A couple of months ago, I asked my Twitter followers if they were going to hire a social media consultant, what would they want: education on how to use the tools, a strategy for implementation or a complete social media management solution. As one who prefers and promotes the first two and abhors the latter, I was shocked to hear how many people just want someone take it over for them.
Admittedly, my response sample was pretty small, but I don’t necessarily think it’s invalid. Social media tools have overwhelmed many people – people who already feel swamped and way too busy as it is. The idea of using these tools for their business is simply too much to add on.
So, if like those who responded, you’re looking to hire out your social media efforts, keep the following in mind before you make your selection.
What Are You Really Buying?
Are you hiring someone to monitor conversations happening about your brand? Are they going to conduct an initial social media analysis of your brand, competitors and industry? Are they responsible for creating meaningful, interesting, engaging content for your blog and Facebook page? Will they be providing social media measurement software? Make sure you have a clear deliverable and scope of work before signing a contract. Don’t get locked into a monthly commitment without really knowing what it is your new consultant is going to be delivering.
Once the social media tasks are underway, who will be responsible for measurement – determining the effectiveness of your efforts? Will the consultant provide regular (weekly, monthly, quarterly) reports about the activities, responses, successes and failures?
Most importantly, who is going to establish the metrics that need to be measured? Ultimately, you, the business owner, marketing coordinator or customer service director, should be determining what success and failure looks like.
Do They Actually Know What They’re Talking About?
This last item is a little harder to verify, especially when you’re looking to an “expert” for guidance. I’m not sure I have any phenomenal recommendations here, but it’s critical that they:
1. Use social media themselves.
2. Have measurable examples of successful social media campaigns or implementation.
3. Use language that speaks to tangible business objectives, not just fancy social media buzzwords.
4. Look at social media as a tool, NOT a comprehensive solution.
5. Take a holistic view of social media – it’s far more than just a marketing tool. It’s part of your comprehensive branding efforts.
Three Additional Considerations
Not only do you need to look externally at potential partners, you need to look internally to determine if hiring out your social media efforts is appropriate for your brand. Here are three things to consider.
First, how will this affect your brand’s consistency? If you unleash someone else to speak on your behalf, will they be able to do it in a way that is consistent with your brand voice and personality, or are you allowing them to create the voice for your company? If it’s the latter, I strongly urge against that. You, the brand “owner,” need to set the personality – not a social media consultant. (Unabashed sales message: If your brand doesn’t have a consistent, compelling, creative personality or voice, give me a call. I’d love to help you establish that.)
Secondly, how much authority are you handing over to this individual or company? What if someone asks a question about your product or services. Or, even worse (but highly probable), what if someone complains? Are you authorizing the individual or company to speak on your behalf? You need to establish a protocol for responding to tough questions and angry customers before the services begin.
Finally, will hiring a consultant cause you to lose your personal connection to your tribe? While you may build up good will among your fans and followers, ultimately, you won’t be invested in the relationship. While the owner of a company may not need to be involved day-to-day, having someone inside the company nurturing connections is a much better long-term investment.
If you’ve hired a consultant, what would you add? Or, if you’re looking to hire one, what other questions would you want answered? Lastly, if you’re a consultant, what else would you want asked of you?