Are you yet to board on the train of “Social Media Marketing”? Are you planning to make the journey alone, or you have someone else to do it for you? Let me tell you that just maintaining accounts in FB, Twitter, G+, MySpace or LinkedIn for an hour or two in a day won’t suffice. Time, experience and most importantly consistency matter the most in SMM. You may not be available to do everything of your own. Therefore hiring a consultant is a valid call.
Now the million dollar question is: Who will be the eyes, ears and voice of your business online? Who can raise your brand's reputation and boost your bottom line?
You cannot just transfer the ownership of your social media accounts or outsource your online reputation job to someone else and relax. Social Media Management is different from your balance sheet and profit & loss a/c management. Hiring just the right person is a necessity. So, how do you do this?
If you participate in a plenty of events or community talks you will know how small business owners manage their social media activities; how and where they get help with social media. Some people offer good advice, some offer bad advice.
How will you know who has the right set of skills to help you and who wants to take advantage of you?
Here are the key questions you should ask a prospective social media consultant.
How long have you been associated with social media and the web industry?
Analyze the answer and understand: Experience counts, but it does not mean a new entrant will not be qualified for the job. It depends on what expertise he or she brings in to you. If the social media person you are talking to have only focused on social media last year, it is better to find someone else.
Can you show me an example of one client whom you have helped with social media ?
Analyze the answer and understand: Case studies are always important as far as checking credentials are concerned. A good case study is not necessarily from the same industry your business is in. You need to ensure that your service provider has got the right attitude and experience that is directly related to your business requirements.
What do you suggest we should start with?
Analyze the answer and understand: How methodical and strategic is your potentional social media manager? Concentrating on the initial steps is important in social media promotion. There are two things an expert should begin with. First, he or she should have done a complete homework on your business and tell you what you are already doing. For example, if you have already a Twitter account , the person should able to tell you about that. If he or she asks you to create a new one instead, it means the person is not worth consulting. Second, the professional should be more inclined to getting work done than guide you on theoretical aspects and industry news.
What is your view on the mistakes small businesses do with their social media plan?
Analyze the answer and understand: The reasons to ask this question is to know if your social media expert pays attention to real-time industry happenings. A good expert will be able to analyze what and how people end up doing mistakes in social media business and how they have helped businesses overcome the situations. Make sure each of the answers you receive from the expert is justified and example-driven.
Example: Some of the big players like McDonalds, Microsoft, StubHub, KitchenAid, KFC, United Airlines went horribly wrong with their social media campaigns.
When McDonalds, with an objective to market their product line (in a Twitter campaign) used hashtag #McDstories, people mocking McDonald and their products using the hashtag. McDonalds pulled the Twitter campaign within 2 hours. People were using #McDstories to narrate their bad experience with McDonalds.
How will I understand if your efforts are working? How do I measure it?
Analyze the answer and understand: This is one question that is going to answer thousands of your queries. Measuring success in social media work is not so easy. It is a kind of hidden test to know how your expert quantifies his or her success and reports you on the deliverables.
For example, if the social media person talks about getting you 1000 Twitter followers in one month or 1000 Facebook likes in 2 months, you are in the wrong hands. The person has no idea about how social media works and what is its real impact on a business. One should be able to map your social media effort properly and connect it to business goals. That makes sense.
What is your reach or influence in my industry?
Analyze the answer and understand: Ideally consultants will tell you about their connections with industry influencers. However, you should verify their list of Twitter followers and the people they are following. If they have an account in Facebook you may scan their popularity by seeing how many people like them. It is also important to note that those followers are genuine are not cooked up. You may add them from your personal social media account and find the strength of the profiles they are connected to.
How will you measure the ROI of my campaign?
Analyze the answer and understand: It is crucial that your social media consultant uses metrics and analytics to show you return on investment. These are not necessarily the number of likes, followers, fans or lead conversion rate you should look at. Custom tracking with the aid of tools such as Google analytics, Facebook insights and Klout can monitor the results better. You may also ask the professionals about how they analyze and improve frequency of Twitter re-tweets and Facebook EdgeRank.
How will you handle social media crisis?
Analyze the answer and understand: Social media disasters are so common, they are no longer news. Your social media person should be able to handle negative Facebook comments and Tweets.
Example: In a presentation, Marketing Cavalry.com showed how Nestle’s Easter Basket promotion turned into a disaster in the year of 2010.
Are your payment terms and conditions negotiable?
Analyze the answer and understand: You should know if the consultant charges on hourly basis or by project.
Once you are satisfied with answers and your personal judgment about the consultant, it is time to kick start the job.