Like any other technology “revolution,” social media is attracting a horde of consultants, agencies, and service providers that are anxious to take your money or claim your market develop funds. Worse, it’s easy to waste your time with unskilled social media coaches that will neither bring you business nor improve the marketability of your products or services. So how do you know if your social media coach is capable? (or at least not a fraud!) A competence checklist is always helpful.
Before I give you the checklist, let me tell you something important. You can hire someone to help you develop a social media plan and get you started, but you will not be successful with social media unless you integrate it into your own business activities and do most of the work yourself. Effective Twittering and Facebook posting cannot be outsourced to strangers. Only you can make your tweets relevant to your customers.
Here is a starting point for your discussions with any social media coach.
1) Ask about the consultant’s presence in the social web: LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Fan Page, Twitter and other sites that are important to your business. The number of connections is not as important as the quality. Your social media consultant should be connected to people and companies that matter to you and your customers.
2) Read their blog posts to make sure they understand your business activities. There are generic social media consultants, but you deserve a specialist.
3) Look for experience in helping companies with “business processes” not just social media. Your consultants should be talking about customers, opportunities, marketing and sales processes, not just Twitter, Facebook, Digg, and YouTube.
4) Make sure they have an assessment and planning process. Everyone knows how to set up a Fan Page on Facebook, but not everyone knows how to help create a decent social media plan. Ask about ROI calculations, competitive analysis, opportunity development, etc.
5) If they are “certified,” find out who certified them and what had to be done to earn the certification.
6) Find references and contact them. Identify customers and reach out through LinkedIn or even email. (If there are no other customers, then that’s a cause for concern.)
One of their main functions will be to educate you about using social media effectively. Setting up your accounts will take only a few minutes. Upgrading your profiles will take only a few hours. But the education and the experience needed to turn Social Media into a business tool will take much longer. So hire someone that will work with you for a few months and be available to help when needed.
Vendors are including social media training and planning in their development programs, so you can be sure there will be an uptick of opportunities for you to engage a consultant to help in this area. All resellers need to have a social media presence, especially if they want to build relationships with younger customers. So pick the right coach and get started. 2010 is the year of channel social media enablement.
** The competence checklist was adapted from material published by the Social Media Academy.