The world of social media is full of dynamic, smart people excited about making history. I'm grateful to have started my public relations career in an era when innovative thinking and quick learning could compete with seniority in the business world. Unfortunately for busy business owners, though, social media's low barriers to entry allows pretty much anyone to claim to be a social media “ninja,” “guru,” or “rockstar.”
It's up to you to look out for these tell-tale signs when vetting social media agencies:
1. They promise you specific results before they hear your business's goals.
Not every business needs to double their followers. Maybe your business needs to attract a different kind of follower while another needs to build deeper relationships with the sales prospects who have already started following the company's page. Metrics should be based on your business goals, not what the "expert" is used to doing.
2. They talk about buying followers, links, or mentions.
Social media results aren't as free as people think they are. You must dedicate company resources like time and staff to build marketing momentum. However, “black hat SEO” tactics such as buying followers and links will get you bad publicity or worse, you can get banned from search results by Google.
3. They shame you ...
...for not being on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/Tumblr/Pinterest/Flickr/Youtube/Reddit/Vine. There are an impossible number of platforms. An expert should be able to help you triage confidently.
4. They give you recommendations about what you should do, but they haven't looked up what you have already done.
An online marketing expert should have the Google chops to get a general idea of your online presence in about 15 minutes.
5. They make you feel stupid.
If the "expert" can't explain social media in a way you understand, that's a red flag that they may not fully understand how it works. Online activity should have an IRL ("in real life") counterpart or consequence, because real people are behind those "follows." If they are uncomfortable shedding their industry jargon to talk about these tangible connections - these people in your audience- buyer beware.
6. They don't mention content strategy.
Social media platforms are channels. You have to say something! Setting up your Facebook page or your Twitter profile is the easy part, and some people will be happy to collect that setup fee and leave you hanging.
Bottom line: Don't let any social media Schwarzenegger make you feel stupid. Find someone who wants to tell your story to the world, because he or she believes in what you do. We think we know a bit about social media over here at 9Terrains, but you can schedule a meeting and decide for yourself by sending us a message here.