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Asking The Key Questions: How To Hire A Social Media Marketing Consultant

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by David Garland in David's Blog

There Is No Denying Social Media Marketing Knowledge Is Important:

Understanding and maximizing social media, especially for entrepreneurs, those with a strong personal brand (athletes, celebrities, authors, experts), CMO’s/Marketers/PR Pros, and big brands is all the rage right now.

And for good reason.

Never before has there been such an incredible, exciting and useful set of tools to talk directly to consumers, interact with potential clients and many other uses.

Although the tools we use (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) may change (TweetFaceIn may pop up tomorrow and become relevant), the principles of these conversations and the social web is here to stay.

With new technology and a new way of doing things comes a series of important questions from folks outside the space looking to possibly dip a toe in (and eventually hopefully dive in all together) or at least become educated and understand why it is relevant and not just for the extreme techy or “young people.”

This includes (and not limited to):
-Entrepreneurs/Small Business Owners
-Big Brands
-Strong Personal Brands: Experts, Authors, Celebrities
-CMO’s/Marketers/PR Communications Folks Looking To Learn/Maximize Social Tools

Questions such as (most common ones I hear from my clients/friends/audience at my speeches):

How do you use the technology? Which sites do I need to be on and why? Will this take too much time? How do I measure ROI? Is this a fad or a big marketing tool? Do I have to be a super techy to do this? Will this improve my bottom line and move the sales needle? How do I manage my brand? Will this make me money and grow my business?  How do I keep my personal information private? What if someone says something bad about me/my business?

To me, this is a fantastic opportunity to really truly care and help these people and make the world more connected, social and interactive.

Plus, it is fun.

The Rise Of The “Experts”:

With the rise of social media and social media marketing comes the rise of a few different types of “experts” just like any field from financial planning to weight loss.

The problem is the barrier of entry is so low to social media. Sign up for an account and you are now in the space.

This ease of use is fantastic, but you don’t just sign up to be a doctor or lawyer. Plus, it is (pretty) hard to fake being either one of those.

And while the ease of use is great, mastering it for marketing is a completely different animal. Just because someone gives you a bat, doesn’t mean you are Albert Pujols.

That being said, this post is not meant to bash anyone, but instead offer some ways that you can really easily determine who will get the best results for you and your company.

No fluff or sketchiness.

It seems social media consultants falls into three categories:

1. Self-Proclaimed Experts/Gurus.

Often very techy, know the right terms to say from reading popular blogs, may have a lot of followers…but little influence because most followers came from a robot or other sketchy means. No proven track record of clients helped, big guarantees, view social media as the one and only magic pill that will fix your company (yikes!)

2. Agencies “Just Now” FOCUSING On Social Media.

Many marketing and PR agencies are doing a good job with social media. Others see it as a quick way to bill more hours to clients especially since it is such a hot buzzword. Notice, I said “focusing” and not “offering” because offering can be a great thing. A smart approach I’ve seen is for agencies to hire someone in Category 3 below and utilize that person’s skills to help with clients (sure, they can mark it up and make a profit, but the bottom line is the client gets the best person for the job). Eventually agencies will have very competent in-house social media teams and may still use outside consultants to keep them up-to-date with the latest technology and practices for clients (because this world “is-a-changing-fast”)

3. The Best.

These people live, breathe, and know how to teach social media. More than that, they REALLY understand marketing. I mean really get it. And they don’t just talk the talk, they can show MEASURABLE results for themselves and companies they have worked with (For example:  “Here is how I used social media for myself to market and these are the results”). Often these folks are more than a one-trick pony and understand marketing, especially in 2010, is an integrated approach (social media + your website + other marketing/advertising + content creation) efforts. This person should hopefully be well versed on creating strategy and proving ROI and really showing how it effects the bottom line.

The Key Questions To Ask:

If you are looking to dabble into social media and need a little help, that’s great. Here are a few questions I would suggest to ask to see if you can figure out which category above your potential consultant might fall into:

1. How long ago did you start using social media and why?

Hopefully they were an early adapter and understood the importance early on or caught on quickly.

2. What do you personally use social media for and why?

More than sharing funny photos of the keg stand in college, a good consultant shows how they use/have used it for business.

3. What is your background other than social media?

If they are helping you with marketing, I would hope they have a background in marketing/promotion of some shape or form.

4. Do you blog?

I hope so! And more importantly it is a well-designed well-visited blog?

5. What have been YOUR measurable results from using social media?

I.E: My business increased X Amount, I Had X PR Opportunities, Met X People, Recruited X People.

6. Do I need to be on every site?

If the answer is “YES” that could be a warning flag. The bottom line is you probably don’t need to be on every site under the sun.

7. How much would it cost me for you to setup my social media accounts?

This should be included in part of the consulting fee if you don’t have an account setup yet. The key here is NOBODY should be charging a relative arm and leg to setup an account. A well designed Twitter background? Sure, that costs a bit. However, the response here I would hope would be that setup is included, but real expertise comes from knowing how to OPTIMIZE accounts and avoiding little common mistakes.

8. (If you plan on getting advice on creating content) Have you created content yourself?

Hopefully there are good examples from the consultant’s personal work and/or work from clients.

9. Do I need to stop my other marketing/advertising?

If they tell you “Yes!” right away, that is warning flag. Every business is different. Traditional advertising still could be a big component. Other forms of marketing such as events, etc. can be amplified and integrated with social media. Plus social media is ONE component of the online marketing world (other important ones include SEO and maybe pay-per-click campaigns depending on the client/goals.

10. Will this fix my business?

A “Yes!” here would definitely not be a great thing. Social media amplifies bad business as opposed to fixing it.

11. Do you guarantee followers?

Run away if they quantify this. Sure, with many principles applied followers are going to come. Guaranteeing them seems a bit sketchy.

12. How do you measure ROI?

If you don’t keep score, how do you know where you stand? There are lots of soft analytics you can use: Sentiment (how do people feel about the brand), amount of followers, retweets, Facebook comments, blog traffic, website traffic, etc. However, remember the hard analytics are what ultimately matters on the finance sheet: Amount of new (for example) email subscribers from social which led to sales, total sales BEFORE social media vs. % increase after using it (remember no magic pill here so allow a few months before you have measurable results).

13. Do I need a social media plan written down?

Hopefully the answer here is yes. With deliverables, goals, room for experimentation, and more.

14. Can you give me some examples of how we could generate PR using social media?

If the words that sound anything like “traditional press release” rears its head here, run away. Online relationships (with bloggers, media sources, etc.) are a different breed all together and based around genuine caring, relationships AND business.

15. Is social media free?

The classic trick question!

Yes, the services are free to use. However, no matter how much automation you put on them (if you choose to), there is an investment in human time. Unless your time is free. In that case, contact me at David AT because we are hiring. 🙂

Wrapping It Up:

Bottom line is social media, innovative marketing and everything in between is quickly changing and evolving. Nothing is set in stone, but best practices are starting to evolve out of this wild wide west of social marketing and more importantly the bigger picture of online marketing. There may not be a perfect consultant or a perfect strategy, but finding the right person for you and your business will be an invaluable resource for the future of your company.

What do you think? What questions did I miss?

  1. wow! very good article, it will help me a lot to prepare myself when a company put in front of me such questions when i am meeting with them, thanks for sharing..

  2. Kenjie Acosta says:

    Social media is a must for businesses nowadays. As a social media marketing consultant, I always try to keep pace with the evolving social media marketing landscape, and reading blogs to help me stay on top of best practices.

  3. Elizabeth Hall says:

    This is a very comprehensive article. I can definitely benefit from asking myself a lot of the question listed. There is no end to learning, which as a Social Media Manager & Consultant I’ve come to
    acknowledge. Thank you for the great information.

  4. Liking the question nos: 5,6,11 and 12. Especially when a candidate says he / she can gurantee certain number of followers and says you have to be in every social networking site, we can do ourselves a little favor – wrap up the interview and save some time.

    Here is a list of 10 social media interview questions that I often ask when I recruit candidates:

  5. Acube Itech says:

    I had also losts of questions as mentioned here but one day one of mine friend adviced to visit Deersmm site and once I visited here i was so made so clear abot the social media markeeting, you can also check this once, i think it will be helpful to you.

  6. Kurban Ali says:

    Nice tips on hiring social media marketing consultant. Really hiring is long process and the most boring task. Its very hard for any person specially while it comes to hire an expert for internet marketing such as social media marketing.

  7. says:

    great artcle …

  8. Lawson Geis says:

    Every business needs to do marketing to expand its business so you have raised some good points and good questions to ask to hire a social media consultant..

  9. Bob Ice says:

    This post is very interesting. As a young marketing consultant this has really helped me. Thanks.

  10. I am very interested about this post.First I need to read about best practices from people who have already succeeded.This blog really help me all the time.Thanks for sharing so important content marketing blog.

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8 Steps to Turning What You Already Know into a Successful Online Course

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