25 Steps to Choosing a Social Media Consultant and Educator

Posted By on Mar 18, 2009 | 35 comments


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!

  • http://www.nickseguin.com Nick Seguin

    #22 throw @hotmail.com into the mix.

    #18 SPOT ON. often not asked.

    would throw out:

    -it's not about the do's…they offer don'ts as well.

    -formulate a contingency plan (they'll know what for)

    -metrics aren't just numbers

    -they answer "yes the new fb changes are progressive and helpful"

    -they know trending doesn't have to do with fashion

    -they can name the primary currency of social media [time]

    well done!

  • http://blog.firebellymarketing.com Chad Richards

    Kyle, I think you make some EXCELLENT points. I think another important thing to add is that consultants should help you establish “success” metrics up front – be it increased conversations about their brand or product online, increased blog comments/interaction, etc, etc WHATEVER (almost) – just something or things that can be measured after a few months or whatever amount of time is designated for review. I’ve found that Firebelly clients are often pleasantly surprised to learn that, yes, they can go back to their CEOs and show/prove “ROI” for lack of a better term

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  • http://www.yourprguy.com Rodger

    Kyle. Excellent points. I think another point to include is research. Do they know the broader concepts of theory and can they articulate strategy well. I think some “social media experts” are getting lucky because the tools are still relatively new. Once that goes away, do they know how to create effective messages that cut through the clutter. Which brings me to my last point. Do they know the finer points of message development?

  • Todd Muffley

    Very nice. It is always good to set the rules in a crowded field. Establishing these will help you weed out the snake oil salesman. I think having references or case studies is hugh. Fat Atom is building a social media platform for a not for profit right now (yes, there is more options than ning). Having a track record is important! Great job Kyle!

  • http://www.roundpeg.biz Lorraine Ball

    Seven years ago, anyone who had taken a marketing class ever in their entire life was a marketing expert. And they weren’t …. and many of them are gone..

    Today it seems anyone who has ever turned on a PC and logged into the internet thinks they are a social media expert.

    Great guidelines .. to separate the pros from the used car salesman

  • http://sashakovaliov.com Sasha Kovaliov

    Agree with most of the points.

    Nick Seguin – that’s right, metrics aren’t just numbers. However, I would ask how are they gonna calculate ROI and what tools they’ve got.

    About Radian6 – it’s not the single solution, with some smart filters and Yahoo! Pipes and Netvibes/iGoogle – it’s pretty easy to create a nice monitoring platform.

  • http://problogservice.com Mike Seidle

    Here are two more:

    #26 – They sell Social Media as a search engine optimization strategy. Can social media help with your search rank? Yes. Are there better reasons to do social media? Absolutely, and you need to understand these as playing games with keywords will cause lots of problems with any social media strategy.

    #27 – They claim to do everything. Social media is too broad a topic for someone to be an expert on everything. A good consultant will say I don’t know when appropriate, and have partners that are experts they can introduce you to. Expecting one person to be an expert blogger, social network builder, web developer and marketing guru is kind of like expecting your dinner table to get up, walk around the room and dance a jig.

    Just remember as you look for an expert, the best way to figure out what you are dealing with is their track record.

  • http://www.charlesneville.com Charles

    To Nick Seguin, re #22 Just curious, what is it that makes @gmail.com ok but @hotmail.com not?

  • http://www.getbrandswag.com Kyle Lacy

    @Sasha It is important for people to understand a company like Radian6. If they do it will allow them to help You (the client) build out a platform for monitoring.

    @Rodger Research is extremely important! You should always build out a strategy plan before starting your social media journey!

  • http://www.nicoleandgreg.net Greg Givan

    #2 – i have some reservations when it comes to ‘just’ looking for RTs… its an easy enough effort that won’t automatically translate into knowledge.

    #3 – Amen!

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  • http://problogservice.com Mike Seidle

    @Kyle – right on on Radian 6. A social media expert without Radian 6 is like a painter with no brush. Then again, I suppose graffiti is art, and doing something badly with social media will always slightly outperform doing nothing.

  • http://www.party2point0.wordpress.com Bruce Christensen

    As a bootstrap start-up, I am glad that you have provided this guidance. We have already interviewed a few consultants that don’t measure up to your list. Thanks for the tips for navigating this minefield.

  • http://www.channelship.ie/blog facundo

    Great post. In Ireland, the role of social media consultants is beginning to proliferate. This type of list will soon be handy for small and medium business owners over here.
    all the best,

  • http://www.radian6.com Amber Naslund

    Kyle,

    Heh. I had to laugh at your “If they have no idea about Radian6, fail” comment. Thanks for that. Appreciate the shoutout. (Thanks to Mike and Sasha too).

    I’m especially keen on your point about success stories. While social media is still a bit of a new focus, there are still lots of tangible examples to be had about how even moving in a more social direction is helping companies connect with their customers. I’m encouraged by hearing more and more SM practitioners sharing these stories.

    Thanks for a great resource, Kyle.

    Cheers,
    Amber Naslund
    Director of Community | Radian6
    @AmberCadabra

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  • http://www.getbrandswag.com Kyle Lacy

    @Amber Success stories are key and yes… FAIL if they don’t know Radian6 :)

  • http://www.inspiremediablog.com John Wooton

    Excellent job Kyle. These are great guidelines for finding someone who will do it right.

  • http://www.webwindows.co.uk/ Randy Shamak

    Interesting content.

    Just wanted to share some information that I came across in a few articles discussing about recession and how we can adopt a different marketing strategy to promote our business. It’s quite eminent that most of the advertisers and businesses are taking to online advertising medium since the Internet has now become a necessity to reach global audience. However, even today there is still a huge chunk of people who do not access Internet and to reach this segment of the society; we can rely on the print media. This in fact would be a great choice for anyone whether they are looking out for global, national or local exposure.

    Since the economies are now at the bring of recession, it’s a good idea to consider print media as well in the marketing mix so that you can extend your reach further to get additional traffic to your website or business. You can try a blend of online and print advertising through a reputed ad agency that can help you professionally.

  • http://www.redshoespr.com/blog Jess Dennis

    Awesome article Kyle, very thorough. I agree with earlier comments that tracking metrics are a must when it comes to social media efforts. Also, spend time looking at the companies that are “involved” in social media. Make sure they’re not just pushing their products and calling themselves social media experts.

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  • http://www.uglydoggy.com Sandra

    Great, great, great advice! No one that do not use this tools can really help you with them: like it happens with real tools like a saw, the instructions that come with the tool will never be as useful as someone that has been actually using the tool for a long time!

    Strategy and their opinion of marketing and advertising is also a great point as it is quality over quantity.

    I do believe that people that believe that social media is “the tool” instead of one of the tools do not understand the complexity of communicating a brand or a service…

    Just RT this article and add it to my delicious. A great short list for business owners trying to ride this wave for the first time!

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  • http://asklyndondavid.com/ Lyndon

    Great check list while choosing the right social media consultant. Thanks for the post.

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  • http://thegioinghenhin.com nghe nhìn

    Nice. I think that's a good idea. But noone can use all useful steps to do. People should list their need things to do before use these steps. I agree with Sandra "like it happens with real tools like a saw, the instructions that come with the tool will never be as useful as someone that has been actually using the tool for a long time!"

  • http://www.myprovodentist.com Provo Dentist

    Great advice! I believe everything on the list should really be considered (number 24 kinda threw me off for a bit until I realized what you were talking about). I still think the best indicator would be testimonials from their past clients (number 25?). If they have been successful with a number of clients then that's a good sign.

  • http://tavateaweb.com tava tea

    Once that goes away, do they know how to create effective messages that cut through the clutter. Which brings me to my last point. Do they know the finer points of message development?

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    Great insight. Working for a social media agency I've found this to be very helpful, as there are always improvements emerging to optimize.

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