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Is Your Social Media Professional Really A Professional?
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Is Your Social Media Professional Really A Professional?

The past decade has marked an increase, and a shift in how companies strategize and work to create a social presence. Companies have had a veritable rush in the ensuing years to jump on the old social media bandwagon.  And with that jump can come a mistake in hiring the wrong person for the job.

A lot of people have eyed social media with the means to make a quick buck in something they have no background in.  It’s unfortunate but it happens.  Cheaper doesn’t mean better; inexperiened does not mean they will do it right in time; and no amount of free software will make them into a graphic designer worth paying.

This means you will lose money and not have anything to show for it long term.  You pay a nominal fee and with no goal to hit, no audience defined, no plan in place you really are hemorraging money that over time adds up.  I have worked with many different companies in the past 10 years, from Mom & Pop start ups to companies with 40-60 employees and Fortune 500 Companies with huge marketing budgets.  But one thing remained the same: no one wanted to waste a dime on marketing.  Every penny needed to matter, to mean more feet through the door and more eyes on their brand.

So before you go and hand the keys to your digital kingdom to someone, let’s review a few key questions to ask before you hire a social media marketer:

What is your background in the field of social media or marketing?
They could be fresh out of school, that is fine.  But their answer here is key to how they will represent you or have the knowledge to represent your brand.  Remember: Up to a few years ago, the role of social media marketer didn’t exist.  But, they should have more to say than, “I’m on social media myself.”  or “I have an at home business that I have a Facebook Page for.”  These to me are warning signs of someone without a background on crafting messages, setting goals, defining your core followers and increasing your ROI.  Simply “being on Facebook” isn’t enough to pay someone to run your brands social campaigns.

What are some social media platforms you are on continuously?
Another indicator of adaption levels.  Add to this, “How long have you been on those platforms?”  If someone lists off an impressive amount of social media sites, check to see when they joined Twitter, or when was the last time their LinkedIn profile was polished.  Do they just have a placehold on those sites or are they actively involved.  If someone is an enthusiast, great!  But, to be paid to handle someone’s brand, you have to have more than enthusiast behind your name.  You are selling yourself as an expert and if that client has a concern or problem you need to be able to answer with more than “I don’t know.”

Now some may have a preference for one platform of socialmedia over another.  But with how integrated these outlets are anymore, maintaining a Twitter account is not quite as hard if you are seriously committed to your profession.  I can post to Twitter several times a day, and still maintain my Profiles on Facebook, and Pin to Pinterest with no trouble, all while sharing photos on Instagram. As well the content shared to those platforms should be unique to those platforms, don’t rick roll content from FB and think you are winning Twitter.  Just don’t.

Can you tell me a successful social media campaign you have overseen?
This is sort of a trick question.  Because your real goal here is to establish what they consider successful and if they know how to track ROI.  If just getting more likes is their idea of a success story, then it’s best to move on.  While more likes are great overall the real goal for your business is to translate those leads into dollars in your register.  If a Social Media Marketer can’t define clear ideas for tracking ROI via social media, it’s not a good sign.

Consequently, if they have no success story and have literally just started their business on a whim, this is a good way to sniff that out.

How would you recommend our business use social media?
This is a question I have heard, and before I sit back and just start painting a picture for a prospective client I say one very key sentence: “I have to see what you are currently doing to best answer that.”  If I am in a cold meeting, no stats, analytics, or insights I really could be recommending something they have no scope or interest in pursuing.  Without asking key questions about their use and knowing how their current campaigns are going I could make a solidly uniformed suggestion that makes absolutely no sense.

So if your “expert” just starts yammering on and on about Facebook and getting more likes, even though you are currently on Facebook with plenty of market penetration; or if they say how your website needs to be more social friendly and you’ve undertaken a project already to blog and install social share bars it’s probably a good indicator of someone who is looking for a job, not a career.  They are feeding buzz words and fast applying solutions that won’t fit your brand.

Also if they simply recommend contests and deals as your ticket to social media success, run.

What is your experience with graphics based software?
This is more geared towards newly built “firms”, but it’s a fair question.  Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr are all heavy on images.  Does your expert have experience in graphic design or someone on their payroll who will help craft branded images?  Do they have access to a photographer?  Do they understand that not all images out there are free to use?  Where are they visually on their own page?  Are they branded?  Are they professional?  Do they use copywritten content or characters (believe it or not have seen this)?

Further, what will be your roll in assisting with graphics generation, are you going to have to provide all photography, videography and graphics to your social media expert?

A few other warning signs:

Using the term “Expert” or “Rock Star” to Describe Themselves
When social media marketing first really started, I was there.  It’s like telling my kids I saw Michael Jackson Moonwalk live, or I survived a term paper without the internet.  It amazes them.  But truly, I was there and started a side business with my boss.  We didn’t know what to call ourselves.  And so many terms were bantered about: Maven, Guru, Ninja, Rockstar, Expert.  The list goes on and on.  But if you want to be taken seriously, you are a Marketer or Consultant, or some coloring thereof.  On my card at one point 6 years ago it said “Social Media Marketer” and that’s what I stuck with.  If others want to call me their expert or any other affinity style references fine.  But to label yourself as an expert without earning that title?  Bad form.

Their content on their page is 90% links to other articles with no input given
Content is still king for social media.  How invested are they in crafting their own content for their brand?  If someone is passionate and professional, they should be able to write about their field.  If anything to say how their business is going.

An indicator for me is to view their brand’s social media profiles (if available) to see what they are talking about there.  If it’s just loads of articles, it doesn’t show me they are invested in the field of social media and are posting SOMETHING so they don’t appear dead.  Are the posts relevant to their business or field?  So many times I have seen articles that maybe they personally enjoy (great put those on your profile) but they aren’t relevant to the business page and it’s goal (I guess if it had one).

Can they communicate well without an article?  Can they make you feel compelled to engage with their brand, share, like, stop in for a visit?  If they are writing their own content on their site this is a good indicator that someone is well versed in using the written word to convey emotion, a message to craft that conversation.  If they just post a sentence above an article ad nasueum?  They don’t know how.

Also what is the timeliness of their posts, every day, lulls of weeks then a ton of posts within minutes?  Are their social accounts linked with little to no original content per platform?  This shows someone who doesn’t understand algorithms or how to post in order to gain a true following.  It also shows someone who may be doing this as a side gig versus a dedicated marketer who knows how to craft and design a conversation with their followers.  They are posting just to post.  You want them doing that to your brand?

They are willing to accept goods as trade for services or their rate is WAY low
This is someone who doesn’t know how to command proper pay for their work.  The Low Low Price also is an indicator of someone who doesn’t realize this isn’t a “hobby” or something you take on because it sounds “neat”.  It’s a very time consuming profession, and very difficult to do well given the ever changing landscape.  As well it’s not a profession you can do simply at any time or anywhere.  If someone begins to trash your client on social media, you need to be able to jump on there at a moments notice to help oversee and work through the problem.  If you have a “day job” and you must stop those duties to attend to a complaint, that doesn’t sound good at all to your boss there, or to your client here.  You are constantly monitoring, working and strategizing and to charge in food or pennies on the dollar belies someone who doesn’t understand what it actually takes or further has no stake in what comes of their efforts.

If someone is charging a low low rate in your industry, would you trust them?  Probably not, you know that somewhere they are cutting a corner.  The same can be said in the field of social media marketing.

A low low price can mean many things:
Lack of education or a marketing background.
Not aware of best practices in advertising and marketing.
The client will need to supply any and all images graphics and videos and the “marketer” in this scenario is simply someone scheduling posts.
They don’t pay attention to trends or work on many different platforms, this is a price per platform.
They don’t know what they are doing.

In conclusion, if the only thing the “expert” in front of you has to offer is the fact that their prices are low you need to ask yourself “What am I paying for?”  These folks may mean well, but they can be a bit like a bull in a china shop if not fully vetted.

What other questions would you ask to test if someone is what they say they are?  Post in the comments below!

Amy Hughes About the author
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