What Defines a Social Media Professional?

With social media being an integral part of our jobs, we pretty much know what it takes to be a professional.

At the very least, it requires a fairly high level of engagement on a variety of social media channels. (This goes beyond a lot of RTs, as one wise editor pointed out.)

I took my question to some key places and got a wide scope of answers.

“A social media professional is a person who has in their business objectives – for the job they get paid for – deliverables that include social media,” said Victoria Harres, audience development director with PR Newswire. “Whether that’s tweeting, posting things to Facebook, creating content for blogs or Flickr … it is part of their business goals and business objectives.”

Staying on top of industry trends, active involvement in professional organizations and attending conferences also are good identifiers of a social media professional.

Trendsetting is nice, but that falls into a different category of social media expert.

“With a social media professional, that’s their business,” Harres said. “There’s another level where you’re beyond a professional – you’re someone who has taken it to a different level. There are many names for this – social media evangelist, social media guru. They’re really teachers.”

Certified life coach and entrepreneur Andrew Chow said he looks beyond a social media professional’s past achievement or current project.

“I look at [their] social media lifestyle,” he said. “Is he/she embracing social media in his/her personal life; is he/she walking the walk? [On Twitter], who follows him/her and who is he/she following? Is he/she listed in the right categories? How often does he/she tweet? Has he/she gotten 2,000 followers at least?”

Chow also brought up other social mediums like Quora, Facebook, and blogging. 

“What is [their] Klout score compared to the rest of his/her peers in the same industry?” he asked.

Once upon a time, it used to be that if you rocked a good Klout score, that’s all you needed. A high number translated into everything being well in the world of influence.

Lately, however, Klout naysayers take major issue with the secret sauce to its scoring. So it would seem that Klout – while a pretty good start at measuring online influence – should not be considered the final say.

A good friend offered a stellar example of social media strategist Jay Baer with his Klout score of around 83. It’s a good, logical score, considering Baer’s reach and influence.

By comparison, when actor Charlie Sheen arrived to Twitter with zero social media experience, he boasted a Klout score of 90.

Still undecided on Klout? Social Media Examiner writer Elijah Young took on this subject with a June post entitled, “Is Klout a good judge of your social media influence?” Read more here

PR Newswire Blogger Relations Manager Thomas Hynes offered a final thought on social media professionalism.

“One thing that makes a social media expert is NOT calling yourself a social media expert,” he said. “I also heard someone say once that if you want to be good at social media, you should try and be helpful. That seemed to resonate with people … at least on the twitters.”

Christine Cube is a media relations manager with PR Newswire and freelance writer. You can follow her @cpcube.