are not daunting challenges for the even slightly tech-savvy. Eight hundred million people check Facebook daily. Most of these people are naturally fluent in the layout of the site. Throw in the fact that Facebook changes its layout every few months and you can see that frequent Facebook use, as opposed to Facebook training, is the best way to master the popular site.
It makes sense that company owners might think they need a social media expert on staff. To a lot of managers and business owners, Facebook and Twitter are like new languages. If someone pointed out one day that all of a company's customers speak German, the manager would hire someone from Germany, right? If the manager could just easily hire someone by throwing some money at the problem to quickly reach all the company's customers and solve their marketing issues, it would be an easy solution.
But claiming to be a social media expert does not mean you are the solution to all of a company's marketing woes. And smart organizations know that. The technical part – the language (wall, news feed, status updates) and the functions (uploading video, photos, creating groups) – is not that hard to figure out. What's not as easy to learn is the marketing component, ie. the translation of the message or how to convey that message into content that is meaningful to a company's customers.
This is where education comes in handy. There is a reason a bachelor of business administration or a degree in English takes four long years, while learning about social media at a post-secondary institution is restricted to a few courses and online certifications. A working knowledge of Facebook won't provide you with the skills to lead marketing efforts.
Facebook is just another marketing tool. It's not a tricky one to learn either. You might even be able to pick it up during your study breaks. If you really want to add value with a prospective employer – in any field – focus on what you learned at university. The knowledge from school and the desire to keep learning is what will really lets you add value to the bottom line.
Megan Denty is a fifth-year commerce student. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.