Sunday, December 20, 2009

Give Me 5 When Evaluating Social Media Consultants

Years ago when Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) had just found its footing I decided to invest in a new, start-of-the-art telephony system for the office. It was time to graduate from the two-line cordless purchased at Walmart to call forwarding, remote access voice mail and multi-person conference calls.

This was during the hustle of the late 1990s so we needed to move quickly. A vendor was selected from…well…I don’t recall how. A contract was signed with no reference check. I handed over a deposit of $2,500 to initiate work. And then…nothing. In fact, I never heard from the vendor again as their phone line was (ironically) soon disconnected.

Yes, I was swindled out of some money by a con and I was certainly upset. Yet, I came to realize in time that I was to blame for shirking the basic responsibilities of being a customer – do your due diligence.

The due diligence issue became top of mind this year as I read the steady stream of blog posts about what a company should look for when evaluating a prospective social media consultant. Here are links to a few:

Top 25 Ways to Tell if Your Social Media Expert is a Carpetbagger

Social Media Consultant or Snake Oil Salesman?

What to Look For in a Social Media Consultant

All of this ranting about philosophies, expertise and tactics makes the vendor selection process for social media a whole lot more complex than it needs to be. You can always count on consultants to muck things up in an attempt to justify their importance.

Here are eight simple words to say to anyone who comes a calling with the promise of social media: “Please show me your five most recent campaigns.”

See…it’s not rocket science. In fact, in his meandering article about the pros and cons of social media, BusinessWeek’s Stephen Baker lands at the same conclusion -- only hire consultants who have actually done work in the area they are consulting in.

Oh yeah, here are Strategic Communications Group’s (Strategic) five most recent campaigns. They happen to be for Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, British Telecom (BT), BearingPoint and Monster.


Hovanes said...

What about the new guys who are just starting out and haven't yet had a chance to gather 5 campaigns under their belts?

Marc Hausman said...

@Hovanes - that's a good question. At Strategic, it has taken us two years to build out a set of social media marketing case studies.

In fact, we finally felt comfortable updating our corporate Web site to reflect an expertise and track record in this area.

A few thoughts for you to consider:

1) Demonstrate your qualifications in this area through the promotion of your own brand using social media tactics.

2) Win initial client assignments from organizations you already have a relationship with. Our initial social media marketing work was for traditional public relations clients. There was a level of trust in the relationship.

3) Position yourself as a leading social media expert only when you believe that claim can be validated.