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?

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  • http://www.johnhopejohnstone.com John

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

    • http://www.davefleet.com Dave Fleet

      John – the point there is that “hits” is never a good metric. I believe it was KD Paine who described hits as “how idiots track success.”

      The way you measure success will depend on your goals and objectives. Traffic may be one of them (in an ideal world, it’ll be traffic which converts rather than just straight visits/visitors). If your goal is improved reputation, then online sentiment may play a role.

      The list is endless; the most important point is that whoever you’re working with should be able to link the measurements directly back to your goals.

      Make sense?

  • http://hotfileindia.com 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!

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  • http://www.generateuk.co.uk 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.

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  • http://imasocialmediaexpert.wordpress.com Annie

    http://imasocialmediaexpert.wordpress.com – A parody site about social media experts

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  • 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…

    • http://davefleet.com davefleet

      Fair point. Two primary reasons:

      1. “Hits” refers to a call for an asset on the server. An asset might be a page, but it might also be an image or an ‘include’ file (CSS, javascript, etc). So, one visit to a page with 100 images on it would deliver 101 hits (one for the page plus 100 images). As such, “hits” is an irrelevant metric.
      2. Web traffic doesn’t feed your family. So, even if you use a more valid way to measure than “hits” (unique visitors or even visits), they should be measured alongside whatever your conversion metric is (sales/leads/downloads etc).

      Hope that helps.

      • Madeleine Smith

        Dave, 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.

  • 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.

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  • http://www.y8zone.com 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.

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  • http://www.forkserve.com.au/ 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.

    • http://davefleet.com/ davefleet

       @ Bab reed Wouldn’t have it any other way!

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