How to avoid blood sucking social media consultants

social mediaI read an article in the Telegraph back in 2010 called “Time to ditch the blood sucking social media gurus” that really resonated with my own feelings. Working in an environment where there are so many self-proclaimed experts causes issues for both businesses and genuine experienced service providers. I have a lot to say on this topic so I will try to be brief and provide you with a few guidelines to help you to avoid wasting your time and money with blood sucking social media consultants/experts/gurus/trainer/mentors.

Education and experience

As a service provider any expert should be expected to explain their credentials. It is important to explain what relevant education and experience they have and more importantly don’t have. A PR expert with experience running social media Facebook campaigns for instance is poorly equipped to analyse and integrate digital into business processes in a B2B business e.g. recruitment, business development, R&D and customer services. A LinkedIn recruitment expert may not be experienced in the change management required to convince a business development team to create content and engage with targets online. An issue I have experienced myself growing the eSocialMedia team has been that there are no real qualifications in the social media space that fully equip a graduate to carry out the work that is required. I have worked with a number of people who have completed digital marketing and social media related masters degrees. All of whom have admitted that their training ill prepared them for the work they actually had to carry out. Basic activities such as planning and organising targeted social advertising campaigns did not factor in the curriculum.

Does the expert understand your company’s business objectives and the business challenges?

If the “expert” doesn’t understand what your business objectives or business challenges are then they cannot design a custom approach to support your other business activities. Different clients have different target demographics, different resource challenges, industry regulations etc. Simply training your team how to update your LinkedIn company page or use a social media management tool to schedule Twitter updates is useless if your team doesn’t know what to share and why. Successful use of social media in a B2B context must seamlessly integrate into your employees existing activities and fit support your business strategy.

Are the proposed activities linked to your business objectives?

It is vital to ensure that any proposed social media activities are linked to your business objectives. This does not mean that people say the activities are linked. It means that KPIs are identified where possible and logical links are mutually agreed when analytics cannot provide a direct connection an activity and it’s end result.

Do you both agree what success looks like?

This is linked quite closely with the above. It is a great way to weed out the wheat from the chaff. Hopefully before the start of any project your service provider will ask you what you think success will look like. Regardless, you should ask your service provider what they think success will look like? Then ask them what will happen how that success will be tracked and what happens if the project is not a success.

Do they include you when developing your social media (digital) strategy/plan?

If somebody walks in the door with a readymade solution to your business problems then I would be very sceptical. As we previously mentioned each business is very different and what they want to achieve varies. The people within your business are the experts in your industry. They are the ones that know what questions clients/candidates/customers ask. They are the ones that know the client characteristics, the business challenges, the reasons previous projects failed, the techniques that work face to face etc. A clear indicator of a cavalier consultant is one that doesn’t discuss the potential solutions with you and allow you to participate in the strategy development process. There are many ways to skin a cat. There are also many channels and techniques that can be implemented to help achieve real business objectives. You should be included in the process of deciding which approach suits your business best.

Follow your gut instinct

I hope the above was helpful and gave you some questions to help you to find the expert that is best suited to your business (in many cases it may not be me). The important thing for me is that more businesses see the benefits of seeking external support and expertise to help them achieve what they are trying to achieve. It is very difficult to take the risk to be innovative and invest in something new. Far too many times I have heard stories from both small/medium sized and enterprise level clients about money how they have wasted time and money on social media projects/training/experts that resulted in failed projects and no business benefit. In all of these cases the questions above were not asked. There is no sure fire solution to this problem but once you have discussed the areas above with your service provider I recommend you follow your gut instinct.

In the meantime please keep in touch on Twitter @HannonKieran @eSocialMediaUK or sign up to our mailing list at the bottom of this page.