Finding a social media professional to help you with your online activities can sometimes be a tough process. There are plenty of “experts”, “gurus” and “wizards” out there and many of them don’t have the experience you need.
Hopefully, these 10 questions can help you in the process of finding someone who really understands your business and can help formulate and execute a plan to engage with your community online.
1) How long have you been engaged in social networking and/or social media channels? Will you provide me with links to your accounts?
Believe it or not, online social networking didn’t start with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Plenty of social media professionals have experience that goes back to online bulletin boards, forums on CompuServe, Prodigy, and AOL, and online forums. Look for professionals who have been building online relationships for more than five years. Most social media professionals will be willing to share links to their profiles and it would be a good idea to look them over for professional activity. If your social media “expert” spends more time talking about their Friday parties and drops F-bombs frequently, think twice…
2) Are you familiar with any restrictions or limitations on social media activities that might impact my industry?
Every business and organization is not the same, so a one-size-fits-all social media strategy is generally a bad idea. If you’re in non-profit, you might want to look for a social media professional with experience in that sector. If you operate in a regulated industry such as pharmaceutical, tobacco, alcohol, finance, insurance, or a host of others….it would be a good idea to find a professional who has significant experience in your industry and understands any limitations or restrictions.
3) What are my competitors doing?
Any professional worth their salt will do some preliminary research before sitting down with you. If the person you interview doesn’t know (at least at a high level) what your competitors are doing, it might be a cause for concern. IMHO, they should be able to give you insight on the way your competitors are using the major social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
4) What social networks do you specialize in? Why are these networks right for my business?
Every social network is not right for every industry. Just ask anyone in the pharmaceutical industry how they could possibly engage in drug marketing on Twitter. The reality is that most organizations can take full advantage of the networks out there, but if there are limitations, you want your social media professional to be aware of them.
5) What does “community management” mean to you? Do you include community management in your social media services?
Social media engagement doesn’t end when you publish your Facebook page or launch your Twitter account. Heck…creating those channel profiles is often the easiest part of the process. The community engagement/management process that follows is the more difficult (and more expensive) element. It’s important that you know how your social media professional approaches community management and what strategies and tactics they will use to interact with the members of your community (a.k.a your customers, members, employees, etc…)
6) Can you provide me with a list of client references in my industry?
Pretty self-explanatory. If they don’t have references….be cautious.
7) What is your perception of social media marketing and how will it help my in my business goals? How will we measure success?
This one forces them to explain what they perceive to be your business goals. Are you selling product or services? Are you attracting members to your professional organization? Your social networking approach should be tailored to your business goals and your activities should be measurable. They might not be hard metrics in terms of sales or conversions, but there should be some measurement involved, even if its the increasing the number of positive online interactions and reducing the amount of negative chatter around your brand.
8 ) How do you evaluate new social networks and do you alert your clients of new opportunities?
Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube may be the juggernauts right now but remember the days of AOL, CompuServe, MySpace and eBay? Would you hire a social media professional who pitched engaging your customers on Prodigy? Probably not. My point is that social networks come and go, and your social media professional should be constantly evaluating new platforms and making recommendations on whether you should explore them.
9) What distinguishes you from your competitors?
Social media “experts” are quickly becoming a dime-a-dozen. There are thousands of self-proclaimed experts out there, but you need a professional who knows your business and cares about your success. Be sure that the person you engage as your company/brand representative knows what sets them apart from their competition.
10) Can you give me an example of a limitation of a social network that you have experienced and overcome or worked around?
Bandwidth limitations, API calls, character limits…social networks come with limitations. Beware of an social media professionals who have never run into limitations and don’t have experience overcoming them. If they haven’t run into limitations, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist but, instead, likely means that this so called “expert” hasn’t had the range of experiences you might need.
I hope these 10 questions are helpful! Do you have questions that you consistently use to find the best social media professionals out there? Feel free to share them via comments or tweets!