I have been discovering many people starting to enter the world of social media marketing in Indianapolis. It can be anything from an advertising firm to a small business coach. It is probably pretty confusing for business owners trying to learn about the amazing new tools available on the web. I wanted to help you out with your first steps in choosing a social media educator or consultant.

1. They need to use the tools they are teaching.

It is extremely important that the teacher is using the tools. Before you decide to use a social media consultant… investigate! Make sure they are using tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN, and Plaxo. If they do not use the tools on a regular basis, they are just riding a wave.

2. They communicate with their audience.

The last person you will want to hire is someone who throws content out on the bed and doesn’t allow for two way communication. The best way to test this? Go to their Twitter account and make sure they are actually sending “RT” and replies to people. 2-way communication is key.

3. Do they call themselves a Social Media Expert? Ask about the 10,000 hours rule.

The person that calls themselves a “social media expert” is the last person you want to hire. Read Paul Dunay’s post about 10,000 hours to become an expert.

4. Ask them their definition of social media.

If they give you a list of tools. Fail them.

5. They will run your Twitter account for you.

It is impossible to ghost a Twitter account. YOU either use it or you don’t. Ghostwriting for a blog is a different story and NOT for this post.

6. Their blog is less than six months old with no comments. (thanks Beth)

7. Ask them about social bookmarking. Do they know what it is? Do they use it?

8. Have they taught a class before on social media? Even a webinar?

It is important that your consultant or educator has experience in teaching or presenting on social media. The last thing you want to do is spend money for something that is going to be a DRAG. You want to know that you are not wasting your money.

9. Are they a Just-add-water expert?

10. They actually have a personality and GET people.

It is important that your social media consultant have a personality. What do I mean by personality? They are not stuck in an office all day pecking away at Twitter and have no sense of humor. ALSO, they are not overly bubbly and excited about everything under the sun. Sanity is key.

11. They blog more than once a week.

It is important that the investigation goes deeper into the blogging world. Your social media consultant should be learning on a daily basis and expounding upon what they are learning by blogging. This does not have to be catered specifically to a BLOG (wordpress or blogger). You can always check on Twitter on how they are communicating and learning.

12. They are linking and being linked.

Complete a Google link search and make sure your social media consultant actually has people and blogs linking back to their site. It is extremely important

13. Ask their opinion on viral marketing.

It is extremely important that your social media consultant and educator understand the concepts behind word-or-mouth marketing and viral marketing. Social media marketing is a relationship drive model. The evangelists and lovers of your product or service need to have the means to shout to the world… WE LOVE YOU!

14. Check out their website.

The first step to any Internet or social media strategy is the website. Do they have a communication drive website or is it a web 1.0 brochure driven site? Are they interacting with people? Are they talking about social media? Are they talking to YOU and not about their services.

15. What do other people think about them?

Mentors are one of the greatest asset to any small business owner. Who would they choose? Maybe they think social media is a waste of time. You need to take that into account. Maybe they were burned in the past? It is extremely important to get another perspective when entering into a relationship with any type of consultant or marketing professional.

16. They advise you to start a Facebook page as the first step.

It isn’t about starting in one spot. If you are new to the world of social media it may be smart to start USING Facebook other than trying to manage all 5 but the last thing you need to do is just start a Facebook fan page. SM strategy should be surrounding an integrated marketing approach. Period.

17. The instant success test

It takes time and knowledge to be successful at using social media as a small business strategy. If they promise instant results.. You should probably find another consultant.

18. What do they think about traditional marketing and advertising?

Ask them. If they come back to you and say that the traditional approach to marketing is dead. They are just riding a wave of no return. They will never understand the concepts of combining traditional and new media into an overall strategy.

19. Ask them about Radian6.

Radian6 is one of the better brand monitoring companies out there. If they have no idea about Radian6. FAIL.

20. What is their opinion of Quality over Quantity?

If your social media consultant starts talking about driving hundreds of followers to your social media account they don’t understand the concept of TWO WAY COMMUNICATION. Quality is so much better than quantity. Quality connections are the only way to succeed at using social media to expand your business.

21. They believe in actually listening to your problems instead of convincing you about the world of social media.

22. If they are still using an @aol.com, @aim.com, @comcast.net, or @att.net email. Fail them.

23. Listen for new approaches to strategy.

Everyone is offering to be a “social” consultant. Do they talk and think differently than anyone else you have listened to? If they do. You have a gem on your hands. Creative thinkers are the best social media consultants.

24. Are they a used car salesman? Do they seem genuine?

For the sake of argument I am going to list this. Do not work with someone you do not trust. Period.

25.Do they have any success stories?

Ask them about their history in using social media. The space is extremely new but there are people who are succeeding in using the tool. If they do not have case studies. Ask.

There are plenty more but this is just the beginning. Add to the list if you would like!