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?

228 Responses to8 Questions to Ask Your "Social Media Expert"

  • I think that this is a great post and I agree with 90% of it. I think the ghost blog needs much more discussion. I totally agree that if the attempt is to deceive it is off limits but some people don’t wtite that well. Personally I see no issue with a collborative approach to a piece of writing and there is a long tradition in this. Jon Favreau writes much of what President Obama says in his speeches, I see very little wrong in that so long as the credited author endorses every word. http://pr-media-blog.co.uk/his-masters-voice-jon-favreau/

  • What a great set of questions for clients/customers to ask potential “experts”. This is similar to a list I’ve given to clients to ask – but I like some of yours better so I’m going to merge them into mine ;-). I also agree with your 1/27 post in that I don’t believe any of us can/should call ourselves experts as there is just too much happening too fast to ever have enough solid ground to even feel expert – at least that’s how I feel.

  • How about: What successes can you point to in stimulating the growth of communities around an organization or cause. What traditional and social elements were employed?

  • Very cool list, and happy that I was able answer properly to each despite being relatively young and not having 5000 followers on Twitter.

    I think #4 is the only point of contention. Unless you are speaking of in person presence, personality and confidence.

    The reason being, I strongly believe some of the best social media experts are not those with 5000, 10,000, 20,000 followers and that those truly SUCCEEDING are those who spend more of their time contributing to the efforts of their projects rather than their own persona.

  • Great post! Thanks for the education, Mike

  • “you want doers not talkers” and “choose people with a presence” seems like awfully contradictory advice. my boss does not have a blog, apart from our corporate blog, and has a twitter account that has been updated only a few times.

    however, i would rather take her advice on social media than many thousands of so called “social media experts”.

    my personal feeling is that yes, you do need to have an understanding of what you can and should do with social media online but to be a truely invaluable consultant, the most important thing is to be a proven communicator.

    give me a great communications professional with a knowledge of the online space over a blow-hard blogger any day of the week.

    ed

    • It doesn’t sound your boss is positioning themselves as solely a social media expert though. That’s apples and oranges.

      I wouldn’t have a web developer without websites, graphic designer without a portfolio, or a contractor without references. Why hire a social media expert without personal examples of social media?

      Even a social media expert has extracurricular proof, it’s self marketing for them. A graphic designer, for instance, has a portfolio of successful work, but I wouldn’t trust them if they didn’t take a bit of time to personally brand themselves.

  • This is a great post Dave! I agree with your points – especially #1, but not with #5.

    I write blogs for clients. I’m a facile and experienced writer, and there’s often nobody in a client company who can write without agonizing over every word.

    The key is transparency. It’s wrong to write under someone else’s name. But I put my name on my posts, and my bio explains who I am on their blogs.

    Why is that wrong?

  • Hi B.L… you make a great point – I missed one word from that question – “ghost” (which I’ve now added in thanks to you). I don’t think it’s ideal or as effective (that’s a post for another day), but I’m ok with people writing posts under their own name.

    You nailed it – just don’t write under someone else’s name.

    Thanks!

  • You’ve given examples of the wrong answers to all of these questions, but none of the right answers. What are the right answers?

  • Nona – the answer to that is longer than just one post! My opinion on the correct answers is spread throughout my posts here.

  • Ed – talking doesn’t mean you aren’t doing. I think you should ideally do both.

  • Many people will resort to telling folks what they want to hear to get the business.

    Telling ’em what they want to hear just doesn’t work.

    The ideal client doesn’t want to hand over the work, they just want to know how they should be spending their time.

    A good facilitator/guide/consultant can interpret the business needs and give them options focused on their needs.

    If they whip out the powerpoint to get started, head for the doors.

    The best social media folks are really good listeners and should spend the first meeting asking questions and taking notes.

    Hey Dave, side note:
    I’d really like to learn more from folks comments. Do you think the Twitter references are all that valuable here?
    Although it seems like there is lots of dialogue, it’s a bit disappointing just to have to wade through RT’s.

    of 23 “comments”, there appear to be to trackbacks and 21 tweets.

    This is the first real comment???

  • First off, all Media is Social Media, and Social Networking hasn’t changed much since the beginning of time, we just have technology that makes it a lot more fast paced and Global today.

    Don’t over complicate things for the purpose of sounding important. Self proclaimed Social Media experts don’t count.

    I believe you are a Social Media expert if people are talking about you outside of your circle of friends and the things you do and say impact other peoples choices and actions.

    Full speed ahead into 2009!

  • Ray Stankiewicz
    ago11 years

    I absolutely agree Rob Brown’s point on ghostwriting. Many high-level executives won’t/can’t invest the time to maintain a completely transparent presence. They depend on their staff, press people, hired communicators to represent them. Granted, it’s always ideal when they maintain their own profile, and I’m seeing much more of that, but big names need much more convincing before they’ll simply endorse or approve what their staff does for them.

  • Great list. How about asking “how do you define transparency?” I’ve been surprised at the varying degrees to which people understand–or don’t understand–this core principle of interacting online.

  • Ray – why does it need to be the executive writing the blog? If they want to then great, but why not a company blog that multiple people can contribute to?

  • Ray Stankiewicz
    ago11 years

    Dave, excellent point. A multi-faceted company blog might be one of the best solutions out there re: point #5. However, I’ve seen several clients and companies that have a CEO or other chief that prefer to remain the “corporate face”, regardless of what might be more effective. What do you think people should recommend as a strategy if they’ve sold the idea of a group blog, but someone still wants to appear as the one in-charge?

  • Thanks Dave, I’m pretty new to Twitter and I was amazed at the number of social network guru’s with tons of followers ready to offer their help. Having been around the net for sometime, most of them I didn’t recognize. Now I understand. Great post, good points.

    Nick Grimshawe

  • Ed, you place a great deal of faith in the value of traditional communications experience, as you should.

    However, as pointed out before, there are many traditional communicators (and marketers) who are charging into this space with zero regard for any of the differences that present challenges — and they do their clients a disservice by ignoring the differences.

    I know that *you* know how to tell a contender from a pretender — but how does a non-comms executive make that call?

    Those are the audiences that Dave and I have been trying to address. If you don’t know a Twitter from a Qwitter or a Gabcast from a Flickr, then how can you make an informed decision without being led down the primrose path by a Rasputin with a better sense of selling himself than helping you engage customers?

    (Dear God, I am so thankful at times there is no 140 character limit on blog comments.)

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    Great read, @davefleet New blog post: 8 Questions to Ask Your “Social Media Expert” – [link to post]

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  • 2 good questions to ask your “Social Media Expert” « Non(pr)ofit :

    […] For six more great questions to ask your “social media expert” (+ answers), check out Dave Fleet’s latest blog entry. […]

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    RT @davefleet New blog post: 8 Questions to Ask Your “Social Media Expert” [link to post] … How *do* you measure ROI?

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    8 Questions to Ask Your “Social Media Expert” | davefleet.com: Ike Pigott wrote an excellent post toda.. [link to post]

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    @davefleet Rockin’ post on 8 questions to ask a SM “Expert” My favorite is #1!! – [link to post]

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    RT @koskim: From @davefleet 8 Questions to Ask Your “Social Media Expert” – [link to post] Good questions

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  • SteveCadwell (Steve Cadwell) :

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    Awesome find via @koskim: From @davefleet 8 Questions to Ask Your “Social Media Expert” – [link to post] Can you answer these?

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  • miketempleton (Mike Templeton) :

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    I agree with most of these. Transparency is key. RT @applegirl 8 questions to ask your Social Media Expert [link to post]

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    RT @DaveFleet Great article “8 Questions to Ask your ‘Social Media Expert'” [link to post] @danielthepoet

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    I think we handle all of these rather nicely: [link to post] via @davidalston and @applegirl

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  • George_S (George_S) :

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    Excellent blog post. RT’ing @davefleet New blog post: 8 Questions to Ask Your “Social Media Expert” – [link to post] thanks Dave.

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  • Is you is or is you ain’t: Social Media Expert « Discovering PR :

    […] gives what responses you should look for a social media expert to say or to not say.  Many are pretty humorous like his response to number […]

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    GREAT piece from @davefleet on how to find the right person to help you with Social Media: [link to post]

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    @davefleet wow, that was quick :>) Your post needed to be written. Well done! [link to post] a MUST read

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    RT @raxlakhani: 8 Questions to Ask Your “Social Media Expert” [link to post] – what’re your thoughts on “ghostwriting?”

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