Social media is not a fad. These days, investing time in social media is essential to a business’s online success. For this, many companies are hiring social media experts to manage their online accounts.
The problem is that everyone nowadays claims to know a thing or two about social media. So with the ever-growing number of self-proclaimed social media gurus out there, how do businesses weed out the fakes and the not-so-greats?
Here are five steps to take:
1. Set parameters prior to hiring. Before embarking on the hunt for a social media consultant, determine the amount of time and, more specifically, the amount of control your business is willing to give your consultant.
Good questions to think about: Is my social media consultant going to work independently, or will it be a team effort? Do I want my consultant to be a creative figurehead for developing and executing social media strategies, or do I expect that he or she will simply manage and oversee platform activity?
Answering these questions first will help you decide on the type of consultant you’re looking for.
2. Do your homework. Doing your homework could be the most important step. As experts in the field of social media, consultants’ activity on social networks affords you a glimpse at what should be considered their unofficial resume.
A potential candidate for the job should have a strong personal social media presence, and the person’s online activity should display knowledge, experience, and contacts gained in the field.
3. Contact through social media. Platforms such Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are great places to research, find and, yes, contact good applicants. Social media is their business, after all, so use it as a means for getting in touch with potential candidates.
This can also be a test. If, after having contacted prospective consultants, it takes them more than 24 hours to respond, consider them out of the running. You want a consultant who is timely with his or her online correspondence.
4. Ask about experience. Experience matters, period. The more references and the more case studies of social media work that can be provided, the better. As great social media consultants know: With every client, results need to follow.
So go ahead, ask for specifics. Has the social media consultant been able to increase a Facebook page “like” count by 15 percent within three months? Did hosting a contest or promotion via Twitter prove to be successful with past clients? Again, experience matters, and good results will be the mark of a great social media consultant.
5. Learn the consultant’s expectations for your business. Once you’ve found the social media consultant you’re interested in, the last step before making the hire is to evaluate expectations of the expert. If the consultant is as experienced and knowledgeable as he or she claims to be, then the person will be able to communicate clearly his or her expectations for your company.
Social media consulting is not a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all type of job. Each job is to be approached differently, according to the industry and according to the client—you. If your potential applicant is able to demonstrate understanding of this, as well as pass all of the above tests, it’s time to shake hands, because you’ve found yourself a social media consultant.
Chelsea Hejny is a social media writer at ShortStack. A version of this post first appeared on SmartBlog on Social Media.