8 Questions to Ask Your "Social Media Expert"

Expert Quality?Ike Pigott wrote an excellent post today for Media Bullseye about the pack mentality emerging on Twitter. More specifically, he wrote about the glut of “whizkids” appearing out of nowhere and positioning themselves as social media consultants or experts:

“…we have a glut of people selling their expertise on how you should handle “the Twitter community” who have zero experience using the service the way most people do. They hopped on board the Consultancy Express, went straight to the head of the line, and now want to tell you how to talk to people at all of the stops they skipped.”

I wrote recently about the “expert” term and whether it was time we started to use that term. This post isn’t about that. It’s about weeding-out the pundits from the practitioners.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of seeing people sign up for Twitter, follow ten thousand people (many of whom follow back) to build a substantial following, then start spouting advice as though followers equals expertise. Some of them are experts, for sure. Others, however, seem to have little beyond a big mouth to back their words up.

Almost as annoying, but just as dangerous, are the hordes of traditional practitioners that have realized they need to include social media in their pitches nowadays, but have no experience whatsoever using those tools.

Where to start?

Dave Jones set up a wiki to track Canadian social media case studies (which I will get to soon, I promise) and Peter Kim did the same for social media marketing examples south of the border, both of which are good places to start.

Ike came up with a question to weed out the Twitter newbies from those who have some experience:

What is your experience using the web interface on Twitter?”

Here are a couple of questions I would ask at a more general level:

1. Can you give me an example of social media work you’ve completed for a client recently?

If you hear anything other than “yes, here’s a good example” then back away slowly. Or not so slowly.

2. How do you go about pitching bloggers?

If you hear the words “blind copy,” “news release” or “email blast,” look elsewhere.

3. How do you monitor what people are saying about you?

If the answer stops with blogs, you’ve got yourself a fake.

4. Where can I find you online?

You want doers, not talkers. Choose people with a presence (although, as I said, a big mouth isn’t everything).

5. Can you (ghost) write my blog for me?

No, they can’t. They might be able to offer you some topic suggestions to get you started, but if they offer to ghost-write your blog, yell “fraud!”

6. How do you measure results?

No, “website hits” don’t count as a metric. Ever.

7. How would you define social media?

PR isn’t press releases, media lists or speeches. Social media isn’t a list of tools. Same principle. Your “expert” should start with principles. Occasionally you might hear a tool within that.

8. Can you just pretend to be me online?

No. Just no.

What question would you ask?

119 comments
 Bab reed
Bab reed

I think its great you're replying to new comments on old posts - one of the reasons your site is quality. Ok, brown-nosing over.

Y8
Y8

I agree with all of your points, I’ve seen too many “packages” that are just about creating content and doing the work –which relates to your point on “tool expertise”– and not enough “we’re in this together” mentalities. Very good information.

RL COMM I Social Media Expert
RL COMM I Social Media Expert

A true expert knows everything what's you're asking on your article.. does what makes a certain person an expert. Thanks for your article.

Carizzimo
Carizzimo

I think the part about "No, “website hits” don’t count as a metric. Ever." needs an explanation. You give some good advice it seems but never explain your basis, so reader is left wondering why we should trust you...

David Hillier
David Hillier

Great tips for people who are searching for an 'expert'. However a think 'ghost writting' is not as bad as you make out. Sometimes getting someone to write your blog can provide you with rich well written content. Although make sure that they only post with an official sign off from you and that you provide topics you want covered by them.

David Hillier
David Hillier

Great tips for people who are searching for an 'expert'. However a think 'ghost writting' is not as bad as you make out. Sometimes getting someone to write your blog can provide you with rich well written content. Although make sure that they only post with an official sign off from you and that you provide topics you want covered by them.

Yogi Raj
Yogi Raj

Good compilation and this question "Do you offer a guarantee?" is a worthy addition to the list above. I keep hearing "We'll get your site with 5,000 links and 10,000 hits" from these so called social-media-experts!

Yogi Raj
Yogi Raj

Good compilation and this question "Do you offer a guarantee?" is a worthy addition to the list above. I keep hearing "We'll get your site with 5,000 links and 10,000 hits" from these so called social-media-experts!

John
John

Great article, I need some help understanding #6. Why cannot hits tracked back to social media platforms be a metric?

John
John

Great article, I need some help understanding #6. Why cannot hits tracked back to social media platforms be a metric?

A Week In The Life of A Redhead
A Week In The Life of A Redhead

I also disagree with the "Ghost Writer" point. I know a great many company executives who have a social media company/consultant write for them on Facebook and Twitter. You'd be surprised at just how many, and I don't believe you'd be able to know the difference.

A good social media or marketing person typically knows the client well, and has a massive amount of information the business owner, or CEO wishes to share, but lacks the time. Also, the media/marketing person can insulate the owner, or CEO from having to respond to everyone and just notify them when there is a need to interact with someone one-to-one from a social network or their blog.

Also, social media means something different to everyone, so the most important information to discuss is what the business owner hopes to gain from involving themselves in social media. Maybe Twitter isn't right for them - maybe Facebook is, maybe Facebook isn't but LinkedIn is. Maybe a blog is the right answer, or maybe their current website works as it should and just needs a supplement in another media format.

Just thoughts from mom over here -

Cath

A Week In The Life of A Redhead
A Week In The Life of A Redhead

I also disagree with the "Ghost Writer" point. I know a great many company executives who have a social media company/consultant write for them on Facebook and Twitter. You'd be surprised at just how many, and I don't believe you'd be able to know the difference. A good social media or marketing person typically knows the client well, and has a massive amount of information the business owner, or CEO wishes to share, but lacks the time. Also, the media/marketing person can insulate the owner, or CEO from having to respond to everyone and just notify them when there is a need to interact with someone one-to-one from a social network or their blog. Also, social media means something different to everyone, so the most important information to discuss is what the business owner hopes to gain from involving themselves in social media. Maybe Twitter isn't right for them - maybe Facebook is, maybe Facebook isn't but LinkedIn is. Maybe a blog is the right answer, or maybe their current website works as it should and just needs a supplement in another media format. Just thoughts from mom over here - Cath

Sharlene
Sharlene

Question: Do you think social media is for everyone? Scammers: Yes. Expert: No.

Sharlene
Sharlene

Question:
Do you think social media is for everyone?

Scammers:
Yes.

Expert:
No.

Fernando Labastida
Fernando Labastida

I totally ghost write for my clients. They're technology companies from outside the U.S. for whom English is a 2nd language. I'm bi-lingual, so I take what they have written, translate it, and post it on their blog. The text is theirs, I've just put it into English in a compelling copy-written way. I'm wondering, however, if maybe the best thing to do would be to write the posts in my name...you've gotten me thinking Dave...

Fernando Labastida
Fernando Labastida

I totally ghost write for my clients. They're technology companies from outside the U.S. for whom English is a 2nd language. I'm bi-lingual, so I take what they have written, translate it, and post it on their blog. The text is theirs, I've just put it into English in a compelling copy-written way. I'm wondering, however, if maybe the best thing to do would be to write the posts in my name...you've gotten me thinking Dave...

cable
cable

If you can’t discern what is what ..then maybe you should start looking for literature that is more graphic based..well, if not comic

cable
cable

If you can’t discern what is what ..then maybe you should start looking for literature that is more graphic based..well, if not comic

phone
phone

..How about the question "How do you define transparency?" I was surprised to some extent, in which people understand or do not understand this basic principle of interaction on the Internet..

phone
phone

..How about the question "How do you define transparency?" I was surprised to some extent, in which people understand or do not understand this basic principle of interaction on the Internet..

RobN
RobN

I think this is about the shittiest post I've ever read. I'll give 1/2 point for the questions, but instead of explaining anything to the asker all you did is tell him/her what NOT to look for.

I would not hire you!

Change your attitude!

RobN
RobN

I think this is about the shittiest post I've ever read. I'll give 1/2 point for the questions, but instead of explaining anything to the asker all you did is tell him/her what NOT to look for. I would not hire you! Change your attitude!

Mariano
Mariano

Excellent article, and some great questions. I certainly don't consider myself an expert - far from it - I just tend to have more exposure to the kind of social media tools that a lot of small businesses are clamoring for these days. I don't think the hardest part for them is getting online -- I think the hardest part is understanding how to come up with an effective plan. As I learn I try to write on my blog, and I learn by doing (and at least trying to leverage as many mediums as possible). Believe it or not, I *just* started doing video...boy, was that an experience! The biggest problems for small businesses is that they need a targeted approach and gradual integration of different facets of social media because they have so few resources to do things the "right" way to get them the kind of exposure they're looking for. I therefore think that at least one of your questions should be, "What's your approach to getting a business started with social media?" If the answer involves anything other than a gradual adoption of different tools, starting with the highest impact tool for their business first, then they should run the other way.

Mariano
Mariano

Excellent article, and some great questions. I certainly don't consider myself an expert - far from it - I just tend to have more exposure to the kind of social media tools that a lot of small businesses are clamoring for these days. I don't think the hardest part for them is getting online -- I think the hardest part is understanding how to come up with an effective plan.

As I learn I try to write on my blog, and I learn by doing (and at least trying to leverage as many mediums as possible). Believe it or not, I *just* started doing video...boy, was that an experience!

The biggest problems for small businesses is that they need a targeted approach and gradual integration of different facets of social media because they have so few resources to do things the "right" way to get them the kind of exposure they're looking for. I therefore think that at least one of your questions should be, "What's your approach to getting a business started with social media?" If the answer involves anything other than a gradual adoption of different tools, starting with the highest impact tool for their business first, then they should run the other way.

Tim Piazza
Tim Piazza

Dave, you've got a great list here, and its enduring presence in Google's search results as well as the months worth of comments bears that out. I was momentarily confused by #4, "You want doers, not talkers. Choose people with a presence." That could be taken to mean that if someone is investing time in chatting it up online, they're not out there working for a living. But surely, that is not what you meant. Finding the right balance of participation in social media and active work for the benefit of clients is something we all have to work at. Not only can we review the quantity of a social media expert's social engagement, but the quality can be measured as well, and I think that over time, quality is ultimately what matters. @TimPiazza

Tim Piazza
Tim Piazza

Dave, you've got a great list here, and its enduring presence in Google's search results as well as the months worth of comments bears that out.

I was momentarily confused by #4, "You want doers, not talkers. Choose people with a presence." That could be taken to mean that if someone is investing time in chatting it up online, they're not out there working for a living. But surely, that is not what you meant.

Finding the right balance of participation in social media and active work for the benefit of clients is something we all have to work at. Not only can we review the quantity of a social media expert's social engagement, but the quality can be measured as well, and I think that over time, quality is ultimately what matters.

@TimPiazza

Dan
Dan

Re: Point #5 When is corporate America ever transparent? Why on Earth should their blogs be "clearly labeled" as to who is contributing to them? Or rather, who in their right mind expects them to be labeled as such? If the corporation approves of what is being said on their blog, regardless of who actually writes it, then the blog post carries with it the weight of the corporation. Period. End of story. If you, the reader, can't discern what is what, well, then maybe you should stop reading and start looking for literature that is more graphic based....

Dan
Dan

Re: Point #5

When is corporate America ever transparent? Why on Earth should their blogs be "clearly labeled" as to who is contributing to them? Or rather, who in their right mind expects them to be labeled as such?

If the corporation approves of what is being said on their blog, regardless of who actually writes it, then the blog post carries with it the weight of the corporation. Period. End of story.

If you, the reader, can't discern what is what, well, then maybe you should stop reading and start looking for literature that is more graphic based....

Brent Robertson
Brent Robertson

As far as I'm concerned there are no "Experts" at social media. It is a moving target, a philosophy a temporal phenomena that can only be utilized to its full potential at a single moment in time. Once that time has passed, the rules have changed. So if Expert call yourself then we can assume you have tried every conceivable approach, method, tool, strategy, format and technology for every conceivable client and product, measured the results and then traveled in time to try them in the future version of what social media is? If not, like the rest of us, you are always a student, learning every day of a better way.

Brent Robertson
Brent Robertson

As far as I'm concerned there are no "Experts" at social media. It is a moving target, a philosophy a temporal phenomena that can only be utilized to its full potential at a single moment in time. Once that time has passed, the rules have changed. So if Expert call yourself then we can assume you have tried every conceivable approach, method, tool, strategy, format and technology for every conceivable client and product, measured the results and then traveled in time to try them in the future version of what social media is? If not, like the rest of us, you are always a student, learning every day of a better way.

Ben Foster
Ben Foster

I asked our consultants #2 directly, "2. How do you go about pitching bloggers?" Their response was that they'd have to get back to me...it's been 3 days, still waiting for it. I was inspired by this post to write something similar for those asked to deal with an internal Social Media Team: http://www.benphoster.com/?p=39 Here's a summary: 1 - Will the team have access to any tool, technology, or website they want? 2 - What is your “VPV” - Visitor Value Proposition? 3 - How does the organization deal with negative feedback? 4 - What is the biggest regulatory/compliance restraint facing the social media strategy? 5 - Who does the social media team report to? 6 - What metrics are management using to measure success?

Ben Foster
Ben Foster

I asked our consultants #2 directly, "2. How do you go about pitching bloggers?" Their response was that they'd have to get back to me...it's been 3 days, still waiting for it.

I was inspired by this post to write something similar for those asked to deal with an internal Social Media Team:

http://www.benphoster.com/?p=39

Here's a summary:
1 - Will the team have access to any tool, technology, or website they want?
2 - What is your “VPV” - Visitor Value Proposition?
3 - How does the organization deal with negative feedback?
4 - What is the biggest regulatory/compliance restraint facing the social media strategy?
5 - Who does the social media team report to?
6 - What metrics are management using to measure success?

Brandon Carlos
Brandon Carlos

1.Is the social media space right for my organization? Because not everybody should be here. A good consultant should be able to gauge the clients needs and expectations and, if necessary, lose the client by suggesting that SM is not right for their aspirations. 2. What's a great example of blogger relations? If the consultant answers with anything immoral, questionable or just plain boring, he's not one I'd want on my side.

Brandon Carlos
Brandon Carlos

1.Is the social media space right for my organization?

Because not everybody should be here. A good consultant should be able to gauge the clients needs and expectations and, if necessary, lose the client by suggesting that SM is not right for their aspirations.

2. What's a great example of blogger relations?

If the consultant answers with anything immoral, questionable or just plain boring, he's not one I'd want on my side.

CathyWebSavvyPR
CathyWebSavvyPR

I wish I'd seen your post before I wrote my own on a slightly different aspect of the same quesiton last night in response to a twitter comment and a client question. I will go back and link to this one. I want my clients to see your info. One definite thing to look for is evidence of clients. From testimonials to interactions with clients on social networking sites. Also, do they have clients in your type of business/industry that they can point to, or clients the same size as your company? What works for @Zappos may not work for a mom and pop store; what works for a sole proprietor coach may not work for a sole proprietor fiction book author. Or are they versatile enough that their skills are transferable. Many who are coming on line now are claiming a large following and are info marketers - selling their ebook, ecourse or widget. For many of them, large numbers may work - as they are looking for a flash-in-the-pan quick sale, or are looking to recruit other info marketers. But for sustaining company growth, as a client of mine said on Twitter last week - 10,000 followers are just numbers, how many are paying clients, customers and partners are actually there? And I would add, how many will be repeat customers/clients. I come from a non-profit and small busines PR background - I think that has helped me, we did not have that big biz, product push the word out POV. One last point - some experts are very knowled-geable, but are not great teachers/coaches. One niche where I've been effective in is helping the non-tech types. I can easily translate the jargon down to things they can understand. There are good business people out there who still don't get what an RSS reader is and how it works, who are using LinkedIn, but say they don't know anything about social networking - they don't even know that LinkedIn is a form of social networking. Let's not forget how it felt whenever it was that we jumped in. I have grown my network on Twitter organically, over time, and it is what I teach my clients to do.

CathyWebSavvyPR
CathyWebSavvyPR

I wish I'd seen your post before I wrote my own on a slightly different aspect of the same quesiton last night in response to a twitter comment and a client question. I will go back and link to this one. I want my clients to see your info.

One definite thing to look for is evidence of clients. From testimonials to interactions with clients on social networking sites.

Also, do they have clients in your type of business/industry that they can point to, or clients the same size as your company? What works for @Zappos may not work for a mom and pop store; what works for a sole proprietor coach may not work for a sole proprietor fiction book author. Or are they versatile enough that their skills are transferable.

Many who are coming on line now are claiming a large following and are info marketers - selling their ebook, ecourse or widget. For many of them, large numbers may work - as they are looking for a flash-in-the-pan quick sale, or are looking to recruit other info marketers. But for sustaining company growth, as a client of mine said on Twitter last week - 10,000 followers are just numbers, how many are paying clients, customers and partners are actually there? And I would add, how many will be repeat customers/clients.

I come from a non-profit and small busines PR background - I think that has helped me, we did not have that big biz, product push the word out POV.

One last point - some experts are very knowled-geable, but are not great teachers/coaches. One niche where I've been effective in is helping the non-tech types. I can easily translate the jargon down to things they can understand. There are good business people out there who still don't get what an RSS reader is and how it works, who are using LinkedIn, but say they don't know anything about social networking - they don't even know that LinkedIn is a form of social networking.

Let's not forget how it felt whenever it was that we jumped in.

I have grown my network on Twitter organically, over time, and it is what I teach my clients to do.

Layla Sabourian
Layla Sabourian

Great post Dave, and I really enjoyed reading all of the comments. I learned a lot as how not to answer questions during an interview, but wanted to see if you could read my latest post and tell me whether the answers I am giving are good or not. Thank you so much in advance for your help.

Layla Sabourian
Layla Sabourian

Great post Dave, and I really enjoyed reading all of the comments. I learned a lot as how not to answer questions during an interview, but wanted to see if you could read my latest post and tell me whether the answers I am giving are good or not. Thank you so much in advance for your help.

Park Howell
Park Howell

I agree that more discussion is needed on temporary ghost blogging. We help our clients get up and running on their blogs as they typically don't have the initial time it takes to be successful. We write from their research and direction, and then make them edit our copy to lend their unique voice. We're sort of like the training wheels in the first 90 days or so, and then we push them out of the nest. Do others of you do the same?

Park Howell
Park Howell

I agree that more discussion is needed on temporary ghost blogging. We help our clients get up and running on their blogs as they typically don't have the initial time it takes to be successful. We write from their research and direction, and then make them edit our copy to lend their unique voice. We're sort of like the training wheels in the first 90 days or so, and then we push them out of the nest. Do others of you do the same?

Gwen Bell
Gwen Bell

Ask the "social media expert" to show you their delicious links. When did they start tagging their saved articles "social+media" or "socmed?" Early 2009? Late 2008? Earlier? My guess is that you'll learn a lot when they open up their own social media life to you.

Gwen Bell
Gwen Bell

Ask the "social media expert" to show you their delicious links. When did they start tagging their saved articles "social+media" or "socmed?" Early 2009? Late 2008? Earlier? My guess is that you'll learn a lot when they open up their own social media life to you.

David Kinard
David Kinard

Dave: I saw this partly mentioned is Missy's comment but rather than interviewing someone based on activity (which most of your questions focus on) how about asking them to validate the activity with metrics and results? Any marketer worth their salt in this day and age -- whether using traditional or new media -- must be able to report on return on: INFLUENCE, INSIGHT, RELEVANCE, and INVESTMENT? How have they tracked that data? What dashboards are they using? What key metrics are most important to consider? Beth Kanter (@kanter) is doing some great work on this as well as @micah as he touches on personal brand strategies. Lois Kelly's (@loiskelly) book Beyond Buzz is a must read for anyone in this space. If your expert hasn't heard of it, then send them packing. -- David Kinard, PCM

David Kinard
David Kinard

Dave:

I saw this partly mentioned is Missy's comment but rather than interviewing someone based on activity (which most of your questions focus on) how about asking them to validate the activity with metrics and results?

Any marketer worth their salt in this day and age -- whether using traditional or new media -- must be able to report on return on: INFLUENCE, INSIGHT, RELEVANCE, and INVESTMENT? How have they tracked that data? What dashboards are they using? What key metrics are most important to consider?

Beth Kanter (@kanter) is doing some great work on this as well as @micah as he touches on personal brand strategies. Lois Kelly's (@loiskelly) book Beyond Buzz is a must read for anyone in this space. If your expert hasn't heard of it, then send them packing.

-- David Kinard, PCM

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  4. […] seems to be a meme going around on the question of experts. We cover a great post by Dave on this issue, and there have been others. These lists are interesting and these are good questions […]

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  8. […] can come from all levels of experience – and no one should ever feel shunned because they ask a question or make a suggestion. Listening is the first step. What we should be doing is evolving a natural curiosity and pushing […]

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  10. […] TweetA couple of years ago, I wrote a post about 8 factors to consider when selecting a “social media expert.” Looking back now, I can see how my approach has evolved and matured since then. […]

  11. […] 8 Questions to Ask Your “Social Media Expert” (Dave Fleet) – Piggy-backing on Chris Brogan’s post, take a look at Dave Fleet’s post on vetting your consultants and/or social media marketing staff. Don’t go into this world blind. […]

  12. […] first sign of this was the excellent “8 Questions to Ask your Social Media Expert” on Dave Fleet’s blog – a clear sign that people who’ve blogged a bit are […]

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  14. […] Dave Fleet has a post that readers might find helpful: 8 Questions to Ask Your “Social Media Expert”. […]

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