Given how much time I’m spending with clients exploring social media, this LinkedIn discussion caught my attention:
“For the people who are or claim to be Social Media Consultants/Gurus, why would people want to hire you? What differentiates you from others. What have you done to get this title? For those who truly are Social Media Gurus hopefully this will make you stand out. Tired of seeing all these social media consultants pop up.”
It’s an interesting topic because there are so many social media consultants (including myself). The challenge for many companies is figuring out what this means given anyone can hang up a shingle. At the risk of peeing in the pool in which I swim, many “social media consultants” are people armed only with a Twitter account and a blog.
But at this stage in the market’s evolution, they’re more knowledgable than most people so it is easy to establish themselves as professionals even though this knowledge might be an inch deep and a mile wide. This is not to suggest they don’t have good intentions or do solid work but their credentials and training may be limited.
So what should companies be seeking in a social media consultant?
To start, a social media consultant must have an in-depth knowledge of the different services, how to use them effectively, and other tools that make doing social media more productive and efficient.
A social media consultant should also have a solid background in communications given content is such a key part in making social media work well. The reality is services such as Twitter and Facebook are just tools to distribute stories in new and different ways. Without good stories, it’s like trying to drive a car without gas.
Another important consideration is having a good understanding of how businesses operate because social media needs to be integrated into a company’s operations as opposed to being a standalone activity.
The knowledge of how social media fits into the overall strategic landscape makes it easier to create strategic and tactical plans on how it should be used. This is particularly relevant given the growing focus on ROI as companies look to justify their spending on social media.
Finally, social media consultants should be good at sales but honest about what clients should be doing. While social media continues to attract a lot of hype, there are many companies cautious about climbing on the bandwagon, even though it makes sense to do so.
As a result, social media consultants often need to educate companies about the opportunities, and why social media has so much potential. At the same time, they should also be willing to tell clients that adopting a walk before you run approach or not doing social media at all makes sense even if it means a smaller consulting fee.
What kind of skills or attributes do you think a social media consultant should have?