Big companies, as if experiencing a collective Rip Van Winkle awakening, are in a frantic search to hire social media consultants to help them navigate the new online frontier.
Do they walk the walk? – an agency that doesn’t participate in social media, doesn’t have its own tribe of followers has no street cred. How can they engage your customers if they can’t engage an audience of their own?
Track record – have they done marketing campaigns incorporating social media that were original, had a point beyond just existing, and that actually engaged an audience? Have they been successful more than once? How about recently? If the most creative thing they offer is their ability to produce really gorgeous charts and graphs and Power Points about what they are going to do for you, look elsewhere.
Originality – are they part of the social media echo chamber, or do they provide original ideas and content on a regular basis. It’s hard work providing original content, and not just pointing to other people’s ideas. People like Hugh Macleod, Toby Bloomberg, Yvonne DiVita, Steve Rubel, Brian Solis, Pete Cashmore, Chris Heuer, Kathy Sierra, and a handful of others have been providing original content on a consistent basis for years. As Rebecca Leib noted in her Clickz article, Who Owns Social Media Campaigns, “If you know what you’re doing, you can greatly increase the odds of a favorable outcome.”
Generosity – do they follow the 12:1 social media formula: provide information and advice to others 12 times as often as they push their services. The smartest people in any field look at other smart people in their field as collaborators, rather than competitors. They brainstorm with colleagues, provide resources to them, and aren’t afraid to ask for or provide help.
ROI – do they know how to measure ROI? Are ROI and ROA (return on attention) in their planning process?
Bloggers, including me, have been making fun of all the self-proclaimed social media experts competing for business. The Tweepsearch results, below, will give you an idea why. It shows that among the thousands of social media marketers on Twitter, there are thousands of self-described gurus, experts, strategists, stars, specialists, and a few superstars.
Who to hire?
What should companies look for when they’re ready to hire a social media agency or consultant?
And remember: guru is something that someone else calls you.