Social Media - A Bakers' Dozen Questions to Ask the "Expert"

Busy business owners BEWARE! There are sharks in the waters of the social mediasphere! As it was in the beginning with SEO, as it is now with the so-called "experts", "consultants", and "concierges" all touting their success and ability to make your life easier, to the tune of $50 to $100 per hour. Yes, most small business owners wear MANY hats working in the business more than on the business. That's why it's wading in the pool with so many hungry sharks is so dangerous.

I am not by any means saying there aren't solid social media folks out there, I'm just saying you need to be careful. There are self-proclaimed "gurus" that are clearly not educated or experienced in any form of marketing, selling, or branding.

This is especially true when it comes to freelancers and newbies.  When it comes to social media, it's almost as if business owners are just so hungry for someone, anyone to help them, they throw caution to the wind and hire the first person that comes along regardless of their track record, resume, or references. You wouldn't hire a website designer without seeing samples of previous work would you?

spiral1Don't buy the lines: "this is all really, really new" or "I have 5,000 friends on Facebook". Recently a self-proclaimed expert sold herself on her success on Facebook. Did anyone even look to see that she only has about 200 fans? Or that her blog hasn't been updated? Is she ranking on Google?  The problem is that there's no clear measure of success, so anyone who knows how to set up a Fan page, link it to Twitter and save some images seems to be a certified consultant!

Before even stepping foot into social media, ask yourself... is my customer even involved in it? You could be spending precious time and money talking to the wall!

Here a comment-bubblesre some questions to ask BEFORE writing the check: START by reviewing the company's social media:  i.e. blog, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube channel, etc.  Ask yourself, is their own social media current, engaging, interacted with, successful?

Ask the "expert":

1. What is your social media process?

2. What is your design, creative and management experience?

3. What platforms specifically will you engage in? Will you be blogging, Tweeting, posting?

4. How will you integrate existing marketing materials to maintain brand integrity?

5. Explain my brand to me so I can be sure you understand and can duplicate it effectively.

6. What tools will you use for reputation management?

7. Who will decide what to talk about? Will I need to supply you with info?

8. Do you prepare a plan ahead of time? What will I need to supply you with?

9. How will you respond to comments?

10. What tactics do you use to stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices?

11. How will you measure and report to me, and how often?

12. How is pricing structured?

13. How do we define success? How long will it take to achieve success?

check-mark4A few things to keep in mind:

1. All the other businesses out there are not "getting it". You're not falling behind, so don't rush into anything.

2. Don't be intimidated. It's really simple when broken down. You just need the right teacher.

3. Don't be afraid to ask for references from the company or consultants current or previous clients.

4. Have a comfort level. If you don't feel confident with the company or individual you're considering for your social media, RUN! If you don't like them, how will your customers!?

5. Proceed with caution! Don't sign any contracts! Don't agree to long-term commitments! Let the consultant prove themselves along the way.

Going social is important for businesses today. The future holds even more opportunities for engaging customers and prospects in entirely new ways.

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