Everyone is a social media expert right? I mean social media is so pervasive that everyone must know about it?
There are lots of companies just starting in social media and wanting to take their first steps – their first correct steps online. They need help to get it right.
Unfortunately, there are lots of people who claim to be experts in social media.
They are advising companies on social media implementation without implementing a strategy or a plan. They don’t have any ROI examples and they don’t have the depth or the breadth of experience to be able to offer balanced advice across the channels.
They don’t even have a plan implemented for their own company…
If you’re looking to hire a social media consultant to help you with your community implementation or social business strategy, there are some things that you can watch for when you’re looking around for a good consultant.
Be wary of anyone that is keen to push you towards one solution such as Facebook for your business. Facebook is not right for every business, nor is Twitter. Make sure you talk through ALL of the possible choices with someone who knows the features and benefits of each
Watch out for over promotion. Snake oilers are keen to promote their services over everyone else’s. Watch what they write about. If their blog is full of self promotion and self congratulatory posts, avoid them. If their Twitter feed exhorts you to retweet them all the time, or like their Facebook pages, they are just trying to make themselves look good to other customers.
Look for longevity. How long have they been working with social media? Have they got years of experience across different platforms or are they new to the game – and only one step ahead of you? For example, Twitter has been around since 2006 and got popular at SxSW (South by SouthWest conference) in early 2007. Enthusiasts and early adopters of the technology should have been on Twitter for at least a couple of years. If you want to find out how long someone has been on Twitter use a tool such as When did you join Twitter to check them out
Personal disclosure. Social media experts know how much personal and business information to share in their updates. Whilst talking about business constantly can put people off, so can sharing too much information. It might be ok for friends to hear their deepest secrets, but it doesn’t look good to businesses looking to hire consultants
Twitter follower / following count. Lots of Twitter accounts automatically follow back, so some snake oilers follow these accounts to increase their follower count. Be wary of people who follow thousands of users in the hope of getting a follow back. The overhead of tracking thousands of followers means that quality engagement can not happen. I know that tools such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite can sort followers into lists, but the rest of accounts followed will be ignored
Tools and channels. Blogs, wikis and forums are equally valid social channels for social engagement. Your business might thrive with forum based implementation. Make sure your social media specialist can talk through all of the different forum, wiki and blog options including in-house implementations and proprietary solutions. Remember, it’s not just about WordPress and Joomla…
Engagement models. Your snake oiler should be able to discuss engagement best practices, frameworks and crisis plans. They should also be able to give practical examples of companies in similar to your industry.
Are they ‘walking the walk’? Is their blog up to date with practical, considered credible posts? Do they engage with their customers? Are they practicing what they preach? Do they understand legal, IP and data protection issues, and more importantly – how to solve them?
Remember – you are the customer. you don’t have to hire someone when you’re not sure about their experience or credentials. Ask them why they are proposing this type of solution for you. Ask for examples, ask for ROI proof. Check them out, ask others about their credibility.
Look for history. Look for evidence. Suss out the snake oil salesmen and become more savvy with your social business hiring.
You can then relax and know that you’re in good, safe, social hands…
Image credit: Tim & Selena Middleton
Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.