Small Office IT Contractors – The New Social Media Managers?

I admit it. I know a decent amount about things that most SysAdmins seem to shun and disdain. No, I’m not talking about my Hello Kitty T-shirt and watch collection. I’m talking about social media and internet marketing. Much of my knowledge about those things was attained because of starting my own business and launching a few websites either on my own or with friends. When you’re doing a “two guys in a garage” business venture (or a “one guy living in his mother’s basement” project), everyone has to wear a few separate hats. And by “a few separate hats” I mean “try this kitchen sink on for size.”

As a result I’ve had to spend many, many hours researching things like Twitter, FaceBook (still a mystery to me since I don’t use it personally), online advertising (including but not limited to CPC, CPA, CPM and affiliate marketing), SEO, SEM, blogging and taking all of the metrics each topic can gather and trying to find something meaningful from them.

Twitter - Come to the Dark Side(Image by Nancy “Dot D” Dorsner)

Often in the last six months I’ve stopped in the midst of mentally squeezing down a social media rabbit hole and wondered “What am I even doing?” Am I the same person who could zone out and spend hours upon hours spec’ing out NAS systems? Am I the same person who found it therapeutically rejuvenating to pour over Juniper’s product line? How far I have come.

That’s not to say that I wouldn’t rather be learning about Juniper equipment than trying to get a FaceBook following for a client’s products.  But really, if you think about it, it kinda makes sense for me to know both. I don’t like to define myself as a “technology person”. I like to try and be “that problem solving guy” or “that efficiency person”. I see a problem, I cogitate on the problem, I solve the problem. Or I at least make it less of a problem than it was before I saw it. That can mean fixing a problem with how dishes are washed at church to getting a doctor’s office’s computer systems to pass a HIPAA audit. That can also mean making my clients more visible to their potential customers than they currently are.

I’m not saying I’m a social media expert by any means. However, one place that I do work for had some great educational content to share with the world, but they just weren’t doing much of anything about it. A bi-monthly printed newsletter to their list of supporters was as far as it went. I installed WordPress on their site and encouraged them to blog (with the help of someone else that worked internally). Now they have an awesome blog with lots of great content that’s directly educational and not just self promotion! The next problem was that no one was reading the blog. So I got them on a Twitter account and helped them grow their followers. Now they’ve got targeted traffic. The next step is to score some guest blog spots for them, get them on related blog lists, blog rolls and blog aggregators. They now have more traffic to their site than ever before and possible new supporters to their business as a result. Also, there’s some new excitement breathed into the organization as they see new people being exposed to their content and mission. Problem = solved.

I don’t think IT contractors can come close to replacing dedicated social media managers. However, often IT people are looked at as having special insight into the Twitters and the Facebooks and the bloggy things because “hey, they run on computers and you know about computers!” Especially when small offices often can’t afford highly specialized people for each facet of their business. I’m honestly thinking about adding a social media competency to my list of services that I offer to my clientele. Not pitching myself as a social media wizard, just like I don’t say I’m a highly trained storage specialist, but I know my way around storage enough to help out those in my market.

Are there any other IT contractors out there who also dabble in social media for clients? Personally, it’s not something I’m too ashamed of. I mean, people have needs. I have a brain. I combine the two and come up with solutions. But is it that unusual for an IT person to implement a backup solution one day and make a 5 step plan to creating more of an internet presence the next day?

And please tell me I’m not the only one to use Hello Kitty wallpapers on my work computer.


  1. cybersylum

    February 25, 2011 at 8:00 am

    While I cannot confirm that I use Hello Kitty Wallpapers… 😉

    I whole-heartedly agree with the rest of your article. I just helped a small-biz client move ISPs as part of a larger project, and one of the first issues that came up was an e-mail blast she was doing (and failed to mention).

    Turns out she had been doing mass mailings from Outlook for 200-300 people with each mail message being around 900k. Digging into it they were using MS Publisher to create a “nice looking” mail message and just sending it. It was really just one big graphic. Google apps really didn’t like this. She wasn’t doing it to be an evil spammer, she just didn’t know better – and had no marketing dept to turn to.

    Like you, I dabble quite a bit. A little bit of research and I was able to get her up and running on MailChimp, which for her volume is free, and pretty simple to use. She was getting her lists from an event that she sponsored so she fell with in their AUP. She just send her first campaign, and seems to be pretty pleased.

    I learned a lot in a short span of time, and got some good PR with the client for going above & beyond.

    Even better, I learned a lot of things which I hope to use in growing my own business.



    • Wesley David

      February 25, 2011 at 2:09 pm

      Interestingly, I know of one friend who has a small non-profit that sees it as just the cost of doing business that their home ISP shuts down their SMTP outbound trafic when they try to send out emails to their supporters. Multiple hundreds of emails being sent via Outlook on her desktop. I’ve been wanting to get them set up on some kind of mail platform, but larger issues have prevented it. I guess I never connected that that could possibly be considered part of a larger social / marketing skillset. You’ve got me thinking… =)


  2. Greg

    March 8, 2011 at 8:58 pm


    I think you’re on the money with this one. As IT professionals we have to recognize the convergence that is taking place. No we’re not “Social Media Specialist” but Social Media and such do fall under the umbrella of an emerging technology. And if we don’t keep up and recognize this then we’re doing ourselves a disservice and potentially missing out on opportunities as independent IT Consultants.

    We have to recognize the new tools becoming available. Computers are tools. And that’s the beauty of IT because there’s so many avenues you can venture into and social technology just appears to be the next door opening. The question is are we ready to walk through it and let our curiosity take over the same way it has done when we first started tinkering with computers, or are we going to step aside and let others take all the glory?


    • Wesley David

      March 8, 2011 at 9:35 pm

      I think IT people, at least good IT people, are ones who are problem solvers first and foremost. At my last workplace, IT people would come up with solutions to things entirely outside of the IT department just because we like to think. Doesn’t matter if it’s plumbing or floorplan problems.


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