What’s a Social Media Consultant?

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?

This entry was posted in Social Media and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Laurinda Shaver

    Mark.. I’m pleased to see that you are pointing out the business savvy required in order to be successful at a social media campaign. One the key elements I believe that makes a social media consultant is the ability to contribute directly to a business objective(s). If you are not moving your business forward, whats the point?

  • Alan Lepofsky

    If a consultant starts by talking about tools, or their followers RUN. Social media is just the new term for the engagement portion of a company’s marketing plan. A consultant still needs to understand brand identity, customer engagement, feedback loops, etc. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, Youtube and Slideshare channels etc. are all just tools.

  • Lesli Boldt

    Great post, Mark, and I agree with Alan. A social media consultant should really be a communicator that specializes in social media. Social media are just tools or tactics in the communications toolkit, and a “social media consultant” does all of us in the business a disservice if they just hawk the tool (like you say, like selling a car in a town without a gas station – or an electrical outlet, if you’re thinking about the future).

    Unfortunately, that happens a lot. Many people (including people in our own field, maddeningly) treat communications like McDonald’s – they just place an order (I’ll have two brochures, three media pitches and a social media campaign, please). But offering social media a la carte makes no sense, especially if you’re not going to reach your client’s audience that way.

  • DoreenatDMS

    All true: your post and comments above. Depending on the client and their exposure to or participation in social media, many can be wary of undertaking such initiatives. Fear of the unknown, and all that … said consultant should definitely convey a strong understanding in strategic planning… in marketing…and ROI; if anything, to build trust and credibility in the client’s eyes, and then discuss possible ideas through those lenses. I suspect that if, to begin with, the client doesn’t have an appreciation or understanding of how engagement can play a positive role in a company’s profitability, patience and top-notch communication (especially listening) skills an absolute must.

  • Joseph Smith

    I’d like a social media consultant (SMC) to state some measurable objectives that their initiatives can be measured against. Can SMCs raise awareness, increase brand equity, change consumer preferences to the company’s product/service, increase purchase intentions, increase sales, increase profits? Can they do all of the above in a cost effective manner compared to traditional media services/traditional marketing services? I would like to know if they have worked on accounts that are considered “successful” and how they defined success at those locations and what role did they play in that success. If they can not create the kinds of success that traditional media services or traditional marketing services can create than I would like to know why I should invest in their services.

    So, ultimately, I’d like to know about comparative effectiveness of the services of the SMC consultant.

  • Pingback: 7 pragmatic questions businesses should ask about social media

  • Beth Kahlich

    This article is fabulous! We see this all the time. It is key to have all of these traits to be a good Social Media Consultant. I tell my team all the time – the tools are not the key thing – its how you use them effectively.

  • Pingback: Brand Building & Social Media | The journey from virtual to real world | IDEAS INSPIRING INNOVATION

  • Monica Sibisteanu

    Finally I found a very useful article based on what’s actually a Social Media Consultant. What he have to do and what are he’s powerfull skills. This article made me (a novice on social media consulting job) thinking much better on this field and doing an honest evaluation on myself.

    After reading this post and doing an honest evaluation, I have now an objectif: to become the best! I know what I have and what I need to become one ! Thanks for the article and the comments !

  • gamerqueenz

    When I think about social media consulting I think about what I personally expect from a business’s facebook page. The number one thing is to at least see content consistently going up… If the last post was three weeks ago then I assume the business is not in tune with potential customers on the web! I also like to see a personal side of the business, perhaps an occasional post about a particular employee or an update about a new client the company just signed on. Posts like these let me know that the business is alive and thriving.

  • Alonso Chehade

    Another skill a social media consultant should have is an understanding of SEO because of the impact social media is having in search results. On another note I enjoyed reading your article.

  • Tiffany Godfrey

    A social media consultant should know the voice and personality of the company they are providing services for.

  • Social Media Manager

    In regards to your reference to being good at sales, but also honest, I believe hiring an independent consultant can really benefit a company because they’re more likely to get an unbiased opinion about their operations.

    • Mark Evans

      I agree that an outside perspective can provide value. In the long-term, I think social media works best, particularly for smaller companies, when it’s done in-house. Thanks for the comment!

  • Social Media Addict

    So you wrote about tech for Canadian Newspaper for ten years now you’re the expert in Social Marketing? Not like it’s included in any degree programs, of course by the time it is, there will be something else…remember SEO’s? Another big laugh of a title. Yes, they are still around, but seriously. Throwing mud is infantile. A kid with a twitter account is probably more immersed in the tech than some suit with a degree in marketing. The truth is that education no longer comes from brick and mortar – it’s too slow. That degree you got in computer science was worthless before they got out the door with the paper…Tech education comes from the trenches. So write about it all you like, before the ink is dry something new has come up already, anyhow. It’s always been that way with tech since before this was dubbed the internet. Those of us using it back then are still kids, just in older bodies and still just as immersed in the tech. Get over yourself.

  • Social Media Addict

    Reading the other posts…wow, you guys really have no clue beyond “talking” points…voice of the business…bull
    Kurt Sutter and before that, (God help us) Charlie Sheen have more idea of what using social media than any of you. Twitter and Facebook are about being personal with someone. Not posting some random crap. Employee of the month…jeeeeeese
    Knowing your targets and interacting with them on a daily basis. You can’t do that by taking on forty clients and spending 20 min on each account. You have to live online and read personal posts of their kids, their dogs and retweet and reply……live it.
    Peace Out
    Born in 1955