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Do You Need a Social Media Consultant?

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Three years ago you would have been hard-pressed to find one, but today many people are calling themselves "social media consultants." As blogs, social networks, and social sites explode in popularity, companies are looking for help in navigating the often-confusing world of social media.

But does your business really need a social media consultant? And, if so, how do you find the right one?

This article will help you determine what your needs are and how to find someone who can help you successfully integrate social media into your current business efforts.

Why do you need a consultant?

Before you begin contacting consultants, consider why you think you need one. What does your business want to do with social media? And how do you know that you should be launching a social media initiative to begin with? You may be considering launching a company blog, when in fact creating and maintaining a Twitter presence makes more sense.


Regardless of why you want to hire a social media consultant, you should make sure that the consultant is willing to provide training as part of the services. For example, if you hire a consultant to create and execute a blogging strategy, you want that consultant to spend some time training you during the entire process. Otherwise, you will have to continue to work with a consultant after the blog has launched: Though you now have a blog, you still aren't sure how to use it effectively. Ideally, training will be a core element of any project that a consultant performs, so that when they walk away it's because you are ready to take over and use the tools correctly.


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Mack Collier is a social-media strategist based in Alabama. He helps companies build programs that let them better connect with their fans. His first business book, Think Like a Rock Star: How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies That Turn Customers Into Fans, was published in April of 2013 by McGraw-Hill.

Twitter: @MackCollier
LinkedIn: Mack Collier

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  • by Kate Trgovac Wed Nov 26, 2008 via web

    Interesting piece, Mack. I violently agree with half and violently disagree with half :) The training bit - 100% agree. I ALWAYS make sure there is some training component with my clients. To me, the goal is to give them the tools and the context to put their business' best foot forward in socmed. Long term - they need to own it!

    I take a bit of issue with the checking comment #'s and the need to be extensively on Twitter. I can generate a lot of comments by writing posts that are contentious (e.g. Hitler = Awesome). And, if I were a potential client and saw that someone spent their day Twittering it away - I would wonder how they ever had time to do work. So, I would advise taking these measures with a grain of salt.

    But the lack of a portfolio and client work would raise a big red flag to me. More so than a poor TweetStat showing. Yes, social media is new - but not THAT new. My concern for potential clients is that they get excited about someone who has 10K followers and a great Technorati ranking - but who has never actually planned a social media programme, never actually conducted blogger outreach, never actually researched audiences and their online habits - or doesn't have a fundamental business understanding of what works and what doesn't in terms of building long-term, valuable and valued relationships with customers through social media.

    When I meet with potential clients, I give them a run through of the types of socmed projects I've worked on with previous and current clients, how we measured them, were they successful, what we learned (good and bad) and how we would adapt/change going forward.

    The ability to deliver value as well as previous work history are important when choosing a consultant. Any consultant. Full stop. If they haven't done any work but spend all day blogging, vlogging, and twittering about the theory of socmed, but never conceive, execute, deliver and measure a program - they are not a consultant I would engage.

  • by Mack Collier Thu Nov 27, 2008 via web

    "Interesting piece, Mack. I violently agree with half and violently disagree with half :) The training bit - 100% agree. I ALWAYS make sure there is some training component with my clients. To me, the goal is to give them the tools and the context to put their business' best foot forward in socmed. Long term - they need to own it!"

    Exactly! I always incorporate a training element, because as I tell my clients, when I walk away, it's their's, so I want to make sure when the project ends, it's because the client is ready to run with it.

    "I take a bit of issue with the checking comment #'s and the need to be extensively on Twitter. I can generate a lot of comments by writing posts that are contentious (e.g. Hitler = Awesome). And, if I were a potential client and saw that someone spent their day Twittering it away - I would wonder how they ever had time to do work. So, I would advise taking these measures with a grain of salt."

    Kate I apologize if I gave you the impression that I was saying that companies NEED to be on Twitter. If their customers are on Twitter, I think they should investigate if they should be engaging them there. If they aren't, then Twitter probably isn't where they need to be.

    And I am actually on and off Twitter almost all day. I usually keep TweetDeck running in the background, and check it as I get a break. I have found that I constantly receive speaking invitations and consulting inquiries from people I have connected with on Twitter. I received two just yesterday via DMs (Direct Messages) on Twitter. And I have noticed that the more time I spend on Twitter, the more work leads I get from my followers. So really I can't afford not to be constantly in touch with what's happening on Twitter.

    As for # of comments, I think that's a great way to measure engagement from the blog's readership. Granted, it's easy to blog about controversial topics just to generate comments, but also pretty easy to tell this is happening, based on the topic and how it is presented.

    "But the lack of a portfolio and client work would raise a big red flag to me. More so than a poor TweetStat showing. Yes, social media is new - but not THAT new. My concern for potential clients is that they get excited about someone who has 10K followers and a great Technorati ranking - but who has never actually planned a social media programme, never actually conducted blogger outreach, never actually researched audiences and their online habits - or doesn't have a fundamental business understanding of what works and what doesn't in terms of building long-term, valuable and valued relationships with customers through social media."

    A client should never look at one metric alone to judge the potential expertise of a consultant, and I again apologize if you got that impression from this article. But in researching what a consultant has done with social media, you can learn quite a bit. You can also get a good feel for their reputation with the larger social media community.

    Am I saying that you should pick a consultant that 'looks' good on paper, over one that looks good AND has a solid client portfolio? Of course not, and I again apologize if I gave you that impression.

    "When I meet with potential clients, I give them a run through of the types of socmed projects I've worked on with previous and current clients, how we measured them, were they successful, what we learned (good and bad) and how we would adapt/change going forward."

    Good for you, that's exactly what you should be doing.

    "The ability to deliver value as well as previous work history are important when choosing a consultant."

    Vitally important. Again, I apologize if my article gave you the impression that this isn't the case.

    "If they haven't done any work but spend all day blogging, vlogging, and twittering about the theory of socmed, but never conceive, execute, deliver and measure a program - they are not a consultant I would engage."

    Kate do you offer consulting on creating Squidoo pages? I have no idea if you do or not, but I do know that your laptop page on Squidoo is one of the top Squidoo lenses. So while I have no idea if you offer this as a consulting service, I do know that you know how to create a top Squidoo lense.

    So if I needed to hire a consultant to create a top Squidoo lense, I would do research as I outlined in this article. If I found a consultant that had a track record of creating top Squidoo lenses for clients, I would probably contact that person about hiring them.

    But if I needed a consultant to build a top Squidoo page for my company, and I couldn't find a consultant that offers this service that has a top client portfolio, I would feel comfortable reaching out to you (even if you don't offer this service or have any clients), to see if you could offer this service to my company.

    Does that make sense?

  • by Beth Harte Thu Nov 27, 2008 via web

    Mack, Kate,

    Just want to add my perspective to this conversation. Kate you said…

    "But the lack of a portfolio and client work would raise a big red flag to me. More so than a poor TweetStat showing. Yes, social media is new - but not THAT new. My concern for potential clients is that they get excited about someone who has 10K followers and a great Technorati ranking - but who has never actually planned a social media programme, never actually conducted blogger outreach, never actually researched audiences and their online habits - or doesn't have a fundamental business understanding of what works and what doesn't in terms of building long-term, valuable and valued relationships with customers through social media."

    These things are all VERY important too, but they sound more like PR fundamentals than just social media alone (and that’s okay…planning and execution IS essential in SM). Here's the thing with social media, it IS necessary to utilize social media and Web 2.0 tools as a social media consultant, otherwise how can a consultant advise clients on how to implement them?

    Companies looking for a social media consultant should look for consultants that actually utilize social media to develop relationships with other social media folks and to develop their business (clients). As a social media consultant it isn't just about developing a plan or campaign, measuring against it and then moving on…it’s about properly knowing how and when to use the tools too. And with social media, it’s not the same usage as the traditional tools we PR and marketing folks are used to.

    I disagree with your statement that someone with a lot of followers or a high Technorati ranking “doesn’t have fundamental business understanding of what works and what doesn't in terms of building long-term, valuable and valued relationships with customers through social media."

    A social media consultant that has successfully developed their blog content and comments (i.e. conversations), their Technorati rating (i.e. conversations about their conversations), and Twitter followings (i.e. more conversations) is a perfect example of just how deeply they understand how to develop a conversation and community (social) and how to use the tools (media). And those conversations and relationships usually do lead to long-term valuable and valued relationships with clients/customers. Chris Brogan, Amber Naslund, Jason Falls, and Mack are all great examples of social media consultants/agencies that have achieved this. (There are a lot more, they just came to the top of my head.) And I would think it would be a huge assumption to think that they don’t have the business savvy to go along with their social media expertise.

    At the heart of social media is the ability to develop long-term relationships and provide a platform for two-way conversations and a lot of this happens on-line. Perhaps an analogy would be a consultant saying they teach people how to swim, but then are never in the pool actually swimming alongside other swimming coaches and the swimmers they are coaching. For me, any consultant or agency that says they are "social media experts" and then doesn't use the very tools or aren't involved in the very community they say they represent sets off a red flag.

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