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Social media consultants: A call to action

Guest post by Jennifer Leggio, Read her blog | Follow her on Twitter

Source: Shutterstock

If you’re dubbed a social media expert these days it’s almost like getting marked for professional death. It’s become even more popular to deny social media expertise as it has to claim faux expertise. Which means that the snake oiliest of the social media expert types have tried to give themselves a bit more oomph: they use the term consultant.

Social media expertise in general has become a joke, sadly, as there really are people out there who understand social media and how it relates to business. Unfortunately they get buried by the noise of the fakers. So I’m here to pick on those fakers, those consultants who make it harder on the good guys. Not all consultants are bad. Some of them actually do good work – Maggie Fox and Olivier Blanchard are two folks who do good stuff. But there are thousands of others who are simply… online.

The best quote I’ve heard came from the host of this blog, Brian Solis, at a Girls In Tech event I participated in this summer. He told Kara Swisher that the way some consultants talk, “you’d think they invented the conversation.” It’s true. Many consultants these days are making a fortune telling companies that they need to (gasp) talk to their customers. And because these consultants have a strong social media presence of their own these poor schmucks (aka companies) are listening.

You know the types. They call themselves innovators because they created a Twitter hashtag or have thousands of followers. They throw around buzzwords like “authenticity” and “transparency” and “presence.” They think that all social behavior occurs on popular social networks. They’ve never lead a business.

What separates the good from the bad? A few simple things:

  • Proof of experience and demonstrated results. This comes in the form of a case study that shows how social media tied into the larger business strategy. It is not a discussion around tools. It’s not just a marketing discussion, either.
  • Business leadership, not necessarily thought leadership. The latter is wonderful but it is abstract and not always completely applicable. How does it apply to your business?
  • Dig deep into a consultant’s background and social media presence. Is he or she simply good at promoting him- or herself?

It’s overwhelming, isn’t it? You wouldn’t think it would be so hard to find a consultant with those three things, but it is. And those are the only ones to which companies should give their money.

So I’d like to issue a challenge to you, good consultants. I would like each one of you who claim to be savvy and really helping businesses with their social programs, to tell us here in the comments why you’re a viable option for businesses. Either link a case study or talk about your proven results or your business acumen. If you read this and think, “I have nothing to prove,” well, you’re wrong. You need to prove everything in order to be a bona fide, non snake-oily consultant. What’s stopping you?

Jennifer Leggio aka Mediaphyter claims only to be an expert at causing a ruckus at hockey games. She writes ZDNet’s social business blog and is an active member of the network security community. She can be found on both Twitter and Facebook.

103 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Social media consultants: A call to action”

  1. Dan says:

    Social media experts are about as real as unicorns.

  2. mahendrapenumathsa says:

    A more simpler approach to using social media could be launching quick prototypes off some close to ready web 2.0 platforms. I know of a few smart social media consultants who work with launching sub $ 15K prototypes that shows what is possible. These prototypes are released in a closer user group for feedback before everyone (including the social media consultants) agree that there is a clear path for opening the purse strings and understand ROI.

    Keep looking…….

  3. I like the idea, but I think even consultant is being overused…

    Personally, I think we should just all become marketing consultants with a background in social media.

    Brian Schuster

  4. I like the idea, but I think even consultant is being overused…

    Personally, I think we should just all become marketing consultants with a background in social media.

    Brian Schuster

  5. Hashim says:

    This post isn't fair. Should your business card maker be responsible for your networking success?

    Should your web designer be responsible for your site conversions?

    Should your plumber be responsible for you being regular?

    It's up to a business to have a clear business strategy. From there they can tell a social media consultant what the goal is, and entertain pitches that will help them meet that goal.

    Here's the reality – most businesses just want the traffic bump, a few nice mentions of their brand on Twitter, and the ego boost that comes with it. The call to action should be on businesses to clarify their own sales cycle so they can take advantage of social media properly.

  6. Alice Fuller says:

    I'm is also @hollywoodlvwork. Why am I a viable option for a business? Unlike that ass in the video I DO NOT throw words at my clients. I work diligently to explain to them how the tools of social media work so that even in my absence the company can continue in its efforts. Last year I worked with a professional hair care company in Beverly Hills. The marketing guy wanted to promote the launch of a new dryer to it's customer base which was only professional stylists and salon owners. Through evaluation, trial and effort, and really gauging what was important to their market we launched a successful campaign.

    But what was key was knowing the client, knowing the business, and getting to know its target market. I'm no hairstylists nor salon owner but you can bet your ass I got to know them and talked to them face to face to get a strong understanding of who I was trying to reach out to online. Then I combined that research with the proper tools.

    Gurus and experts like that in the funny video don't take the time to get to know the company. Not every company needs a profile on every social network. Figuring out what works and then how to work it has been key to my success.

    With my tv background, I think like a producer. What's the story? What's your message? How does this impact your audience? How can you better reach the audience through video, online chat, or email? I generate ideas to help them see the various resources that are available and that it will take some work to get customers in the door or to actually buy products. Success isn't overnight.

    Fourth what makes me a viable social media individual, is that I STUDY. Fake ass gurus follow a few real social marketing experts but can't apply it to a real world situation. As long as they are getting a check and make a couple of status updates and tweets it's all good. But soon they are fired because there is no results.

    Lastly, I'm not about getting mass followers/friends that don't give a shit about your message, your product, nor your company. I set out to match companies with their audiences online, make the introductions or re-introductions, then help guide the conversation. Numbers don't mean anything if none of the fans, friends, followers are willing to buy the product, come into the store, or even share opinions on new products. If you just want numbers or a mere head count at an event, then you're not my client.

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