Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What to ask your Social Media Expert/Consultant/Guru

After reading several quizes and questions to ask a potential Social Media Consultant (etc), I decided to pull together the best of the bunch and create a one-stop guide to screen the experts from the ex-cons (or current cons).

If you want to skip this long quiz and hire a sure thing, just head on over the Gunner Technology and give us a shout.

API stands for... 

  1. Advanced Prototyping Infrastructure
  2. Application Programming Interface <--
  3. Adept Programming Interface
  4. Application Prototyping Infrastructure

Which one of these is NOT a programming language?

  1. .NET <--
  2. Haskell
  3. LISP
  4. JavaScript

Which one of these is NOT part of a standard or modified LAMP stack?

  1. Linux
  2. Microsoft <--
  3. PHP
  4. Python

Which one of these is NOT an authentication technology?

  1. Facebook Connect
  2. Twitter OAuth
  3. OpenID
  4. Gravatar <--

Which one of these companies is NOT currently profitable?

  1. Twitter
  2. YouTube <--
  3. Pandora
  4. MySpace

A hacker is a...

  1. Person who profits by breaking into personal and bank accounts.
  2. Computer programmer of considerable skill. <--
  3. Cyber criminal who breaks into computer networks.
  4. An unskilled person creating a sloppy work product.

Which one of the following statements is FALSE?

  1. C# and .NET are Microsoft technologies.
  2. Most programming languages add layers of abstraction between human-written and machine-readable code.
  3. It's relatively simple to translate PHP into C++.
  4. Oracle's database is a great example of open-source technology. <--

Which of the following is NOT a supported web browser?

  1. Opera Mini
  2. Chrome
  3. Konqueror
  4. Mozilla <--

In startup funding, the seed round is preceded by the...

  1. Friends and family round. <--
  2. Angel round.
  3. Series A.

What is your experience using the web interface on Twitter?
The answer should be very little. A social media consultant should be using a Twitter client not the Web interface.

How do you go about pitching bloggers?
If you hear the words "blind copy," "news release" or "email blast," look elsewhere. Bloggers look for reciprocation and mutually beneficial relationships. They aren't tools you can "use for free" for marketing.

How do you monitor what people are saying about you?
If the answer stops with blogs, you've got yourself a fake. Additionally, they should at least mention "Sentiment Analysis"

Where can I find you online?
Take a look at the accounts. Have they been updated recently? You want doers, not talkers. Choose people with a presence who are actually participating in the methods they espouse.

How do you measure results?
There are numerous answers to this question. Increase conversion. Increase brand awareness. Increase registered customers. Page Hits is probably the weakest and means the least.

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.

Can you just pretend to be me online?
They should answer no. A social media consultant can plan, run and manage campaigns, but they should never pretend to be someone or something they are not. The bad publicity alone if exposed makes this a bad idea. This doesn't mean they can't Tweet for your business or run your Facebook page. But, for example, Cody Swann should never pretend to be Michael Smith to post content.

What experience do you have?
Social media is new, so there are lots of effective consultants/agencies who can help you, but lack years and years of experience. That said, your small business shouldn't be someone's guinea pig. Don't hire someone if they can't talk about experience, and more importantly, success.

What social networks should our business use?
A good consultant may throw out a few examples, but they'll also tell you that the real answer depends on how your consumers/target markets are using social media. And this times some research and digging. If a consultant says "Twitter, Facebook and a blog" and that's it, odds are you don't want to work with that person.

Do you know HTML?
It used to be that only web programmers understood how to use HTML. But, today, it's important for PR and social media people to understand at least the basics. For example, you don't want to pay extra fees or wait extra time for the web programmer to embed some links in a social media release, do you?

How do you use social media?
Not everyone uses social media the same way, and that's perfectly fine. But, it's important that the person you hire to assist with social media demonstrates the ability to use social media strategically. For themselves and for clients.

Why is social media right for our business?
We're working with a client right now where Social media isn't right for them. But, a consultant attempting to win your business should provide a thorough answer that goes beyond "engaging your customers."

Who are your references?
This is a no brainer. But not necessarily a non-starter.

Tell us about a lesser-known social media initiative that you think was a success — and what can our business learn from their approach.
Dell, Best Buy and Nordstrom are common answer, but what about small businesses operating locally? Look for those types of examples.

When did you start in social media?
This is a trick question. Social media is new, so six months isn't exactly a non-starter. If they say 20 years, that should raise an eyebrow as well. That said "Social Media" is new as a term, but the principles are what the Internet was founded on.

What's a social media campaign?
If specific numbers are thrown out, or automatic, gaming-of-the-system methods are mentioned, you should pass. All campaigns start with content and making that content appealing enough to want to pass it along to someone else.

How do you monitor social media for a client?
Google alerts, third party tools and Twitter searches are all good answers.

How do you build an audience?
Building an audience takes time and depends on the campaign, especially through social media. It requires emergence in the communities and integration. Auto-following, spamming and email blasts are terrible ideas for social media campaigns.

Do you offer a guarantee?
The only real guarantee that can be made is effort. A social media consultant can guarantee hard work, but not results because you're marketing to people and it's impossible to say what they'll like and not like and what will happen in the world that could affect behavior.

How did you learn all this stuff?
If they mention a book, that's not good because a book on social media was out of date when it was printed.  Learning through doing is the best explanation. Going to conferences is OK, too

How does social media impact SEO?
"It builds links" is only half the answer. Social media exposes your content. If people find that content engaging they will interact with it. If they enjoy it, they will want to sure it with others. This is when links get built and SEO is impacted.

How often do you write?
They should blog or write almost every day.

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