Social Media Consultants & Companies-The truth can be found in their numbers

I read an article in Wired’s Epicenter from a couple of days ago titled- Gaming the System: How Marketers Rig the Social Media Machine and the article caught my eye for a number of reasons.

The first reason is that when I first “dabbled” in social media 5 years ago-I was that marketer. I was the one gaming the system. Back then, comment spam and server farms did wonders for text based links and I was all over it. But a funny thing happened. I started seeing the conversations. I started paying attention to what was really happening around me. And it was cool. All of a sudden I got it. I had an epiphany. I now understood the real reason why social media was so dynamic and so transformational. I never looked back.

Here’s the second reason the article caught my eye-it was in the opening paragraph.

Regular users of social networks generally collect friends and followers on a one-by-one basis, then use those connections to share their opinions and links to the latest “Double Rainbow” remix or whatever is making the rounds that day.

A One to One basis…
Let that sink in for a bit. OK, so here’s my bigger point.  Let’s say I’m in a need of a social media company or consultant, and that business claims to be all things social. What do you do? What would you do? You check them out right? But how do you vet them?

Before I get to that, let me first offer up that I know that there are lots of good, solid  social media consultants and companies who do great work. My problem is I keep bumping into people or companies claiming that they are social media companies or consultants, and yet I have no clue who they are or what they have done; and worse, upon deeper discovery-they don’t even eat their own dog food or drink their own koolaid.

Here’s what I would do to quickly vet someone or some company that claims to “be” social.

Let’s take an actual Twitter account for example with 2500 followers. OK 2500 followers, that seems cool on the surface and would probably satisfy those who glance quickly at numbers.
But wait…
They only have 130 tweets. If you were acquiring and vetting followers and following people with just a modicum of organic effort and due diligence-by the time you got to 2500 followers, your tweets would be in some type of proportion to those numbers- i.e. 2500 followers- following 2500 and < > =4100 tweets
Let’s keep going. Upon further examination, there are zero conversations.The screenshot below is what you see when you click on the @yourtwittername on the Twitter main page of the example account.
There’s nothing there. Nothing. The tweets that are on the page, consist of lots of repetitive links to their blog pages, and or benign tweets/announcements about benign topics. No “ats” to anyone. Which leads to some really obvious questions:
  • Why on earth would you want a company like this consulting on, creating, and or managing your Twitter program?
  • If they can’t do it themselves internally, why would they treat you or your company any differently?
  • Is that really the way to use Twitter?
  • Is that effective?
All of this information is right there for you to see.
  • Look at who follows them,
  • Look at who they follow.
  • Are they on any lists? What types of lists are they on?
  • Are they sharing and or promoting others?
  • What are the nature of the tweets?
One of the lists this particular company is on is called, “Spammers that follow me”…Nice, That’s the kind of promo I want others to see! If they can’t get Twitter right, does this mean that their Facebook strategy and or their blog, or Linkedin strategy will be any different?
Social Media is equal parts strategy,  tactics and tools as it is about labor. Shortcuts don’t cut it and they can be, readily apparent. If these companies and people are not investing the effort, attention to detail, and labor in themselves-How social can they really be? How are they going to get you right?

8 mistakes you can avoid making in social media

I must admit that I was inspired to write this post based on the Social Media club of Orlando. They had tweeted me an invite to an event titled, “Mistakes and Lessons Learned in Social Media. It’s a great topic and thus I was inspired. I was going to title this post, “The biggest mistake I made in social media” but that would mean that it’s in the past tense, and at this point I got it down cold. No no no… That is certainly not the case. On the contrary, I still make mistakes. I learn from them and grow from them, but I still make new ones every week because the landscape keeps changing every week.

But what about you? You might be either just getting started in social media as a consultant, as a marketer for your company, or perhaps, you are a more seasoned individual. Either way, the assumption is that you are immersed in the culture and dynamics of social media integration in some way, shape, or form.  And lets assume you’re going to make some mistakes. With that said, let’s look at what some of those mistakes might be and how you can avoid them.

Note* I have made all  or some variance of these mistakes at some point in the past.

1) You assume Never assume you understand the consumer of your client.  You know what they say? Never assume because it makes an ass out of u and me… Before you submit or create a social media proposal you really should try and get a full understanding of the clients customers, their online and offline consumption patterns, their behaviors and their preferences.

2) You Don’t Define Your KPI’s . KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator and it’s a key part of  your measurable objectives with the client. They can be made up of  benchmarks, targets, and time frames.  Look, if you were a coach and you had a team, you would set goals right? They might be win x amount of games, make the playoffs, win the conference etc. etc. On a business level with social media in mind, they take on a different tone and level, but the outcomes are still measured in the same way. Coaches and teams don’t fly blind, and neither should you and your clients. Define your targets, benchmarks and outcomes that can be measured to determine performance and success. Define them and you’ll spare yourself some grief down the line.

3) You Didn’t Do Your Homework. Make sure you understand completely a) what the client is selling b) what their messaging is c) how they get their clients and…d) where those clients typically are i.e. where they hang out. Not all networks are the same and as social networks mature, new networks are cropping up daily that are more niche specific.  In simple terms, this means that selling brooms on MySpace might not work.

4) No Value. What you produce for the client digitally, or what the client produces digitally, needs to have value. There is an assumption that if one just creates content that that is enough to drive traffic to the client. No, it doesn’t work like that. There has to be a level of quality that tells consumers that your social presence is worth tracking. Quality and value take on many forms, depending on the company and the client, but the bottom line is never short you, the client or the customer on either. They’ll leave before they even get there. And you know what? You know the difference, don’t kid yourself.

5) You Ignore The Rest of the Company. We talk about enterprise wide integration of social media but that takes on different forms. This means that HR is going to use social media in a completely different way than IT and or your PR department. We sometimes stick to what we know best and oftentimes say that integration of social media should occur in marketing; but that’s a short sighted attack. Every channel in an organization can benefit from social media, it’s up to you to make it happen.

6) You Made it Complicated. If you can’t understand it, or you can’t articulate it properly to your clients, peers, or bosses, then don’t talk about it yet, and definitely don’t go trying to implement it. Do you think the people you’re talking to are going to get what you don’t understand?  It being the many different aspects of social media integration.  You need to understand nuance which is something that doesn’t happen overnight with social media. With that being said, never assume you know everything, and sometimes you just can’t know everything, but don’t pretend you do. Keep it simple for yourself and for others. Think about it from the user’s perspective.

7) Set Them Free. Don’t let clients bamboozle you into doing all of the heavy lifting for them. One of the important aspects of social media is that we’re asking people, clients and companies to be more transparent and authentic. It’s their chance to connect with their customers and prospects in ways that they never thought of. If you’re doing all the social media work for them, then you might as well call yourself a PR company instead. It’s not authentic. You need to help them integrate social media into their company, you then need to teach them how to use the tools of social media, and then you need to hand it off to them. Take the training wheels off. You can still monitor from afar-it’s what consultants are for.

8. Understand the Digital Big Picture. This last one is more of a philosophical mistake to avoid.. As a company, consultant, marketer or whatever, it’s important for you to understand that things will be changing. Rapidly. Don’t ever assume that the space that you operate in, is static. It’s not. Yesterday does not look like tomorrow. Always keep one eye on the prize and another on what’s on the horizon. Like? Mobile, Mobile social, Mobile search, and social search…

“I’d like to see a social media consultant or agency that…”

I made a mistake. It took a a comment from a reader to point it out to me. A few days ago I wrote a post titled, “17 things that a social media consultant, agency or customer can’t do for you.” Though the premise was correct, I just couldn’t quite wrap my arms around the delivery. It happens. I’ve written enough blog posts where some feel right and some don’t. The reader was right. The original post sucked.

This original post was born out of frustration and that might have been the root cause.  It’s now in it’s 6th rewrite, but thanks to  Rob Laughter, who’s just getting started in this business, I was able to see the error of my ways and have tweaked the post considerably.

Though the original post was not meant to be snarky, or bitter, I can see how it might have come across as such. I still maintain it to be somewhat of a cautionary post as well, but I now have changed the phrase, …”Can’t do for you” to “I’d like to see”.. So I have softened it to almost a wish list of sorts.

See if you agree.

  1. I’d like to see a social media consultant or agency takes the time to show companies how to blog. Not just set them up and set them free.  The assumption can’t be made that everyone is capable of writing a compelling blog with compelling content..
  2. I’d like to see a social media consultant or agency that can teach you how to write for SEO, the User, AND for Social. It’s not easy, it’s time intensive, and not for the faint of heart and probably not in their DNA. You’d be surprised how many can not do it.
  3. I’d like to see a social media consultant or agency articulate to you the relationship between search and social. Why? It’s an art as much as it is science and to be honest, why should they? Most have a baseline knowledge of that to begin with. Should you take the time to at least understand the dynamics? Yes.
  4. I’d like to see a social media consultant or agency tell you when it’s appropriate to not to do something with social media. Why? because even though it’s not in their best interests, it is in the best interest of the client. Some aspects of social media are just not right for every business. Let’s not jam round pegs into square holes just for the sake of getting the business. As a decision maker always ask why. It’s you’re right. Which leads to #6.
  5. I’d like to see a social media consultant or agency teach you to understand the why. Why? Because it helps to understand theory. You need to take the time yourself to understand the why. Preferably before they come calling. Make them squirm before they get there. Dazzle them with your knowledge.
  6. I’d like to see a social media consultant or agency  teach you to know when not to pimp your stuff. Why?  Because if you think it’s the right thing to do and you’re a traditional marketer, chances are, you’re going to do it anyway.
  7. I’d like to see a social media consultant or agency teach you how to be yourself. They can tell you, they just might not be able to teach you. It’s really up to you. You will figure out that being authentic goes a lot further than #7.
  8. I’d like to see a social media consultant or agency teach you how to have real conversations. You know the difference, really…you do! You have them at the dinner table every night. That’s real.
  9. I’d like to see a social media consultant or agency teach you how to have real online conversations that result in business. Slightly different from #7 but no less impactful or important. The gist being that you can’t force the action.
  10. I’d like to see a social media consultant or agency teach you how to not be disingenuous. You’ll find out real quick how this one works. It’s generally when you learn what the word flame means in the online world and the only voice you hear is your own.
  11. I’d like to see a social media consultant or agency teach you how to not be overt and blatant with your marketing message. Why? You’ll think that it’s the right thing to do to, until you see otherwise. See #10
  12. I’d like to see a social media consultant or agency teach you how to have or create your “ah-ha” moment, you’ll know when it happens. You will have it. Though they may have the skills to set up a moment for you, they’re more fun when you have them on your own time.
  13. I’d like to see a social media consultant or agency teach patience and perseverance-because it is a cornerstone element of social media.
  14. I’d like to see a social media consultant or agency teach you to want it-the only problem is, if you don’t want it, then you won’t want it…this speaks to #17
  15. I’d like to see a social media consultant or agency teach you how to write FBML why? Because chances are they don’t know what it is. That’s ok,  just outsource it
  16. I’d like to see a social media consultant or agency teach you how to “be social”… but they can’t. You just have to try.

Thanks Rob.

Searching for social media experts


Lets say I’m a business owner and I want to get into this social media thing and I want to hire someone to handle my social media marketing. I don’t know anything about anything so I’m going to go straight to Google to find one.

If you do a search on “social media experts”, the first organic result in Google is for a post by Chris Brogan If I saw Chris’s site, I’m not sure he would be the best fit for me since I might not know any better. I might not know Chris Brogan from Mary Brogan, so I’m going to keep searching.

Interestingly enough the only ppc result for that search term is for Pandemic Labs, but their site is dark and too techy and makes me think Nintendo or Xbox, so I’m out. I’m frustrated already.

The second organic result is for giovanni gallucci, who I am familiar with, and ironically enough of the top 10 search results, this is or his site is the only one actually touting himself and his services as a social media expert. Why is this ironic?  Because of the other results, the majority of them are blog posts essentially slamming people who call themselves social media experts.

What am I saying? I’m saying, if I do a search for a social media expert, I may not be able to find one. Funny isn’t it, given the amount of blog posts about people claiming to be a social media expert?

I better change my tactic. How about social media companies?

The results are a little different but no less confusing. Your top 10 results are the following:

  1. CrunchBase company profile on Social
  2. An blog post from Jeremiah Owyang from 2006
  3. A post from David Meerman Scott’s blog on Social media company entrepreneur official garb.
  4. A post by Lee Odden from Top Rang Blog on How Big Companies Use Social Media @ BlogWell
  5. An article from Inc titled, Inc. 500 Companies Fast Adopters of Social Media
  6. A blog post titled, Valuing social media companies and Facebook apps
  7. The management team results from Pluck
  8. Tech Links piece titled, Social Media Companies See Increased Demand for Internet Marketing Services
  9. This next one is actually not too bad, though as a n00b, it might all just fly right over my head. 12 social media companies that kick ass
  10. This last result is actually a pretty good one too though again, not for the noob, it’s by Peter Kim-It’s a list of social media marketing examples

So at this point I’m striking out, big time. I’m going to try one more thing, maybe two. One is, lets do a search on social media marketing companies and the other is lets do a search on social media consultants. Waddya say?

First 2 organic results for social media marketing companies? Izea and, the 2nd result is scary. It might be the streaming talking head in the right hand corner; but companies like this may hinder more than they help. Though, they do rank #2 for the term “social media companies”, the used car sales approach doesn’t fly with me, and shouldn’t with you.

Further down the page, we finally get to some results that may benefit me. one note though that the PPC results on this page are a little more condusive to the search term we’re using at the moment, but lets continue.

In the #6 spot we have a post by marketing pilgrim titled Social Media Marketing Beginner’s Guide Which I would most definitely read. Why? Before I go and hire and expert, here is a chance to know what I’m looking for and know what I’m talking about..

In the #7 spot, I like this article simply because it’s arming me with some more solid info, that in the long run will help me, even if I’m not the one doing any of the work. It’s titled, How to Leverage Web 2.0 & Social Media Sites to Market Your Brand & Control Your Message has over 30 sites for you to check out on social media marketing tactics.

In the #8 spot  we have 11 Marketing, which I, the business owner, might click through some and check out, it sort of talks the talk at least. In spots 9 and 10, we have blog posts from Mashable and Peter Kim and thats it.

So the results were spotty at best and if we adhere to “people only search the first page” theory, we’re done; and we have maybe 3-4 “leads” to pursue. Interesting.

Onto our last search and then some conclusions.

Wow… the results for “social media consultants” are 9 blog post results dissing anyone who calls themselves a social media consultant, and one search result for Dan Zarrella who actually is a social media consultant!

The conclusion? If you are in the social media space, then what you hear (and read apparently) are a lot of people complaining about other people calling themselves social media experts and consultants. The truth is, they(the experts and consultants that is) must be just telling themselves and anyone else who is willing to listen. Fact is,  not too many are actually doing a very good job at marketing themselves and their companies and what they do, to the masses. Or maybe they just don’t understand the importance od SEO?

Either way-by the looks of the search results, if you are looking for a social media expert, social media consultant, or social media company, or  social media marketing company, good luck weeding through all the people that are pissed about the people who are claiming to be one of those.  Sour grapes? Perhaps, but what it looks like is that not only does the cobbler not make shoes for his own children but his competition spends more time watching him, than they do doing their own job!