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?