12 Things That Suck About Social Media Consulting

by Brett Borders on July 21, 2009

Some people fantasize that being an independent social media consultant would be the perfect dream gig; but in reality, it can be one of the most demanding, stressful jobs in the world. For all the time people spend starry-eyed & cheering about “social media revolution” – very few rake in big bucks by advising others how to participate.

Many people think social media consulting is easy money. It’s not.

The cold truth is: what most social media consultants get paid – in return for all the hours and effort they put into their online game – is pretty meager compared to many other professions.

Here’s why:

  1. The pace can be overwhelming. Your social media knowledge, your connections, and your published content all quickly become obsolete – and constantly need upgrading. If you get slightly unplugged for even a month or two, by accident or by choice, you’ll have missed out on some fairly major developments… and you’ll have to scramble to keep up.
  2. Social media friendships can be demanding. The larger you grow your network and the more online presence you have, the more well-meaning people will randomly request and demand things of you. You’re hit with more e-mails, more interview requests, more offers to get together pick your brain for the price of a coffee, more stories to vote on, more mindless chit chat to respond to – or else people will feel snubbed.
  3. Success is ephemeral. You can be rocking the socks off of the social media world and cranking out the content and new connections like an Uzi – but the second you take your finger off the mouse trigger, people will forget about you pretty quickly. They’re all after the new guy, the new site and the new trend.
  4. It’s very competitive and there’s no barrier to entry. Every man, woman, and child with a Facebook account is now a social media consultant. No matter how much time and effort you put into researching your technique, content and presentations – you will still be competing for gigs against the hot girl with 6 months experience or the “Senior Social Media Manager” at some big company with 39 friends. Even if you’re honest and straightforward about the extent of your knowledge (or lack thereof), you’ll still have to compete with sales hustlers and shameless self-promoters who might not be.
  5. It requires lots of unpaid overtime. Social media is really fun and glamorous when it’s just for kicks, but it can to feel a lot different when you’re “working it” on the other side of the bar. In addition to spending 30 to 40 hours a week on profit-producing business development and client contract tasks – I usually spend an additional 30 to 40 hours writing content, managing my blog and responding to comments, reading RSS feeds and commenting, building accounts, helping with my friends / connections, following links on Twitter. When you’re feeling it, it’s still fun, but when you’re not – it can feel like a grueling overtime burden that eats into your nights, weekends and your business workday.
  6. Some people expect you to know everything. No matter how intensely you study and practice your social media skills, clients will need help or guidance in areas that you just don’t know anything about. If you are honest about what you don’t know – some clients will think less of you, and will look for an full-service “agency” who claims to know about “everything.”
  7. Egotism is rampant. Independent social media consulting requires that you build up a strong “personal brand” – or professional superego. The emphasis on status, self-promotion and cult-of-personality brings out the ‘worst’ and most self-serving parts of some people. Social media also attracts a disproportionate number of people with narcissistic personality disorder. I’ve met some snobs, hob nobs, and flakes who would probably feel more at home at coke parties, socialite society balls, or on American Idol – had they not discovered Facebook and Twitter.
  8. Social media is unpredictable. No matter how good of advice you give, or how much time you put into content or a campaign – sometimes it just doesn’t catch on. This can leave you biting your nails and leave the client doubting your skills. A designer can guarantee they will deliver 3 design proofs within 30 days – but a social media consultant CANNOT guarantee even the best content or ideas will be well received by the community. The volatile nature and fickleness of the community cause a lot of stress and pressure to work overtime when something doesn’t “catch on.”
  9. The pressure to “sell out” is intense. At the low end, there’s tons of cool companies and people who need help – with $500 budgets. But the ones willing to pay good money to consultants are usually huge corporations. Sometimes, but not always, they have uncool products and services that aren’t a natural fit for social media – but they’re hungry for a way to ‘leverage the new media trends for profit.’ Consultants need to get paid – and it can cause both parties to ‘fall in love’ based on incompatible needs – and end up in awkward, uncomfortable professional relationships.
  10. The pressure to “have no life” is relentless. Working non-stop through evenings, weekends, holidays and the wee twilight hours are all fair game – if you want to even try to keep up with the rockstars on Twitter and the digerati on Digg. If you are determined to keep your work contained within a normal workday or workweek – you may find yourself at a huge competitive disadvantage because many of your peers are willing work much, much more.
  11. Clients want results, not strategy. In theory, you can just offer people “consulting” or advice. But to keep clients paying each month, they usually have to see successful results. This often can’t be outsourced or whipped up – it often requires the client’s full, active participation and willingness to change their business culture. Many of them aren’t willing to actually follow the only strategy (involvement and active participation) that will likely provide them with the results they want. Catch-22.
  12. You can never stop hustling. No matter what level you make it too, you can never kick back and coast along – earning passive income as a consultant. If you’re not hustling and making enough noise that people don’t forget about you – you’re not getting paid and you’re sinking. If you’re a natural-born power networker this can be exciting – but it can quickly get fatiguing for some personality types.

Social Media Consulting is Hard, Hard Work

There are some incredibly hardworking, almost superhuman people who have made a good name for themselves and provide excellent value as social media consultants. Who have set things up so they make good money without being on a hamster wheel 24/7.

But for every one of them – there are dozens of people who will try, fail and get ground into dust by the intense pressures and unique challenges that new media presents. I think there are a lot of ways to make a living with your passion for social media – but the consulting model is one of the most demanding, least stable and least lucrative ways. So just make sure you really, really love the extra hustle that that social media adds to the networking and self-promotion demands that all types consultants face.

What’s been your experience with social media consulting? What do you love or hate about it?

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  • http://blog.roguestar.tv Tommy_of_RogueStar

    All excellent points as usual my man.

    I think the hardest thing about the whole thing is the “results” without the willingness to change anything else… as if social media consultants went to the SMO/SEO Hogwarts and we can turn a crappy product into a goldmine.

    Of course, I think in a way, we kind of shoot ourselves in the foot, with the whole “Fight Club” mentality, where we give the illusion that what we do can be easy, and don’t get me wrong, it can, so long as clients are willing to listen attentively and act, well, actively.

    I have to say though, I do love being able to work about 2 feet away from my bed…that’s always nice…

  • Anonymous

    I’m probably the “hot girl with 6 months experience or the “Senior Social Media Manager” at some big company with 39 friends” that’s had some great opportunities just fall in my lap. (Actually, the “hot” part is questionable, but it’s summer, so I’ll go with it.)

    I was recently laid off from Sun and have toyed with the idea of social media consulting as my next career. Right now it’s easy…with a nice severance from Sun, my objective is more about making contacts, helping others, and learning more myself than making money. I love the technologies and how powerful it is to be able to find experts around the world that we can connect with. My primary objective is to use the tools to help me find my next IT Management job. I’m not too hopeful about getting rich or being able to make the same kind of money I made as a Sun manager, but I consider the contacts I’m making to be a great perk.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Tommy,

    Most of the people who contact SEO/SMM consultants have a crappy product they want turned into a goldmine with minimal effort. The hard part is getting so visible ,that you can screen all the unrealistic ones out and only take the choice ones you think have potential.

    Yeah, it’s nice to work at home- close to your bed… but it’s also nice to have some time to sleep in it ;)

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Yevette,

    Glad to hear you’ve found some great opportunities. You must be doing something right!

    My personal take would be that an IT management job would be a lot less demanding than independent consulting. So would an in-house consulting job at a company or agency. There’s something about being plugged into a team and having the security & resources of a company behind you – that makes it easier than trying to pull business out of ‘thin air’ by yourself and keep a massive number of leads flowing, constantly – screening and closing them all yourself and then delivering good work.

    Independent consulting is probably more exciting – and you can certainly bone up and learn a great deal about a certain aspect of social media in several months and be able to help others competently – but that unless you STAY onto it around the clock – non-stop – it’s easy for your knowledge to become obsolete just as quickly as you gained it. That’s a challenge that, say, management consultants don’t face.

    Example: one thing that frustrates me and keeps me from publish more “How to” posts on how to use sites and tools – is that if I make a post about uploading videos on Facebook, within 2 months the user interface will change and my post will be obsolete / frustrating to the users I was trying to help. So unless I take the time to research something AND re-evaluate and upgrade it every two months – I’m not really able to help people for free.

    Good luck with your explorations and let me know what you find!

    -Brett

  • http://www.whatspinksthinks.com David Spinks

    Really well said Brett.

    I think that because people see social media as knowing how to use facebook and twitter, they also view it as really easy, fun job. The truth is unless you really love this stuff, there’s no way you’re going to make it as a social media consultant.

    One of the other entrepreneurs in the Dreamit program that I’m involved in said something really interesting the other day. He said, my job, my hobby and my life are all the same thing.

    I feel like this is the way I often feel and is almost necessary in order to keep up in this space.

    It will be interesting to see how this trend develops as the social technologies mature.

    David

  • Anonymous

    I recently read an article from Brett Borders Entitled 12 Things That Suck About Social Media Consulting. I found the article to be extremely correct in many if not all that it said and a great read for anyone that works online with social media as their primary job or as a part of their job. It seems especially poignant to those of us who deal with it from a stand point of it being the base of what we do.

    I would like to take this opportunity however and answer the 12 Things That Suck… article with one thing. The list of things that suck about social media consulting pale in comparison to the positive things that you get out of social media consulting. I feel almost as if those challenges that he raises are exactly why most of us do what we do. To make sure that the bar is always moving and that things while changing constantly are also able to be learned and worked with to make things once again somewhat controllable.

    I decided to work in social media as a branding and image consultant because of the sheer power and magnitude of the medium. The absolute unknown in controlling a message and the constant demand to know the newest tools. However, there comes a tempering here that those of us that practice in this field understand all to well. That is that every new tool is not necessarily ready to be used the moment it becomes available. In fact almost 75% of what those of us that truly make our livings consulting about social media spend our time doing is making sure that one of the oldest practices of marketing, branding and image management is still adhered to. “Using the Right Tool For The Right Job”, in fact maybe the most frustrating thing about working in this field is dealing with the people who are ready to throw everything at everyone with no plan or thought process about the overarching goal.

    I was told once by a mentor of mine that “in order to win a race you must first know where you are going”. I find that to be one of the most important things I have ever learned and so I say to those that are looking for someone to work with them in the area of social media, find someone who has a plan and is not just opening the flood gates and letting the water run free. Find someone ho enjoys what they are doing and find someone who is willing to learn about what you are trying to accomplish before they give you answers as to how to solve problems.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    David,

    I definitely love social media – is a huge and genuine passion of mine – but I also love camping, friends, cooking and outdoor sports. Sometimes I feel like social media is expanding SO FAST it wants to unhealthily eat away at all the rest. It wasn’t always this way – I’ve been into it for over 15 years…. it used to be more manageable and slower paced – fewer services, less connections and less tabs – but social media is EXPLODING and EXPANDING and keeping up with it is quite the challenge.

    it will be interesting to see how it evolves and how we learn how to adapt to it!

  • http://www.wvpmc.com/ Wendy Van Parys

    Sounds like you’re suffering from aftershock, Brett :)

    Unfortunately, every field has its impersonators, who promise the moon and deliver a lot less. Then they move on to pitch the next lucrative client. I’ve seen it in PR for years – they tell the client they’ll submit press releases to an A-list of traditional journalists and hundreds of blogs (submit press releases to blogs – yes, you heard it right) and get magazines all over the world writing about little old you-the-client. The client gets burned and figures PR, social media, or whatever doesn’t work.

    Over the years, I’ve found that being honest about what you can accomplish, how long it will take and what resources you need – and operating with integrity – is the most satisfying way to do business, for consultant and client alike. Yes, it’s hard work.

    I think it was Ann Landers who once said opportunity is disguised as hard work, which is why most people don’t recognize it.
    @wvpmc

  • Anonymous

    Hi Brett,
    Let me clarify… my great opportunities are speaking engagements that I’m doing for free. I consider them great opportunities because I’ll be meeting a lot of people. My goal is to find a job in IT management and by expanding my network and speaking about social media, I have a better chance of doing that. At the same time, I’m building my knowledge base and experience, so at some point (if I don’t find an IT Management job) I may be able to make some money with consulting. But I recognize it’s tough and takes a lot of time and dedication as pointed out with this article.

    Yes, the detailed “how to” posts are at risk of becoming obsolete. It’s surprising that traditional books are published on this stuff since those books will very quickly become dated. Perhaps you can keep your own library of “how-to” articles with the date and add a disclaimer that new releases of the technology may mean that the screens or interfaces change. Don’t worry about updating the articles unless someone specifically asks you.

    Or…you can keep screenshots out of your articles and keep them fairly generic. There are some people that prefer step-by-step instructions, but a lot of people will probably be able to figure out the details if you point them in the general direction and talk about the functionality.

    Good luck to you!

  • http://www.honeybeeconsulting.com startabuzz

    Brett: This is a great post and right on the money, I’d say.

    I run a small shop; just me, my Macbook and my clients. It’s true, I love my commute (like Tommy said), but it’s true that I’m *ALWAYS* on. I do vacation with my family and go out with my friends, but no matter my location, I’m always working. I almost *never* sleep because I’m always thinking about my next blog post, or how I can manage something for a client. I get a lot of crap from people who think I’m just messing around on Facebook or who wonder what possible use in the world Twitter could have. But when I explain myself and what I do more thoroughly, they usually get wide-eyed and think it doesn’t sound like so much fun anymore.

    But you know what? I wouldn’t trade it. I love my job. I’m good at it. I have a great time with my clients. I get along great with my boss (most of the time). AND I’m able to pad my bank account (reasonably well) in a way that makes me happy.

    So, in the end, is it worth it? 100%. I wouldn’t change a thing. :)

  • http://jscottsherman.wordpress.com/2009/07/21/an-answer-to-12-things-that-suck-about-social-media-consulting/ An Answer to 12 Things That Suck About Social Media Consulting « Personal Branding At Its Best

    [...] Branding, Social Media — Jeffrey Scott Sherman @ 2:57 PM I recently read an article from Brett Borders Entitled 12 Things That Suck About Social Media Consulting. I found the article to be extremely correct in many if not all that it said and a great read for [...]

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Startabuzz,

    I’m glad it’s working out well for you with no sleep and all. ;)

    I have had a rough time recently – I got injured and lost my ability to do public speaking for the time being – and teaching / speaking that was a huge part of bringing in new business. I came to realize how fragile and ephemeral social media status can be – and how quickly the technology moves and how much concerted effort in needed to stay anywhere NEAR the front of the class. Also, how many people are getting into it and how much noise is being created.

    I LOVE social media and thrive on it – but I also like having time to meet my friends or organize my house and kitchen on Sunday – rather than blogging and answering volumes of e-mail. I feel like I need to be more focused – and that I am currently spread out in too general of a digital direction.

    I could, and should, write “12 things that rock about social media consulting” – and when it is going well there are some huge highs and fringe benefits that make it all worth it. Travel, creativity, partying, the joy of helping people unleash their own creative forces… getting paid for your passion, etc.

  • Anonymous

    Great article. I am just getting started as a consultant (after 27 years writing ad content for traditional media). I do find myself really tied the my networks to keep my knowledge – and thus my profile, retweetability, etc. – up. A couple thoughts – if you are very careful to outline exactly what you will do on a daily/weekly basis for clients, i.e. how many tweets or page or blog updates – I think that can make it more manageable. And choose a niche, whether in a particular industry, geographic location or market segment (small, medium, large) and you can probably coast a little on some economies of scale. And coffee. Good coffee.

    Dina Meek
    bigBUZZness.com

  • Anonymous

    Great article… Thanks for posting.

    Social media racks my brain.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Scott,

    I agree that there are many awesome parts about working in social media and as a consultant. It’s the opposite of being bored, understimulated, complacent – which to me – is far worse than being over-stimulated overworked.

    I think it’s a rewarding but HARD job – and a lot of “distracting” efforts are required to keep your ship afloat. I think it’d be smater for me to focus in one or two areas – because “social media” is an awfully big plate to finish off and stay on top of!

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Dina,

    Great advice: Being explicit, being honest – choosing a niche. Sometimes, though, just like in a real life personal or romantic relationship – things get passionate and the scope of your understandings and agreements change… and you find yourself more involved and invested in something than you’d every have thought sane.

    and some people in social media don’t rest, sleep, or ever go outside – and it ‘feels like’ you’ve gotta compete with them or perish.

    I got my start in writing ad content, too. I kind of miss how creative yet singular and focused that was. “This is the product. These are the features and benefits. How can me make it sound compelling and irresistible?”

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Wendy,

    Yeah, I’m a litle jaded. I’m not QUITE able to participate in the “social media consultant” like I used to, and it had gotten me re-thinking.

    I was at a dinner on Friday and I met a big money managment consultant. I asked he how often she had to study manegemnt or keep up with things and she was like “no that much anymore, I learned what I know in 10 years of experience as a corporate manager.” and I thought that sounded a lot easier than social media consulting – and it got me thinking if how I spend my time.. .blogging and Twittering.. is really that “smart”?

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    ThriveAmerica,

    I can handle it for months and years at a time – but occasionally it all seems like too much for one brain and two hands to handle.

  • Josh

    “I think it can be one of the most demanding, stressful jobs in the world”

    I think doctors, fire fighters, teachers, police officers, investment bankers, deep sea fishermen, air traffic controllers, barristers, stock traders and soldiers might have something to say about that. However demanding sitting counting your re-tweets might be, at least lives or vast sums of money aren’t at stake.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Josh,

    I think social media is stressful in a different way – in that you are always on. Teachers don’t have to think about school during the summer. Air Traffic controllers only have to learn new systems every few years, at most, not every week – although I am sure they have kinds of stress that social media people don’t.

  • http://softduit.com brettbum

    All great points, number 11 is possibly the most important (most of the others I would kind of lump into the category of the grass isn’t really greener area).

    But 11 is where the rubber hits the road and repeat business does or does not happen.

    Typically, I’d say selling out is less of an issue for your average consultant (that isn’t working the speaking circuit full time spewing the same non sense for 3-9 months at a stretch). The real issue is selling to a customer that fits the description of number 11.

    There are clients that will pay for your services, you can walk them through the process, introduce them to the tools, even do some of the work for them initially up to and including ghost writing their CEO’s blog (which I do as a service), but the minute they stop executing their social media plan their long tail results can evaporate relatively quickly, and the results or case study that you could utilize to show that social media is effective suddenly becomes questionable because when they pull the plug on the TV there is no ghost image left showing that something successful happened sometimes. :)

    On the bright side, I’ve been doing this for 3+ years now after leaving the fine world of finance, corporate law and business development. I don’t have to commute, I can travel pretty much when ever I like or not travel if I don’t like, I do work typically most days of the week, but I can take off almost any day(s) that I like too.

    When you are on, you do have to ‘hustle’ in the sense of getting lots of stuff done for your customers or yourself, but you can turn it off. That same thing that can make you seem to turn invisible when you take a vacation because someone else is just around the twitter bend or something, can easily put you right back in the limelight when you want to be there.

    If you have the skills, you can make it work and that includes making it work AGAIN after you get back from a week in the mountains with no connection or something. :)

    PS Always happy to show my support for the other Bretts in Social Media ;)

  • Anonymous

    Ha. Well maybe I’ll rethink my career goals. I feel inspired to write a 12 Things That Suck About Working at an Agency :)

  • Anonymous

    Hey Brett – Let me know if u are ever in Atlanta and wanna come on as a guest on ThriveAMERICA?

  • http://www.afhill.com Andrea Hill (afhill)

    >Clients want results, not strategy.

    this is a fantastic insight. We may think that people care about why we decided to promote a given content item, or ignore a certain outlet, but they really don’t. It can be tough for those of us who take pride in our work, because so much more may go into it than people really expect. But I guess it comes down to analogy: do I care how long that sauce simmered before the third ingredient was added. Nope – I just care about the end result. Sure, some folks may be interested in the details, but in the end, we’re paying for the dinner.

    Actually, even as I write this, I see the other side. I find it odd that often we tell our clients the specific tools and techniques we use – some of that IS the magic behind the curtain.. perhaps giving them the food they ordered is sufficient, rather than divulging the secret of our success.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Erin,

    Well, just think about the ups and downs of it – before you dive in headfirst.

    If you can handle working at a company and doing social media consulting for them – the guaranteed paycheck each month takes a lot of the pressure off.

    A lot of my friends have found themselves in stressful positions because they took a freelance job due to imminent financial pressure -and it turned out to be a mismatched disaster.

    The stress of working at an agency is different. I found the stress in that environment had to do with no one taking my ideas seriously or being unwilling to implement the best ones due to politics and red tape.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Andrea,

    I’ve found that clients want lots of “dinner,” served regularly – or they tend to walk out and try other “restaurants.” This can create a lot of pressure that a designer or programmer don’t feel – because they can confidently deliver their dishes without needing the client or the community to collaborate. But the social media consultant needs a lot of luck and cooperation to make things sizzle and pop. Even the most inspired ideas can fail miserably with just a little lack of either.

    Maybe my philosophy is too generous, but if someone hires me – I tell them everything I know and how I found it out, what tools I used and where to get the recipe. I figure that’s my job – to tell them what I discovered in all my hours of tinkering with it in exchange for money.

    I don’t think it’s the greatest business model.

  • http://www.afhill.com Andrea Hill (afhill)

    Hey Brett,

    I don’t think it’s the greatest biz model at all – but I suspect this is in part why monetizing any service is a challenge. When you’re passionate about something, you’d do it for free, and are happy to share your knowledge with others just so that things are done as well as you know it can be. But that doesn’t (directly) pay the billls. Certainly, it can help grow your reputation and skills, and indirectly that can lead to greater things, but giving away what you can well earn money at doesn’t appear to make a lot of sense on the surface.

    p.s. I think many designers would take offense at your believe that they can deliver their dishes without input from the community. Good design is effective design.. which necessitates someone to impact.

  • Anonymous

    Every single one of these is right on. I type this at one in the morning, halfway through my daily workload, for which today I earned less than minimum wage. I remember the golden days…April, and there was that one in May that was pretty bitchin too.

  • http://www.barefeetstudios.com Roxanne Darling

    Brett – I enjoyed the post, agree with most of your posts, and consider this one more piece of the transparency discussion. I have been at the forefront of a couple of big trends (yes, I was one of the first aerobics instructor trainers and speakers back in 1984..) and the mechanics are very similar. At least now we have blogs and Twitter to discuss it openly. I am a from believer that all of this insightful, specific, respectful conversation adds education and credibility to the community at large.

    I am giving a presentation tomorrow to a hotel chain, and redid my whole slide deck after coming across Charlene Li’s new report issued yesterday. I am very happy with the results though and in this case am being paid fairly, so all is good. In contrast, last week was filled with meetings and clients with the tiny budgets or “pro bono” suggestions. ;-)

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Raincoaster,

    You’re not alone! I’ve definitely had my < minimum wage days and months. I do love social media and I do love consulting – but I love it for about 8 hours a day-ish – not the 14 to 16 that it can easily stretch into if you're not super vigilant.

  • Guest

    Really good post.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been doing social media consulting as a part of my business development and strategy intern role, but now I have realized that SMC is a full time job. I would love to be a social media consultant post MBA. I enjoy this thing, and I like the challenges that it poses.

  • http://glennhilton.com Glenn Hilton

    Brett, I can see you’re talking from experience in what you’re sharing. Though I’m not a full time consultant like you are, I too have felt the pangs of many of the things you’ve described as the social media lifestyle can be very demanding and can eat away at your time in so many ways. So thanks for sharing honestly and for being willing to be transparent with us. You’re a good man and have impacted many others with your insights, kindness and efforts you make to respond to all who come. I hope you’ll be encouraged and find some time to refresh as you contemplate the next step.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Andrea,

    I talked to my PHP/ Drupal developer friend last night. He said that he can accurately estimate how long a job will take (in a number of hours or days) and deliver the goods every time – with rare exceptions. Sure, he has to get some feedback from the client… but his work is much more tangible than PR /social media promotion work – which are harder to predict and exceptions and unexpected things are the rule!

    Same with design – yeah it’s a headache and everyone has feedback – but a design the client will accept is more tangible / deliverable that “an awesomely effective social media strategy for a company”

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Adrianedn,

    thanks for stopping by and engaging!

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Durgesh,

    all power to you! I love social media too – I just find it grueling to stay on top of at a thoroughly professional level while doing an endless amount of self-promotion and business development tasks. If you can team up with someone or get started with an agency / company – it might takes some of the pressure off and make it easier to have a balanced life.

    If you are totally wired and totally digitally insatiable – like a – 24/7/365- go for it alone and enjoy the ride!

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Glenn,

    Yeah, I admit it I am feeling a bit jaded. I was staying on top of things fairly well – going to events, teaching classes, on a lot of calls, making content, landing contracts – and I got injured and “knocked out” and still haven’t completely returned to a normal life. (maybe it will take a year or ??, doctors say.) I had this blogging / teaching lifestyle going on and I found that it was kind of fragile – not sustainable unless I was there 100% of the time in full form.

    I very much do love social media and have been passionate about it for years – but it’s interesting to watch it hit the prime time and take off like a rocket ship. I just question whether consulting is the best way to leverage my time and energy – or if there isn’t a much smarter way (business model) that I can pour my passion and efforts into.

    The worst feeling / perception is that behind a thin veneer of professional camaraderie – much of it just this competitive ego scene and people only care about you to the extent it can directly benefit them or help them get ahead. Thank you for snapping me out of that by caring and proving that’s not true.

    appreciate your kind words and support, as always!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks a lot Brett. For now, I am in a learning mode. More the things I do myself right now, the more I would learn. Balanced life isn’t really a priority at this point. Thanks to my IT background, I am able to automate some of things that I need to do repeatedly.
    But I believe that companies do need have professional and dedicated social media consultants or they would lag behind.

  • http://techbytes.biz techbytes

    Amen. I love this sentence: “The emphasis on status, self-promotion and cult-of-personality brings out the ‘worst’ and most self-serving parts of some people.” The hyper narcissism I’ve seen from “social media experts” or people who have been successful promoting their biz with social media is crazy. I’m in Cleveland, OH which makes it even more bizarre.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Techbyes,

    Yeah, fore sure! Sometimes I don’t even want to go to “tweetups” because I don’t want to have a huge egocentric conversation. Sometimes I feel like I’m at a MLM recruiting meetup or a 70′s porn set. We all have an ego – I have one too – and we occasionally think we are great or whatever – but something about social media culture really seems to exacerbate it in a lot of people.

  • http://techbytes.biz techbytes

    “…70′s porn set.” Now that is classic! LOL!

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  • Anonymous

    Great post! Gives me a lot to think about!

    I currently work the kind of hours you are talking about as an “employee” for a home builder instead of a consultant. I’m an internet sales consultant and I see social media as another tool to add to my ability to make sales for the company. I’ve wanted to branch out on my own and become a consulting to businesses about creating and implementing plans that will improve their customer service and follow up systems so they don’t ultimately lose leads to their competition. (that’s essentially what I’ve been doing for one company)

    I love what I do, creating relationships, which in turn creates sales, and I can see as I delve into social media that it enriches everything I’ve been doing thus far if implemented properly, but it does end up chaining me to my computer even more than before!

    I come back to that question which you really address in #11 which is You can lead a horse to water, but how do you make him drink? You can come up with the best strategy, but if you don’t have someone like me (in my current position) who is driven to implement it, the whole plan can easily fall flat. So then I come back to the idea that being a consultant might not be what I think it is. If I were to try to be hands on, as I am now, but with numerous clients how would I ever find time for myself?

    All your points illustrate some of the things I’ve been asking myself as I learn more about social media and look at the evolution of my current position and where I can take it, and myself in the future.

  • http://www.talentbasket.com TalentBasket

    Well, isn’t it true for all type of consulting works? Or further all type of professionals.

    Clients want results not strategy. Of course, talkers will never sustain.

    I have never known any professionals who don’t have to perform whether you are a social media consultant, salesman, doctor, plumber, driver or chef. Bad performers get fired. That’s life.

    I do agree social media consulting is not very lucrative as many may have thought. There are too many people jump into it without a clear plan and agenda (recession and unemployment certainly make it worse). Before anyone starts to advise people on how to run marketing, they should do a reality check on marketing themselves.

    On the bright side of things though, all these problems mean more opportunities in social media marketing. Ideally, any social media independent consultants or agencies should have platform, process and outsourcing model in place to fully scale. Without it, everyone will hate it like the 12 things Brett mentioned here.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Brent,

    You’re dead on. Results in social media are no different that results at the gym or in the stock market. You need to first have to make the decision that it’s what you want to invest your time, effort and money into. Then it takes a dedicated commitment to make it work.

    6 pack abs are not a result of a few weeks of working out. And few people retire after playing the stock market for 6 months.

  • http://twitter.com/maayanroman maayanroman

    Love the honesty. Although I’m not in the social media consulting biz this point really resounded with me:
    “Many of them aren’t willing to actually follow the only strategy (involvement and active participation) that will likely provide them with the results they want. Catch-22.”

    I’m just out of college and working at an email marketing company, and although I’m lucky to have some wonderful, responsive clients I’ve seen other clients who want the results but don’t hold up their end of the bargain. On the one hand it feels natural to simply expect results when you’re paying someone, but on the other hand the managers who hire consultants like yourself or companies like the one I work for need to understand that they’re paying just as much for sound advice as they are for implementation.

    Because email is increasingly recognized as such a profitable channel most clients are willing to listen and agree with strategies or project we suggest. The bigger issue is often that they don’t have the resources: either the company as a whole doesn’t have money to spend on the projects or email “just isn’t their focus” and the manager in charge of that channel has other responsibilities that are deemed more important. Perhaps part of your job (or a new business model) would be helping companies adjust their organizational structures, reporting, and budgeting in key areas to better leverage advice from consults.

    Maybe your rep with business has gone down as a result of less speaking engagements, but the sheer length and engagement exhibited by all the comments on this article are a testament to the solid network of readers that you’ve built (no doubt due in no small part to the fact that you respond directly and thoughtfully to almost every comment – nobody else does that.)

  • http://nathanholland.com/ Marcy

    Good points. The demand for this is probably really high, I can imagine how it is. Given all those things that suck, I still think there’s more good things than bad. Yes, people expect you to know everything and want results quickly – that can get on your nerves, but the helping part as well as the learning is not just fun but fruitful as well.

    Good post, Brett!

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Marcy,

    There are just as many things that rock. Helping people and spreading the creative energy and emerging culture is very rewarding, I agree.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Maayan,

    That’s very cool you’re in e-mail. I trained in direct-response and copywriting – and I was studying a bit about e-mail deliverability, white lists, etc. That is some very, very cutting edge and technical stuff. It seemed too daunting for me.

    I think, though, that e-mail marketing is a more measurable and deliverable kind of service than social media in so many ways. Companies know it can be profitable, the “best practices” have been hammered out for over a decade-ish – and I think it’s easier to offer and explain to people and keep them paying for it (but not necessarily any easier to do then good e-mail marketing, though).

    Yes, since I got injured I realized that social media is incredibly ephemeral and the business side of it is highly verbal + social – all about meetings, conference calls, bars, conferences, parties. My lessened participation and loss of classes and speaking engagements has gotten me slightly depressed / jaded. I felt like most of the magic – which was meeting / teaching / learning / sharing with cool people IN PERSON had evaporated and cooled off for a while.

    I actually think it’s a good thing, though. It’s forcing me to look at evaluate things with open eyes and not just get sucked up into the World of Illusion – which you can find everywhere in social media – and it bought me some time to think about how to play my cards and pick the right path.

    I respond to comments on my blog because I’m not doing it for money – I’m doing it to build real connections and relationships with the people who comment and interview (which can lead to business and personal exchanges that are valuable.) I figure anyone who feels compelled to comment on something I write is someone on a similar wavelength and it’s worth getting to know them rather than chase thousand of random strangers. Thanks for taking the time and letting me get to know about you and what you do in depth – I appreciate it!

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Chris,

    Social media is not new, but the commercialization and business use of it is. Just like the internet has been around since 1968 but .com has only been around since the mid-90.

    I think we’re kind of going through a “bubble” like we did in the 1999 with the .com’s where people are getting all hyped up and dizzy with excitement – and full of themselves. And eventually a lot of the people / ideas / businesses that are “built on the sand” will fall and sort themselves out.

    Some people are so eager to get a late start to social media they they don’t understand the time and effort required.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    TalentBasket,

    Some great and honest thoughts! Yeah, I know doctors have to perform – but they don’t have to re-invest their process every 6 to 18 months. Yah, firemen do some intense stuff – but they have weeks and months off where they don’t have to think about the firehouse – and they don’t have to study new firefighting techniques CONSTANTLY – just occasionally.

    There’s something quicksilvery about social media that makes it harder to have a platform, process and outsourcing model than many other kinds of consulting. I’m not saying social media is rocket science, but the business application of it is relatively new and the best practices haven’t be all hammered out by anyone yet.

    I think there are tons of opportunities for people who can figure out a method to the madness, and who have the stamina and skills to stay on top of it.

    Me: Maybe I could, maybe I couldn’t, maybe I don’t want to? Not sure.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Leahkalz,

    I’m not trying to be excessively negative or disparaging. Just honest about some of the challenges in social media. I feel like there is a fair bit of “hype” both inside and outside of the industry and not that much discussion of some of the more unpleasant parts of social media business.

    Glad you’ve been wondering some of the same thing, and I know I’m not totally crazy. ;)

  • http://twitter.com/maayanroman maayanroman

    You’re absolutely right about it being more measurable – that’s one of my favorite parts about it since I always look to break things down into numbers. I’ve seen a lot of parallels between email marketing and some social media channels as direct marketing, but the issue in social media is that it’s difficult to know when someone has received or looked at your message the way you can with email (ex: a tracking pixel allows us to know whether emails were opened).

    Also, we’re seeing a lot of clients using email to boost engagement with their facebook pages and twitter accounts. Increasingly marketers seem to be using email marketing and social marketing in tandem. Mailchimp, an email marketing service provided (not the one I work for) posted this article http://bit.ly/k3kQK about using twitter to rate the effectiveness of an email campaign and overall product push. If you’re looking for a better niche maybe a combo of social media and email (or some other aspect of direct or interactive marketing) consulting would do you well.

  • Anonymous

    I have read this blog from top to bottom., and enjoyed every word from Brett and the commentors.

    This post has drawn me in, deeply, because I’m going down a consulting path, though it’s more SEO focused. At the same time I find it tough to pull myself away from Twitter because there’s always something new to learn about SEO & social media.

    Here are my thoughts on the post, and hope it might help someone. Having been in technical sales and marketing for a few decades I’ve had the opportunity to work with many knowledgable engineering types. Engineers and not salespeople for a reason. Mainly because they either do not like selling, or simply enjoy being purely technical. No problem.

    One idea is to find someone who’s either a professional, or good at, selling. Either pay this person a finders fee, or partner with them. In a perfect world, this person would be like the manager of the rock band, and the talent then shows up, plays for the audience, and goes away. The “manager” handles all of the negotiatons, pricing, and paperwork. The manager might also act as a business guide, because you are now a source of new shoes for the kids.

    I think I’ll begin to research this concept. Maybe I can make money on my sales and marketing talents as well as assisting others to help themselves. Sort of like a talent agent. Not a new idea, and maybe it actually sucks. Any feedback would be welcomed.

    One last thing for Brett…maybe a Pay-per-view webinar series as an online social media coach? It could get you back out without moving from the house.

  • http://wendywellswrites.com/ Wendy Wells

    Your post brings up some great points. You’re right that today, anyone can call themselves a social media consultant. I have heard of marketing companies that hire Social Media Managers based on how many Twitter followers or Facebook friends a candidate has. The reach of one’s influence is being used as a barometer by which their wisdom and intelligence are gauged under the guise of, “if that many people are listening, surely they must be saying something worthwhile.”

    I agree with #10, that “the pressure to have no life is relentless.” I often find myself at the computer and realize that 16 hours have passed and there is still a great deal more work that I want to finish. Knowing when to cut off the work day is important but keeping up with the “rock stars” of social media is too. Finding ways to work smarter and more efficiently are always a challenge, especially when running a small business alone. Which leads to your final point, that even once a business goes from small to large, kicking back and coasting along is not an option. This is not an industry where the well oiled machine runs itself. It is more like a living organism that takes constant cultivation and care, which as you mentioned, can get rather tiresome for certain personality types.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Wendy,

    I think that the “number of followers” is relatively, but not entirely
    meaningless. Sure it shows some basic competency using the tools and
    adding friends, but there are many, many people who have huge followings
    and little the way of interesting things to say – let alone social
    media strategy skills.

    I love your “well-oiled machine” vs. living organism metaphor! I read
    this busines book, The E-myth Revisited, and it talks about setting up
    a process-based, McDonalized business… and that really, really
    isn’t the best fit for doing quality social media consulting.

  • http://www.workingknowledge.com/blog/ Andrea Meyer Working Knowledge

    A sobering post that rings true. Thanks very much, Brett, for sharing your insights on this.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    I was feeling pretty jaded when I wrote the post, but yeah, much of it still rings true even when I’m feeling “into it” ;)

  • http://socialmarketing.populoo.com/2009/08/16/12-things-that-suck-about-social-media-consulting/ 12 Things That Suck About Social Media Consulting

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  • http://www.socialnetworkingsandiego.com/ justinrfrench

    excellent post. it has been tough work the last 9 months in the trenches, and i just hope we can start expanding operations and delegate some work work to your clients so they can become self sufficient because at the end of the day, THEY know their own products and services the best

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  • http://www.tayloryou.com cytaylor

    Funny, after reading your blog I absolutely agree with all of the points you’ve made. I’m actually up late tonight trying to find something worthwhile to blog about but because I’ve been unplugged for a few days to do my “real” job, I have writer’s block. Thinking maybe I’ll just blog about something other than social media tonight.

    But yes, I am in total agreement with you about how difficult it is to get a social media consulting gig off the ground. I’m still building my practice but have recognized over the past several weeks that this is going to take a considerable amount of time — not to mention money — to convert to a success. In the meantime, I’m having fun using various social networking tools and trying to stay on top of the latest trends. At least it helps me “look” like an expert when I talk about it at work.

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  • http://twitter.com/pug Ef Rodriguez

    Just wanted to mention that you’re my hero, Brett.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    You’re my hero, too! A bona-fide social media rock star – with guitar chops and vocal ability to prove it!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/realchrisjones Chris Jones

    This is the most honest piece I’ve ever read on this subject. I can personally vouch for all of the above. However, at the end of the day I really do enjoy this stuff. That said, anyone who’s not prepared to hustle 24/7 shouldn’t even bother.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Chris,

    Yeah, it’s a 24/7 hustle – no doubt about it. I don’t mind the hustle
    but I do other stuff than social media (organic SEO, design) and it
    all becomes too much. I enjoy it most of the time – but sometimes I
    crack and fizzle from all the screen radiation and constant
    interactions.
    A week or two or being on the computer less, or a weekend getaway
    usually straightens me out.

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  • Anonymous

    Brett

    Great blog and great post here in particular. One thing I have observed and probably has occurred to you but if not might help you out, is something I heard at a conference. I actually heard it from Jason Calacanis, who I think was partially trying to rub everyone’s face in the fact that he was rich and had already created Weblogs, but also was conveying a very valuable insight. Basically the point he made was that you should try and figure out a way to take all of this knowledge you have and capture it into something that can be transferred to an unlimited amount of people without linearly scaling your effort. Find a way to get out of the consulting business. This could be writing a book where you share your insights, building software tools that apply your knowledge to different situations based on parameters or a whole bunch of other ways you can gain leverage.

    This is no easy task but a lot of SEOs are going this way, look at seoMoz.

    Anyway, just thought I would share that.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • http://www.jasonnation.com jasoncalacanis

    Dude… I sold one company and although I’m “well off,” I’m certainly not off the charts and I still behave and act the same I was when I was flat broke four or five years ago…. I mean, except for the Tesla and the business class seats…. other than that I’m the same guy.

    Oh yeah, and the gadgets… I buy a lot of gadgets. :-p

  • Anonymous

    It may be true that you treat your fellow man with a basic level of respect and that’s great – I have no clue about that because I don’t know you.

    However, I listened to your talk at SES NYC which was very intelligent and highly enjoyable by the way, and I recall you used the word “grinders” to describe SEOs (I assume that carries over to social media optimizers).

    Now, I think, based on chatting to other people in attendance, there was a general perception that this didn’t make the SEO consultants in the room feel very good about themselves. Especially, coming from someone, standing on the stage who was clearly introduced as having accomplished some degree of financial success and someone “who made something”.

    Getting past the emotional part, the message I took from it was a very good one and something I have remembered to this day and am grateful for having had the opportunity to hear.

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  • http://www.JaclynBoruch.com/ Jaclyn Boruch

    I agree that it is demanding, requiring “social media consultants” to work all hours of the day and night. However, it is important to remember that this is the nature of this work field; it is what the audience on the other end of the computer is hungry for.

    I also agree with your statement about the remarkable outburst of social media consultants. You are right in explaining it as though everyone who has a Facebook has coined themselves as a “Social Media Expert.”

    Reading this article may discourage those who have suddenly found themselves diving first into this field, but at the end of the day I truly enjoy working in the social media field, no matter how strenuous it may get!

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  • Jeff

    Hi. I am not a consultant, but I decided to do some research on this topic, because I have a company wanting me to write articles for their website and also help them to develop a social media presence. The thing that really impacted my thinking about it was your statement about the clients needing to be personally involved and active in order to achieve the desired results. I told the owner that the real cost is going to be time (his time), not money, and that he should not expect immediate results but commit to an initial year of solid effort and then see how that has affected his business image and bottom line. I think that was reasonable advise, but as I mentioned, I am not a social media consultant. My advise has simply been that he should develop an online expert image via blogging and social media and then tie that to his website for business. Of course, this will mean I will be doing all of the writing. lol. Do you have any advise for me or source I can go to for determining what I should charge? I will be installing and tweaking and getting a blog ready for him also, but I know what to charge with regard to that. I also know what to charge for each piece of writing, but when you take into account tweets and setting up all the social media accounts and profile writing, plus ongoing efforts to broaden the networking for his business, I am a real loss for what to charge and how much and in what manner-by hour? by project? If you could point me to a good source of information, I would appreciate it. There are so many articles online about social media, and so little time it seems. Thank you.

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  • Karenelaine75

    I just started as a consultant to a company. I got recommended for the job by other people and I am almost 2 weeks in. I decided I would keep my real job and do this on the side as an Independent Contractor. I am not losing the real job or permanent position to chase this. I LOVE the money. It is excellent! I have the connections and presence but I do NOT run my own blog so I have the time to commit to another companies blog. I have found by NOT running my blog companies come to me since I am not about “my brand” I am about THEM! In the past 2 weeks since I started as a Social Media Consultant and others found out I have been given some other assignments also. The money if rolling in….but like I said I am not leaving the real job. I will ride this wave as long as it is fun and profitable!

  • vagelis

    I am graduate from the department of information management and I would like to work an independent social media consultant or for a small firm as a start to gain experience. . For example, if I work as an independent social media consultant, how is it possible to find and convince a small company preferably in order to promote my social media skills to write articles for their website so that I can help them to develop a social media presence??
    Are there any strategies/tools/techniques??
    Is it possible to offer social media consultancy to organisations like libraries, cultural institutions (which are not widely popular), by offering the chance to write for them articles in order to increase their social media presence??
    Thank you in advance.

  • http://RobertBurnsII.com RobertBurnsII

    Extraordinarily thorough post, Brett. And that’s not an adjective I use very often, but you really gave it some thought, and addressed this topic from seemingly every angle.

    You spoke the truth as well; many people don’t choose to acknowledge, but the reality is that social media, done right, is HARD WORK. Marketing, PR, consulting… it all takes knowledge, time, and effort.

    Excellent post.

  • http://brokeintheoc.blogspot.com/ broke in the OC

    thank you for your perspective!! this is some great information for anyone involved in social media.

  • http://brokeintheoc.blogspot.com/ broke in the OC

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  • http://www.SocialMediaJobsCourse.com Lowell Christensen

    Great wake up call for those who are trying to get into this field. The reasons you list are the very reasons many companies are hiring people to do it for them.  Not for everone for sure! 

  • http://twitter.com/DrunkSlut Jen

    My name is DrunkSlut ,I am an avid tweeter on Twitter .Your article had some good points,but was focused all on the negative aspects of social media consulting.

    I’m a brand,and I did it all on my own,zero help from nobody.I might not have a manager,nor any PR people to help me out,but I don’t mind spending endless hours on Twitter ,this is going to enable my future career.

    I’m not only a Twitterstar ,but a person with a lot of knowledge,and I want to help people.I often do it for free,give tips on how people can market themselves,but sure it would be a dream to get paid for it.

    Don’t discourage me dear,I’m 32 years young,and I’m a Master Number 11 ,so I know I got a future babbbby.

    Take care.

    Yours Truly

    DrunkSlut ( Jen )

  • http://www.facebook.com/heathermansfield Heather McCallister

    #2 is so true. People assume you’ll stop everything to answer their questions. For free… and if you don’t, then yes they feel snubbed. I work 60 hours a week… have a new book out and 500,000 followers, friends, and fans and will be lucky to make $70,000 this year. Hardest I have ever worked… and looking forward to the day I can disconnect. And OMG, the ego of so many people online these days. It’s outrageous.

  • http://twitter.com/WebSenseCR WEBSENSE

    The name of the article is “12 Things That Suck About Social Media Consulting”, why would it be positive?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/EEYBRTGCVWS4CBI5ZFUY6MIWDM HeatherT

    I am a social media consultant. But I want to do an email campaign to generate more business. Any samples or copy you would recommend? I want to email people with no social media or poorly maintained platforms.
    Thanks so much for any help! 

  • http://eSeek3r.com Craig Desmarais

    Great post!  It is important to have articles like this that build awareness about both sides of the coin that is social media marketing.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing, instead it helps your decide if SMC is right for you!

  • Alexis Barry

    I completely agree with your entire article. Social Media is a bear of an industry. I am the social media director for a small retail business specializing in supplemental heating, and home decor. It is a brutal job. Trying to keep up with what people are responding to is a difficult job. Acquiring fans proved to be a much more difficult task then I had originally thought.
    It is a rewarding job when things are going well, but when the fan number stops climbing and the “Like’s” and comments come to a hault it is difficult to begin building it again. When you think you have mastered it something changes and you have to learn all new techniques and trends and it is difficult.

  • http://twitter.com/Qibbly Qibbly

    Not to throw shade in any way. But social media is but one part of marketing consultancy. I would never ever subject myself to solely being responsible for the online presence of a company via social media. I think the point is “installing” social media awareness and a strong following for clients then moving te heck on as your “setup” should be made into a simple and easily managed system for your clients “employees.”

    Now if you wish to develop passive income by all means, yes charge for “social reputation management” but we aren’t slaves. No need to experience stress because the follower count is under 5k. Poppy cock man.

    Lastly, there are too many small businesses that NEED us. Engagements should not go on and on tere should be milestones to be reached. Lets not go crazy here.

    This article is excellent and a wake up call. Hard work is hard work. Smart work is smart work.

  • http://twitter.com/TheJanaRowland Jana Rowland

    This article is a wake up call for anyone getting into the field, like myself. I am currently going to school and eventually plan to get my MBA with a Specialization in Mobile Marketing and Social Media. Let me tell you, it is very hard work. Keeping up with all of the new trends is a headache all on its own. Yes, the money can be good but not with the number of hours you put into it.