You most likely don’t have the capacity to hire a full time person to run your social media. You may need a bit more individualized training and coaching – more than what you can get by passively watching webinars, reading e-books and attending conferences.
This situation may call for a social media consultant to help you build your online communities, create great content and manage your time effectively.
Despite your best intentions and great ideas, perhaps you do not know how to begin to work with a consultant or what to expect. I come across this situation in my work, and I want to help.
If you are currently working with a social media consultant or considering an engagement, read this first.
1) Do your research. First things first – do your due diligence! Absolutely anyone can hang out a shingle and say they are a social media consultant.
Use Quora, LinkedIn Groups and Twitter to research who is out there. Do you want someone local? Do you want to work with a large agency or a solo freelancer?
Do you care if the meetings are virtual? These days meetings and full conferences can be conducted via Google Hangout, Skype and GoToMeeting.
Make a list of all the qualities you would like in your consultant, including location and experience. Do not go on price alone. Use this list when vetting potential candidates.
2) Make sure you understand the consultant’s philosophy. This is the most important factor when choosing the consultant that is going to work best with you and your organization.
For example, my philosophy has always been quality over quantity. If a potential client is looking for someone to purchase 10,000 fake Facebook fans just to impress their boss, then I am not the person for them.
If you want to learn how to use social media tools more effectively (hint: it takes a lot of work and dedication!), then I’m your girl. I firmly believe in the “teach a man to fish” manifesto (rather than simply giving him a fish).
Anjali Mullany, Fast Company’s Social Media Editor, once wrote: “If social media consultants are doing their jobs, they should put themselves out of business.” I completely agree.
3) Recognize what social media consultants do and don’t do. Social media consultants do not officially work for Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. We do not draw a paycheck each time someone signs up for a Tumblr account. I don’t have a direct line to Mark Zuckerberg. (Wish I did!)
My job is not to convince you to sign up on every social media platform. My job is to work with you to determine which platforms are right for you, based on factors including your capacity, technical knowledge, interest, fan base, target market and more.
4) Go with your gut. Just as in successful online community building, a fruitful consulting engagement requires trust and complete transparency. If you get a bad feeling in that first meeting, go with your gut and try someone else.
5) Come prepared with questions. Consultants are very smart people, but we are not mind readers. If you say you understand but you really have no idea what we are talking about, that is not going to benefit anyone.
6) Be ready to do the work. This is a BIG one. If you don’t have the time or the capacity to actually take action, then wait until you do before working with a consultant.
Working with a social media consultant will generate a ton of ideas and yes, create a To Do list. Your social media strategy doesn’t have to start from scratch but it may need to be reworked and improved. Be ready to jump in or your money will be wasted.
See a social media consultant as a type of personal trainer for your online presence.
What constitutes a successful exercise regimen? Determination, commitment, willpower and perseverance. (Also sweat.)
These are the same characteristics that go into a successful social media campaign.
If you go to the gym once per week, you are not going to get the same results that you would if you start to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
If you only blog once per month and post to Facebook once per week, you are not going to see any results in terms of building an active and engaged online community.
Social media consultants, just like personal trainers, provide practical tips about creating, implementing and measuring a routine – and then our clients go off by themselves, hopefully to succeed.
In conclusion – there are pros and cons in working with an outside social media consultant. Hopefully this blog post has shed some light on how to explore working with one. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section.