Feeling a little behind the technological times? If you’re running a business (or older than 25), keeping up with the latest social media trends can take more time than you have to invest.
However, in terms of staying relevant, maintaining an online presence is often essential. Are your competitors gaining market share by harnessing the power of social media? If so, and all you have is an outdated Facebook page with a handful of followers, you’re going to need some help.
You won’t have any trouble finding people who say they’re experts, from recent high school graduates to communications veterans. But how do you find advisers who truly get social media — and are worth the fees they’re charging?
Here are 10 tips for sussing out the right consultants.
1. Review their work. First, go to their pages. Check their personal and business Facebook pages for engagement. Are fans commenting, liking, and posting? Are conversations taking place on Twitter? You can pay $10 per month for automated services that will net you thousands of Twitter followers but a large quantity of followers isn’t valuable unless they’re engaging with you and your brand. What you’re looking for is engagement. That’s why it’s called social media.
Christopher Penn, vice president of marketing technologies at Shift Communications, says: The trick to finding a social media adviser or consultant is to ask for their track record. What did they do, how did they do it, and what quantifiable results did they get from their efforts that impacted the bottom line?
2. Examine their writing. You can hire a freelance writer for blog entries, but this doesn’t work as well for social media. Your social media person should compose the short updates, tweets, and replies. Make sure their voice matches your company’s style — and that they have a solid grasp of proper spelling and grammar. If they believe that every word ending in “s” should have an apostrophe in it, you may want to look elsewhere. Typos do not come across as professional.
3. Ask about other formats. Social media has evolved to rely heavily on images and video. What is their strategy for finding and producing unique content in this area? Which platforms have they used? Do they feel as comfortable with Vine as they do with YouTube? What about Pinterest and Instagram?
4. Consider the breadth of their focus. The only sure thing in technology is that it’s going to change. Ask the person what emerging social networks they use and look at their pages on those sites. Social media sites will ultimately come and go, so if they’re investing time in diverse and lesser-known sites, that’s a strong positive.
5. Check their personality. Many talented professionals have trouble making conversation with strangers. There are plenty of jobs out there for these individuals, but social media manager isn’t one of them. If people have a hard time talking with you, they probably won’t seize every opportunity to reach out to your customers online.
6. Gauge their knowledge of metrics. Figuring out how to decipher Facebook traffic (and that of other social media sites) is a specialized skill set that every social media expert should have. Google Analytics is also important for evaluating online success. Ask experts what metrics they use to gauge the effectiveness of their social media campaigns and how they make changes based on what they see. Don’t accept a general answer; you want specific examples.
7. Visit their LinkedIn pages. Social media experts should have updated LinkedIn pages and know how to use the network to their advantage. If they don’t have any positive recommendations and testimonials, that’s a bad sign. (Ignore the endorsements; people often endorse others in their network hoping to get an endorsement in return.)
8. Google them. If they can’t promote their own brand, how can they promote yours? Any bona fide social media expert will be easy to find in a simple web search. Look for customer reviews and review any page that mentions their name. It’s not necessarily a red flag if you find a few negative comments or reviews, but the positives should far outweigh the negatives.
9. Test their legal knowledge. Ask them what they know about copyright and other legal issues pertaining to social media. Do they know how to use third-party content and images without violating copyright law? Do they have a healthy fear of the consequences that come from posting something that isn’t true or is defamatory? Do they know about advertising law? If something on your company website or social media pages breaks the rules, you will pay the price — literally.
10. Ask for references. If you’re working with an individual, he or she should be able to provide three to five professionals references, including some in your field. If you’re working with an agency and you’re a small business, ask to speak with previous small-business clients to make sure that you won’t be ignored in favor of larger accounts.
Even if experts pass all of the tests above, they still may not be right for your company. Trust your intuition. Remember that whoever you hire will be the voice of your business online. You’ll know early on in the interview process whether a person is compatible with your company’s culture.t
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