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.
Many companies are beginning to seek out consultants to provide basic social media training and workshops/seminars. This makes good sense, because it gives a company the ability to expose its employees to social media and begin the learning process. The ultimate goal of hiring a social-media consultant should be to make your company self-sufficient in using these tools, which makes training cost-effective. Many consultants will provide a variety of training services, such as presentations, keynotes, or even full-day and multiple-day workshops.
Another alternative is to hire a social-media consultant on a retainer basis. This is a good option if your company has some social media experience but it needs a bit of monitoring/tutoring on occasion. An option such as this lets you save some money by doing much of the heavy lifting yourself, but you also have an expert you can contact for help when you need it.
Mack Collier is a social-media strategist based in Alabama. He helps companies build programs and initiatives that let them better connect with their customers and advocates. His podcast, The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show, discusses ways that brands can turn customers into fans. His first book, Think Like a Rock Star: How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies That Turn Customers Into Fans, was published in April 2013 by McGraw-Hill.
LinkedIn: Mack Collier