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"

  • 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.

  • 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….

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • 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!

  • ..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..

  • 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

  • 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 – I’m not sure if that fits the definition of ghost-writing – it sounds like you translate their text rather than composing something yourself. If so, I think you’re ok.

  • Question:
    Do you think social media is for everyone?



  • love this, we know accountability is a big issue with a lot of “guru’s” http://reallychill.org/comedy/breaking-news-new-government-program-to-support-social-media-expert-depression/

  • 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 –


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