With the rise in importance of social media to the world of business, the market has been flooded with ‘experts’ on the subject. These days, it seems as though it’s impossible to even turn your head without running into at least three “social networking gurus.” It’s not terribly surprising, really – everybody wants to get into the social game, and there’s money in being knowledgeable about social networking, and helping businesses figure out what the whole ‘social’ deal is all about.
Naturally, this means that there’s also money in faking it.
These false gurus might not necessarily be malicious con-artists (though many of them certainly are). Maybe they just think they know more than they actually do, or they’re still trying to learn the trade. Either way, they’re putting on a false face, and either way, you’ll get burned if you select them to run things for you – something you’ll want to avoid at all costs. To that end, there are certain warning signs you’ll want to be on the lookout for when you’re selecting your expert.
The presence of even one of these should throw up a whole wall of red flags.
1. They Flaunt Their Certifications
Social Media Certifications are as bogus as the organizations that offer them. Being a “certified” social media expert isn’t like being a certified Cisco Technician or Microsoft Professional. It’s more akin to waving around a degree from Coney Island College, and trying to fool everyone into believing it’s valid. Unfortunately, some people still fall for it, even though the vast majority (I’m tempted to replace that with “all”) of the organizations that offer these certifications are even bigger hucksters than the fake experts.
Your social media expert shouldn’t need a certification to qualify themselves. They should just know what they’re doing.
2. They’ve No Knowledge of Klout
Klout measures the amount of influence you’ve got on a particular social network. It measures how much you interact with people, how many people respond to and share your posts…basically, it tells everyone what a big deal you are. Do your homework when you come across a self-proclaimed social media expert. If they do not have a Klout score higher than 50, they might not be worth your time, and if they don’t even know what Klout is, you probably shouldn’t be considering them. If, however, they consider Klout meaningless…
They might still be worth consideration. Not everyone feels that Klout is unimpeachable.
3. They Promise a “One Size Fits All” Strategy
This doesn’t really even need much explanation. Social networks are as different as fire and water. There is no single strategy that will work for every single network out there. Even if you’ve got a general strategy and campaign in mind, you’re still going to need to tweak it for each network you want to run it on. A campaign that relies entirely on applications, for example, isn’t likely to run so well on YouTube or Twitter.
4. They Claim You Need a Presence Everywhere
No. You don’t. Anyone who believes you need to be on LinkedIn, Google +, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Nexopia, Myspace, and every other social network on the Internet in order to have a valid social strategy or a successful social media campaign is full of more hot air than the Hindenberg. Don’t listen to them, and kindly show them the door – they aren’t worth your time or money, and you’d be better served running your own campaign rather than going with their ‘knowledge.’
5. They Guarantee Results…at a Premium
If someone claims that they’ll get you a certain amount of followers, fans, likes, or shares if you pay them X dollars a month, they’re full of it, plain and simple. Not only do such claims demonstrate a fundamental understanding of how social networks actually work (more on that in a moment), no one can actually promise results all the time – it’s impossible, and anyone who says that you’re GUARANTEED to succeed if you follow their sage advice is probably setting you up for a con.
The best experts give tips to increase your chances of success – they don’t claim you’ll have the best social campaign in the world if only you pay them a bit of coin.
6. They Gauge Success in Fans and Followers
Social networks are about interaction. Having eighteen million followers on Twitter is absolutely useless if you don’t actually interact with any of them, or if most of them are bots. We’ve already talked about the different metrics with which you can gauge success in a social campaign. Fans/followers/likes/shares is only one of many. Determining the success of a social campaign based solely on a single metric is like trying to determine the profits of a business without knowing your expenditures. It simply doesn’t work, and anyone who tries to make out like it does has no idea what they’re talking about.
7. They Bill Social as a Cure-All
If you’ve got persistent, integral problems with your brand, a social campaign isn’t going to save you. We’ve been over this before, and it’s worth saying again – if you’ve got something wrong with your business or the products it produces, don’t think going social is going to make things better. To use a simple analogy: you need to clean up your backyard before you start crowing about it to the neighbors. Sure, going social might bring more customers to your brand.
But if all those customers hate it, what good will it do?
8. They Promise to do All the Work
Again, this is a big no-no. No social campaign can actually operate without active participation by the organization behind it. Sorry, kiddies, but if you want to play in the sandbox, you’ll need to get your feet dirty. Every organization is unique, and as a result, every social campaign should also be unique. While I’m sure there are a few social media organizations out there that will do all the heavy lifting for you, those are few and far between – most of them aren’t going to be doing much more work than you.
9. They Claim that you NEED Social Media
You don’t. Before running a campaign, you need to consider a number of things. Would your brand really benefit from it? Is your target demographic part of the social network you’re trying to jump into? Is your product well-known enough that you don’t need social media? Is your organization even workable in a social setting?
The answers to these questions are very important, and if you feel like your organization won’t benefit, forcing your way onto a social network is just going to end up ruining you in the long run.
10. They Talk about Full Automation
You recall how we’ve said time and again that social networking, and by extension, social campaigns, are all about interaction, right? You should thus be able to figure out yourself why an expert who talks about a completely automated campaign is probably a few bricks short of a full wall. While it’s certainly possible to automate an announcement or two, you should use automation sparingly, and always pay attention to what people are saying. You can’t have a conversation with a robot (Cleverbot doesn’t count), and if your customers feel like they’re being talked at but not talked to, your campaign is going to be a flop.