If you work in a professional service sector, you’ve probably heard the term “subject matter expert” or “SME” before. What you may not have known is that SMEs are one of the strongest ways to strengthen your content, particularly in marketing. They boost the quality of a piece by lending their expertise—and if you can cite them or get them to share your work, even better.
But hold up, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First, let’s cover our bases and examine just what an SME is, and why they matter so much.
What is the Role of the SME?
The role of the SME is one of authority. That’s a pretty broad description, but we’re completely serious. Wikipedia’s definition of SME is literally “a person who is an authority in a particular area or topic.”
In professional services, it makes sense that you’d have an SME on hand. We wouldn’t trust our medical practitioners, accountants, lawyers, etc. unless they were authorities in their fields, would we? Whether they’re offering data-driven insights, contributing to written or visual content, or simply lending you a quote, SMEs are invaluable people to have in your corner.
In Digital Marketing, What Kinds of People Are SMEs?
The term “SME” may cover quite a bit of territory, but there are several traits that make SMEs stand out in online marketing. Let’s break those traits down:
SMEs Are Detail-Oriented
As thought leaders in their industry, SMEs won’t overlook the crucial details. Whether you’re developing a long-term content strategy, writing technical pieces, or analyzing this quarter’s SEO data, SMEs have your back.
Make note, however, that technical SMEs and marketers will not necessarily be the same people. Take written content, for example. The SME’s keen eye for detail may contribute to the content, but someone else may be doing the writing itself so that it appeals to a wider audience. If you have an SME on hand who doubles as a digital marketer, fantastic! If not, we can’t recommend tag-teaming it highly enough.
SMEs Can See the Big Picture
This may sound contradictory given our last point, but it’s that combination of attention to detail and a big-picture focus that brings an SME’s vision to life.
The “big picture” can look very different for each company. For some, it’s developing that content strategy out one, two, three years ahead. For others, it’s setting clear goals for conversions through likes, shares, and other forms of audience engagement. You’ll want to identify your goals, broadly speaking, before calling in an SME—and then further refine those goals once you’ve heard your SME’s insights.
SMEs Are Thought Leaders
We used this term earlier, and no, it’s not just some pretentious turn of phrase. What makes a good subject matter expert is that they know both the here-and-now of their chosen topic and can also make predictions about that industry’s future. This is especially important in marketing, where we constantly have to make projections about how well a campaign will do. In other words, SMEs have the prior knowledge and the confidence to say, “Yes, that plan will prove profitable, and here’s why” or “No, based on X, that’s not a wise plan of action.”
How to Get an SME to Contribute to Your Content
SMEs can be either internal (i.e., from your product or sales team) or external industry experts. In both cases, once you’ve reached out and shared your vision with an SME, there are multiple routes you can go to gain their contribution:
Have Them On Stand-By to Offer Their Expert Opinion
We touched on this earlier—the bond between an SME and a content marketer (whether they be a writer, web designer, strategist, or something else) is like no other. How you decide to work together with your SME, though, is your choice entirely.
For many, SMEs perform the “behind the scenes” work. In recent years, however, we’ve seen an increase in SME appearances in live video content, like webinars and Instagram Live videos. Here they can field questions and talk up your brand with the statistics to back their claims up.
Ask Them to Share Your Work
What better way to boost credibility and increase reach than to have an SME share your content? This can go both ways: the SME can talk about your business on their site, or you can quote them on your page and provide a citation. We especially love SME quotes in short marketing content pieces. Think of how much more “oomph” an 800-word blog post or an at-a-glance infographic has with an expert’s opinion woven into it!
Snap: Award-Winning Digital Marketing SMEs
At Snap, we’re SMEs in the digital marketing field. (Well, the Fast 50 award we won this year for substantial company growth would certainly suggest so.) We’re constantly growing our business through SEO, web design, social media marketing, and more—so what are you waiting for? Come chat with our subject matter experts today!