If you’ve read the “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, you’ll recognize the value of 10,000 hours. If you haven’t, let me catch you up with a synopsis. A common theme that appears throughout Outliers is the “10,000-Hour Rule”, based on a study by Anders Ericsson. Gladwell claims that greatness requires enormous time, using the source of The Beatles’ musical talents and Gates’ computer savvy as examples. Gladwell explains that reaching the 10,000-Hour Rule, which he considers the key to success in any field, is simply a matter of practicing a specific task that can be accomplished with 20 hours of work a week for 10 years.
My personal view is that I both agree and disagree with Gladwell. It does take an enormous amount of time to be truly great at what you do. Even if you fully agree, there are a few exceptions: one being a remarkable talent. If you’ve ever watched a 12-year-old play a guitar like the wind or sing like a bird, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Let’s be clear though – those types of people are called phenoms for a reason, they are a rarity.
Given the 10,000 hours, small businesses in today’s marketplace may run into a snag when it comes to social media. Social media is a huge part of any marketing strategy, or at least it should be, but it’s not even 10 years old yet. As you recall, Gladwell’s theory is that it’d take 10 years to become exceptional at your position, therefore it’d be impossible to find an expert to help with business marketing under these terms.
There are a few flaws in this theory though, at least as it pertains to social media. Social media isn’t marketing. Social media isn’t the conversation. Social media is a tool to allow those things to happen on the internet. The tools are free, the time you spend is not. More importantly, the goal is still marketing, just a different way of doing it. So my thought is that it really wouldn’t take the full 10,000 hours to get brought up to speed. If you completely understand marketing, you’ve got 80% of the skills needed to become a social media expert.
So for argument’s sake, let’s say a marketing person will only need 2,000 hours to become a social media expert. This person already has the 8,000 to 10,000 hours needed to be an expert in marketing and 2,000 “social media” hours fills in the rest. To fill that gap, a person would need to practice full time (at 40 hours per week) for a full year to truly become an expert in social media.
So it still takes a tremendous amount of time to build the knowledge and learn the tools of the trade. It also requires a large amount of trial and error. If you are a business that is looking for social media marketing help, you’ll want someone with plenty of time under their belt. If you are a business that is looking to do this on your own, consider your level of expertise. If you don’t have at least 2,000 hours of social media experience, be prepared to deal with the bumps and bruises along the way. The question you need to ask yourself, is “am I better off hiring a consultant for internet marketing so I can just run my business?” Let’s come back to that.
Social Media is constantly changing. It’s evolving. New techniques come out weekly. New reports about strategy and results are released. New social media networks pop up. Current social media networks make changes. How do you keep up with all of this? What does this constant evolution do to that 2,000-hour number? After all, Gladwell’s thesis was based on learning the guitar or playing ice hockey. Basic guitar theory hasn’t changed in over 100 years. Ice hockey is much the same.
With the ever-changing status of internet marketing, you’ll certainly need to take a look at that 2,000 hours in a different light. It will take you 2,000 hours to become an expert and most likely an ongoing 500 hours per year to keep up with the current trends. To complete that 500 hours of training per year, you’ll need to dedicate at least 40 hours a month. This doesn’t include the time you’ll need to run the tasks of your current campaign.
So let’s come back to the role of the marketing person in your company and the time needed to successfully launch your social media campaign. I think the answer to whether you should outsource or not comes down to the time allowed for the position. Is this person’s sole purpose to market the business or are they expected to wear many hats? If you don’t have the financial capability to hire a dedicated full time or at minimum, a dedicated 30 hour work week to marketing, you should outsource your internet marketing campaign. It is as plain and simple as that.
So who do you hire? If you are going the outsourcing route, you’ll find that there are plenty of professionals available. Shop around. If you shop by price, I will guarantee a 90% failure rate. Good marketers know the time needed to put on a good campaign. You are paying this company/individual for their time and expertise. If the price is low, which are they cheating on, time, experience, or both?
If you are hiring a full-time employee, first I want to congratulate on your dedication to this new medium. You will certainly stand out from your peers if you make the right hire. I will give you ONE guarantee here as well. If you hire someone just because they are young and understand social media, I will guarantee a 90% failure rate. Remember, this is a marketing position. This person must have the deep understanding of your business goals and how to market your products and/or services. This person also needs the experience in using social media as a tool to promote your business. That 21-year-old won’t have the 10,000 hours needed to understand how to be the face of your franchise. They won’t understand your goals and how to be an influencer in your market. I am not saying a 21-year-old isn’t capable. There will be an exception. That exception is rare.
On the other hand, a 40-year-old hire may understand marketing, but they may not have the expertise in Social Media. Expect this person to need 2,000 hours to catch up to the experts in the industry. Your best option is to find that person that has both. This way they can jump in and have an immediate impact. My point: age isn’t important here.
Social Media isn’t free. The tools are free to use, but someone has to manage your campaign. That takes time and as you already know, time is money. It’s up to you to decide what your goals are and the path to get there. What you’ll need is an experienced marketer. Find your 10,000-hour all-star today!