So you have a business and you keep hearing how important it is to be on Facebook and Twitter, but where do you go from there? If you own a small business, it's likely that you may not have the current funds to hire a full time social media and marketing employee. The next best person to work with is a social media consultant, right?
Not necessarily. A social media consultant is a niche term that relates to those who only work with a series of tools, rather than creating a strategic plan or communicate a brand effectively.
The common social media consultant will generally offer you increased follower numbers, setting up a basic blog and accounts for your social media voice, and basic training. While these can be beneficial as a start, what long term planning and results will come from this, and is it a sturdy foundation to build on? Essentially you will have the basic know how to post articles, tweets and status updates, but you will likely have to grow on your own in these situations.
If you hire a communications specialist or marketing consultant you will gain the same information, and often construct a strategic plan. To clarify, a consultant is not a person who works under your brand, they are there to educate and empower you. It is important to note what background they have so you have a broadened scope of what social media can do for you or your organization at the completion of their work. This information can also be applied to individuals you plan on hiring to manage your brands voice full time. For small businesses though, if the founder or upper management can utilize social media it will be more meaningful.
So what should all consultants be able to provide? A DEEPER look into social media.
Dependability: A consultant or individual managing your social accounts need to be dependable. Social media never rests, so if a person can't successfully manage discussions in a timely manner it could pose an issue.
Education: What is their educational background? If they have a degree working with development it probably won't hold up well in a social environment. People with degrees in writing, communication, journalism or public relations will be your most suitable option. Even if tweets consist of 140 characters, it takes skill to reach different audiences.
Experience: What experience does the person have in a communication field? Social media sites are just tools to communicate directly with your members or customers. We've all heard the rule, don't hire kids out of college that just simply use social media sites, but that shouldn't negate their ability to communicate effectively. Ask for their Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin profile links. If they refuse that is not only a red flag, but a sign that they may not follow netiquette very well. Read through their tweets and status updates to see if their voice could benefit your brand.
Plan: One of the most important things a consultant can provide you with is a customized strategic plan that will help you build a foundation to grow on. In connection with empowering employees, creating guidelines and basic rules to follow should allow a business to articulate how they want to communicate with their members or customers. A consultant who will only manage your feed won't be able to complete this, and if they manage other feeds your brand may not have the devotion required.
Empowerment: A consultant who empowers you as the user (rather than just setting up accounts for you, and managing them) is probably the best thing you can ask for. If they can education you and help you create a custom plan, you will have the power to actively engage your desired audience using social media tools.
Results: Numbers, numbers and numbers! Social media may be about words and engagement, but as the owner of a brand or business you want to see numbers. While followers on Twitter and Likes on Facebook are great, a consultant should be able to prove their experience successful web traffic metrics, engagement statistics after strategy implementation and goals they have completed.
Basic questions to ask consultants or prospective employees
How do you define social media?
Everyone defines social media in a different way. You want to make sure they include keywords like networking, discussion, and community. If the prospect can't assert that sites like Facebook and Twitter are only tools, that may be a red flag.
Do you place importance on learning new sites like Quora, and how have you implemented these into your social promotional strategy?
Social media junkies should be on top of their game, as technology and tools in our field are ever changing. If they feel it's important to only have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, ask them why. If your brand wants to become an expert in your field, it would behove you to contribute to related discussions in your field.
How do you monitor brand content internally and externally? (For those managing accounts)
Even if you have a small business, your community doesn't just live on your site. Any mention on any website of your brand automatically builds itself into your online community. It's important to monitor and respond to discussions related to your brand in a timely fashion.
TL;DR: Avoid hiring people who claims to be a social media guru or social media consultant. A communications or marketing specialist will be able to provide a strategic plan that includes not only social media, but empowers you to use it. A qualified candidate will be able to give you a deeper look and appreciation for social media tools.