Your organisation doesn’t need a social media expert, it needs its experts on social media

by | Jul 5, 2013

by Pete Prodoehl

[Photo by Pete Prodoehl]

I learned the other day that Homebase don’t refer to their employees as ‘staff members’ or ‘colleagues’. They call them experts.

I love this: it shows that they’ve hired people to be good at their roles – it boldly acknowledges the skills and know-how each person there brings.

Here are five reasons why hiring a social media expert will never be as good as getting the experts you already have in your organisation using social media.

1. Your brand ain’t your logo


Your logo, strapline, corporate plan and marketing can carry any messaging you want – the service or product has to work. This is down to your staff’s competence, enthusiasm and ability to work.

Organisations need brand ambassadors and your staff are the most powerful people to do a good job of this. Why would we just rely on them to fly the flag face-to-face and on emails? Let’s get them using digital forms of communication.

I work with the public sector but this principle applies to any organisation: confidence in the service or product we get from an organisation is going to be much higher if we believe the people running the show are experts in their field.

2. People trust people

  • Here’s a company you can’t find anything out about except for the official line that’s on its corporate website.
  • Here’s a company that employs: an awesome HR expert who uses Linkedin and is always up to speed on the latest hiring news and practice; an approachable, wise CEO on Twitter who shows visible leadership; a customer service person who is always looking at new ways to be helpful and shares entertaining stories about working there.

Which would you trust most? Which would give you a better feel for the real brand values? I reckon it’s the second one.

3. Experts need experts

When you are the most knowledgeable person in your subject at your organisation sometimes you need to tap into the brains of people who do similar things to you outside of where you work. Social media allows your staff to connect to other specialists, to learn and share and compete and generally up their game. If we’re not encouraging colleagues to make use of these free tools then we’re denying our organisations a cheap chance to get more gain more skills.

4. They’re probably doing it already

It’s very simple, restricting access or permission to network on social media on behalf of your company will not stop people doing it.

But employees – experts – will be using social media to research, learn and share: they just won’t put your organisation’s name to it, or they’ll do it without identifying themselves.

For control freaks: this means you can’t monitor what’s being said out there by your own people.

The bigger point is that if you trust your staff are doing good things (otherwise, why did you hire them?) – then you are missing out on all that warmth and loyalty staff are building for themselves not the brand.

5. PR and social media ‘gurus’

I like to think of myself as being pretty informed and creative when it comes to using social media for my work. So, basically, this post is an argument for why people like me aren’t very important. This post is… possibly putting myself out of work before I’ve even paid off my overdraft!

I work in PR and communications though, there’s a great need for these disciplines. But it can’t be about polishing turds, smartening up text to make press releases and pushing out stories on Facebook and Twitter. That’s old news. PR should be helping our experts to communicate well.

PR people are expert communicators, that doesn’t mean doing everything. It means helping, advising and providing intelligence for the organisation and to staff to help them do their jobs better.

To borrow a phrase from the splendid Dan Sleewe need to share the sweets. Let’s give experts the tools they need to show off their work.



  1. Nick Lewis

    Helen – I totally agree with this post. I think organisations, in general, are better off training up existing staff to use social networks effectively rather than renting in or sourcing out the marketing functions to someone who is remote from the business.

    I think the existing mentality is to view social media conversations purely as an evolution of old-fashioned marketing methods when, of course, it is do much more than that.

    I think though that some traditional marketing function needs to be retained, as a form of central co-ordination will still be required if a company converts all its staff into online ambassadors. Not only would that person help co-ordinate the messages going out, they can also act as a central point at which all the inbound information generated through social media interactions can be reviewed, analysed and responded to appropriately. And I think that’s where your ‘point 5’ comes in – the evolution of the marketer as we currently know them..

  2. Warren Whitlock

    Is there any doubt that anyone in marketing, sales, customer service, management, operations, and just business in general would do well to use social media?

    Being an expert at “doing social media” is like being an expert at making a sandwich or using a phone. You can survive without it.. but who wants to?

    Consultants, experts, advisers or other help needs to do more. Solving business problems and exploiting opportunities takes someone who knows you and your business and understands what to improve.

    Once that is known, using a these tools is almost always beneficial to the business.

  3. tomsprints

    I think point 4 above is indeed finally beginning to happen. As people are more and more using various forms of social media in their ordinary lives, they are finding it perfectly possible to use it to describe things they do, their views on issues, etc, etc, all without needing someone to permit them an “official” work ID for the purpose.

    I attended a great event last week where many of those present and tweeting, posting to Flickr, YouTube etc all felt free to do this in their own name, even though if they’d made a formal request back at base for, say, a logo-bearing official ID, they would have been turned down. As you say, Helen, the killjoys who would have refused them immediately lose the ability to track and benefit from the discussions. Moreover, when it’s good, credit-worthy stuff being said, they also miss out on being associated with it.

    The days of “permission to tweet” etc are numbered. Just a pity the dinosaurs with their feet on the brake pedal can’t see it.



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Hel Reynolds

Hel Reynolds

Author of this post

Hel is social media trainer and boss of Comms Creatives. She has been working in comms since 2005, and has been brushing up her expertise in social media for brands since the good old days of MySpace. She also draws the Comms Cartoons, and is usually attached to a mug of coffee.

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