How to Choose a Social Media Marketing Consultant
A guideline on how to choose a social media marketing consultant to meet your needs.

Social Media Marketing Consultant

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How to Choose a Social Media Marketing Consultant

Make sure to properly evaluate the service they are offering and to verify the professionalism of the consultant.  You need to know if your consultant is an expert or a generalist.  For example, a marketing expert may be a generalist, he or she may be versed in visual marketing, audio or video marketing, viral marketing etc.  An “expert” will often be thoroughly studied in one area.  So for example, an SEO expert will know only about SEO, and will have training in only search engine optimization.  You must weigh up the pros and cons of this situation.  A person whom is a genuine expert may have very in-depth knowledge, or may be a person from the street who has read a few books on the subject.  Again with a generalist, it may be a person whom is a fountain of knowledge on a broader subject, or may be a person with very diluted knowledge on each aspect/subject.

Avoid offers with flamboyant promises or infinite service offerings.  These are often the ones that are trying to squeeze the most out of a social media marketing consulting service, and will offer a "kit for sale" ready to use immediately.  These are often a collection of information that you could have better found in a set of books, or free online articles or videos.  A genuine social media consultant will need to know your market/industry, and will need to know your business plans and business needs, so that they can come up with an appropriate plan.  A “ready to use kit” can be made by anybody with an Internet connection.

Consultants should be evaluated on their ability to respond to a specific problem and create solutions that fit the needs of the situation.  The social media consultant should not replace the manager.  Your social media consultancy firm should be specializing in organisational development and training.  If they are only offering a one-off solution, then you will have to keep coming back to them, probably costing you thousands.  Pick the one that gives you their expertise in the project as a whole, and one whom will pass on their expertise, and give you and your staff a little training.

There are customers who pay consultants to do their job, but that does not serve the customer in the long run.  They should know how to listen and support the customer in the direction of their company.  They should capture all of the social media needs, issues and exercise leadership by influence.  Above all, a prerequisite of the consulting profession is professionalism.

The service must be clearly defined with an understanding of the mandate, the process description, person(s) assigned to the case, schedule, time of monitoring, cost and ethical standards.  The proposed service should incorporate all these elements.  The professionalism of the consultant should be true to their ethics.

Beware of unrealistic delivery dates, especially if the work is done with humans and not programmatically (data collection for example is often done programmatically).

Ask yourself: How will we assess the results of the consultants’ actions?  Are they forgoing the bacon and simply selling warm sizzle? How will we measure the transfer of knowledge/learning from the consultant to our company/staff?  Are the results of the social media consultants’ actions going to be long term or fizzle out next week?  How do we test this?

To coin an old phrase, you must identify needs and manage expectations.  If your social media consultant comes back to you with scattergun approach to social media marketing, then there is a good chance that they are selling that pony to every other company they come across.  If on the other hand the consultant has come back with a specific plan for your specific needs, then you should pursue a contract with them first.  A little research into the uses of each social media should help clarify things.  For example, a pizza parlour would only need an account and their details on LinkedIn, and would have no need for continual maintenance, and a dyslexic community would not benefit from a Twitter account but may do well on YouTube.

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