Too many companies endanger their brands’ reputations by falling victim to opportunists who claim to be social media “experts” without any understanding of social strategy. At their most innocuous, faux social gurus can rack up a bill without providing your company any real benefit. At their worst, a few social missteps can confuse and alienate customers, tarnish a brand’s image, and damage a company’s reputation.
These social media “experts” are a dime a dozen. Like snake oil salesmen hawking magic elixirs, some fake social gurus prey on companies that lack the ability to distinguish between a true social media specialist and an imposter. To avoid wasting money on misguided social initiatives, learn how to tell who’s the real deal.
Real Social Experts Help Turn Fans into Customers
Social media is misunderstood, but it’s not alchemy. Essentially, an efficient social media strategy converts fans into customers. The person in charge of this strategy needs technical knowledge of digital, social, and interactive technologies and must possess analytical thinking skills, creativity, business savvy, marketing expertise, and, usually, management experience.
Your social media guru should be able to do the following things:
1. Build customers, not just a fan base. Legitimate social media experts can create brand awareness and generate leads that convert into sales. They’ll implement programs that result in meaningful relationships with customers, determine customers’ needs and wants, improve brand loyalty, and energize advocates who share the company’s good name by word of mouth.
2. Analyze data. It can take quite a while for a fan or follower to become an actual customer. Although it may not seem as exciting as creating relevant content or catchy email subject lines, monitoring the various metrics that show how your social media presence is connecting to your business’ objectives is vital to success.
3. Work offline. Social media chiefs must understand your company’s offline marketing strategy. An online presence is much more effective if it can be seamlessly integrated with diverse strategies such as print ads, events, and sponsorships. Connecting offline components to social media initiatives creates a more relevant experience for customers.
4. Work with people. Finally, a social media representative will be a good manager who is able to understand and coordinate the people who analyze and measure data, as well as programmers, designers, writers, and content creators.
Ask the Right Questions
Before any applicants come in for interviews, do a quick Google search for their names. Evaluating how they manage their own social media presence should provide some indicators of their expertise. Do most of their posts on Twitter or Facebook pertain to social media best practices?
Talk to or look for reviews from other customers, especially people or companies you know or admire. Ignore high scores on Klout and Kred, which are easily manipulated. The number of followers on Twitter isn’t a good indicator of expertise, either, since many people buy followers — even though the practice goes against Twitter’s terms of service.
Once you’ve brought a job candidate or consultant in for an initial meeting, here are three questions I recommend asking anyone who claims to be a guru:
What’s the first thing you’d do in this position?
Anyone who answers by talking about tactics — Pinterest or Instagram posts, tweets, or Facebook pages — should be considered a novice. You’re looking for an expert who bases a social media strategy on your company’s specific objectives. Look for candidates who answer by saying they would thoroughly analyze the various goals and traditional marketing your company already has in place.
What are some mistakes you’ve made?
At the breakneck pace of the current online business and media world, even the most seasoned executives stumble occasionally. Forthright individuals will admit to making mistakes and explain what they learned as a result. Their responses will give you a sense of their personal integrity, skillset, knowledge, and disposition.
Do you have any questions for me?
Qualified candidates will ask questions about your company, such as your commitment level to pursuing a social media presence, and what financial, technical, and human resources will be allocated. They will ask straightforward questions about IT processes, data access and management, and CRM programs, along with how leads are generated and how conversions are measured.
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of an Online Presence
Today’s consumers make informed purchase decisions. Businesses and individuals use company websites, search engines, customer reviews, and barcode-scanning mobile apps to fully arm themselves with information before deciding to buy things. In fact, research shows that up to 90 percent of B2B purchase decisions occur before anyone from that company contacts the sales department.
What if your company’s offerings were exactly what these buyers were looking for, but your lack of online presence meant they never heard about your product? You may have lost out on a $50 — or even $5 million — opportunity without even realizing it.
Opportunities abound to boost your company’s image and increase sales for those willing to search out and hire authentic social media talent. Be sure your social media guru is doing the best job for your company and that you haven’t bought in to a miracle elixir that lays your brand to waste.
Stephen Monaco is an integrated marketing expert, thought leader, innovator, author, and speaker. As a marketing consultant and social business strategist, Monaco advises companies on driving strategies and leveraging digital media to effectively realize business goals. He welcomes anyone to reach out to him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.
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