By Beatrice Whelan, Social Media & Content Specialist at Sage
Many businesses large and small are looking for the help of social media consultants. As the industry is unregulated anyone can be a social media ‘expert’ so how does a business owner tell who is good and who is not so good, especially if they don’t know much about social media themselves. There really is no such thing as a social media expert just people that do social media well.
In his 2011 interview with TechCrunch TV, Gary Vaynerchuk said that “99.5 Percent Of Social Media Experts Are Clowns” He talked about social media ‘experts’ that rave about Twitter Followers and Facebook Fan numbers without ever having a sales result. For me, results is one area that will definitely separate the good from the bad.
Results won’t always mean direct sales, there are other results that your business can aim for when using social media, like brand exposure, obtaining and showcasing customer testimonials, PR, customer care, increased website traffic etc. Of course all of these things will lead to increased sales and yes sales themselves should also be another measurement of your social media activities. So when talking to the person that you are considering selecting as the social media expert for your business, ask them what results they have had when using social media in the past.
Are they measuring how many sales or conversions on their client’s websites are a result of social traffic? Can they show you how much PR coverage their other clients got as a result of social media activities? Can they show you an example of customer interaction via a social media channel that resulted in a positive outcome for the organisation they were helping? Do they even measure results? If they tell you these things can’t be measured then back away. If they only thing they measure is number of followers and likes then you don’t need them.
That’s not to say that followers and fan numbers aren’t important. They are very important and if they don’t have a decent amount of followers and fans on their own social media channels then they can’t be taken seriously, but you can’t stop there and the person you chose to help you with your social media should be the champion of social media results, not shying away from them.
You will need to find out if they have marketing knowledge and social media knowledge. This can be hard if you feel you are lacking in that knowledge yourself so take the time to do some homework. As social media is a relatively new discipline, social media experts tend to come from a range of backgrounds from online marketing, PR, entrepreneurs, sales etc. However knowledge in those areas does not necessarily mean they have social media knowledge.
As Christina Giliberti pointed out, ‘opinions from past clients are very important’. Ask them if you can contact some current and former clients for a reference. If you have a friend that works in marketing or PR, ask them to have a quick chat with the person you are considering just to see if they understand the fundamentals. Ask them a few social media related questions, if they can’t answer in a way you can understand, you won’t be able to work with them. Have they any experience in putting together a social media strategy or plan, can they show you an outline of one? Watch out for people that are all channel and no substance. What I mean is if they are all focussed on social media channels and not interested in what your business message and content is then this is a warning sign that their use of social media is superficial.
Social Media moves quickly so ask how do they stay up to date with emerging trends and social media channels. Otherwise they may be perfect for your business now but not so good in six months time when things have moved along. What new things can they show you that might be useful for your business. This is where the advice of hiring someone that knows more than you is really important but can they bring you and your business on that journey with them.
Just because you are hiring someone to look after your social media does not mean you can leave it all to them and shut yourself off from that part of your business. You should learn from them and encourage your employees to learn from them so that when they take holidays or finish their work for you, you have the expertise in your business to continue where they left off. Don’t ever be the person that says ‘I don’t know anything about that, X looked after that for me.’
You will need to keep an eye on what is being said on your social media channels, if not you are bound to be caught off guard. However, if it is not your main role you won’t be able to watch your social media channels 24/7. After all that is why you asked for their help in the first place. But can you trust them to be the voice of your company? Do they have common sense to not say anything stupid that will offend your followers.
As Elaine Rogers advises ‘I think like anything else for your business, endeavor to get to know different experts for the services you require, interact with them over time, research them, and always trust your instinctive feelings… see if they have worked with a similar business type.’
I would also ask them how they would recommend you deal with difficult customers via social media. If they don’t understand that all feedback, positive and negative, is useful and should be treated with respect then don’t use them for your business.
You should also get to know them ‘socially’ As Marie Ennis O’Connor suggested, ‘look for evidence of how they blog or tweet.’ This would also extend to other social media channels. Observe their interaction on social media channels before you decide if they are the right person to help you with yours.
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