I’ve seen many guides to choosing the right social media consultant. Many of them fall short because they don’t give you simple empirical guidelines to follow. I think that’s a mistake and I’ve decided to rectify that oversight.
One of the main points I feel is most important is that the social media “Expert” must be deeply involved in social media. The experience you gain in personally building a large social network is essential to understanding social media. The criteria here is how do you find an “Expert” so the bar is set high. One of the commonly quoted rules is that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert- that’s 2 months short of 5 years. Which means there are very few true social media experts around.
An Expert is defined as: having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience
Social Media Expert Minimum Criteria:
- Google- Your expert should have a dominant presence on Google. When you search on their name or their social handle (mine is ckieff) you should see an abundance of social media listings with the major sites at the top. If your social media expert’s Google listing starts showing their high school football exploits half way down the second page they aren’t much of an expert.
- Twitter Followers 2010+ the consultant must have a network over 2000 Twitter Followers. 2000 is the Twitter imposed limit where the user must have a following of 90%. To get more than 2000 followers you must have more than 1800 followers of your own (90%). In other words, any idiot (or spammer) can follow 2000 people, but you have to work hard to get to 2010. Any “Social Media Expert” who has less than 2000 followers hasn’t put the time in, and doesn’t have the experience to be called an expert.
- Twitter Lists 100+ One of the best measures of how much others find your Tweets valuable is to measure how many take that extra step of adding the account to a list. It’s a vote of confidence and recommendation to others for me to say I value your tweets and want to tell others that. Remember that some lists today are generated automatically so check the lists and look for words like; Retweet, follow, people-i-retweet, interactions, etc. These lists can be automatically created by tools such as FormuLists and don’t reflect true interest by people.
- Klout Score of 30+ Klout is a social media rating service that rates a Twitter and Facebook profile for interaction and engagement. While Klout is far from perfect, it is the best that exists today. Some social media companies have spoken about using a minimum Klout score of 30 as a criteria for judging a social media specialists. This score is a gauge of how engaged and interactive the account is in it’s activity.
- Facebook Friends 1000+ A social media expert must have an extensive network of other social media experts to collaborate with and to exchange ideas. They should have built that network on Facebook as well as on Twitter and LinkedIn. They should have an extensive network of Facebook connections and they should be able to call upon that network to connect them and exchange ideas. Because of the reciprocal nature of Facebook Friendships the expert should have taken the time to build a network of at least 1000 people.
- LinkedIn Network of 500+ It’s harder to build a network on LinkedIn than it is on Facebook or Twitter. You need to have people accept your invitations and people are much more picky on LinkedIn in general. Therefore it takes some time to reach a network of 500 or more. In addition I would look for 10 or more Recommendations on LinkedIn, and 5-10 Best Answers in the social media field. And finally they should include a sprinkling of well known recognizable names in the industry. For your consultant to be an “Expert” they must be known and connected to other experts in the field. This takes time and expertise. But if they are a social media expert they should have had the time and ability to connect with a few of the recognized top people in the field. (I think I miss this mark with the Best Answers criteria, but I make it on the others
- Facebook Page with 250+ Fans/Likes - Your expert should have a top notch Facebook Fan page. It should entice you to “Like” the page and it should be updated regularly with content from a blog and Twitter along with custom Facebook only updates. It’s true that often experts have poor pages- a case of the cobbler’s children going shoeless. (My own Facebook Page is dismal and I’d love it if you could Like it now.) But a true expert will have overcome this issue to showcase their own skills.
- An active Blog with active comments- Blogs are essential to social media and any expert who doesn’t at least have a blog that they update weekly has to be questioned. If they are blogging there should be some comments, or evidence of discussions happening on other sites like, Digg or Twitter in the comments section. Your expert must know how difficult it is to blog regularly to be able to tell you how to get it done yourself. It’s even better if they blog for other sites beyond their own. Because that demonstrates that others value their thoughts enough to allow them to write on their own sites.
- Profiles on many other social media sites- As a social media specialist, I believe it is my duty to my clients to check out each new social media product in order to determine if it could be a good fit for my clients. So I have profiles on almost every single new up and coming social network. Your consultant should have done this too. They should be on, Foursquare, Shopkick, GoWalla, Digg, Flickr, YouTube and a few dozen more. Otherwise how could they call themselves an expert if they don’t know what the offerings are? I’m too busy isn’t an excuse in this case, they need to be doing the homework to determine what is good and what isn’t for you.[Edited after the initial post]
- Your Brain- Use your brain, if they have some of these attributes in areas where you are interested but none in the areas you are uninterested in, they may be just fine. If they have all of these but not one customer who can talk to you about what they did for them in social media, keep looking. This is meant as a guideline for people unfamiliar to social media to help you understand who may be a real social media expert and who is a fake. The problem is that this field is overrun with fakes and neophytes need some way to determine the snake oil salesmen from the true practitioners. And I’ll maintain that anyone who uses all of the techniques listed in the comments section below to game the system has a pretty good idea of how the social media networks work, although they would be ethically challenged. (And sorry I don’t have a link to my brain, yet.)
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Now every social media expert won’t measure up to every one of these tests. I don’t measure up myself to every one. But your social media expert should come close to many of them. If your “so called expert” has a Twitter account with 250 followers and 300 college buddies on Facebook with no significant footprint on any single social network- then it’s time to keep looking. You should see plenty of evidence of your social media expert in the first 3 pages of their Google Search. If that’s not dominated by social media mentions then your expert may be more “wanna-be” than “is”.
There are a few social media specialists such as Mari Smith on Facebook, and Laura Fitton @Pistachio on Twitter. These experts literally wrote the book on how to use their respective networks. They are the exceptions, not the rule. For the generalist this should not be an issue.
Give me 1 Good Reason why you would hire someone who says they’re an expert when you can determine if they are with Google and a few other sites in a few minutes.
Since you’ve read this far please take a moment to consider this post as well: Give Facebook t0 Someone You Love