How-To Find a GOOD Social Media Expert with 5 Simple Questions

Being an expert in Social Media is like being an expert at taking the bread out of the refrigerator. You might be the best bread-taker-outer in the world, but you know what? The goal is to make an amazing sandwich, and you can’t do that if all you’ve done in your life is taken the bread out of the fridge.
-Peter Shankman 

It's incredibly easy to find tips and advice from social media professionals about how to assess social networking, but how do you assess a social media professional?  How do you decide it's worthwhile to invest in one?

Here are a few subtle points about why asking an 'expert' is a good idea, and how to find a social media strategist that will mesh with your core values:

Network of People
Peter's proposed something pretty provocative, but ultimately it's a straw man. No sandwich gets made without the people that bring the right ingredients to the counter; knowing how to make a good sandwich isn't the same thing as creating the ingredients and bringing them to the table (and I'd counter too that a sandwich without good ingredients isn't going to be much of a sandwich).

You need to focus on what you do best, and you can't do that being pulled in every direction. This is a very basic business principle, and while I don't agree that business principles are appropriate in all situations, there's definitely something valid in this particular point. No one of us is an island, so we need to invest in the knowledge that others have gained focusing on what they do best. Cooperation, sharing resources and information, and utilizing people with different strengths will push all of us further collectively than any one of us can go alone.

HOW do you find a good Social Media Expert? 

I think the root of the word 'plethora' can be found somewhere in the search results for "how to find a social media expert" (and it might interest you to know that over twice as many people search for 'social media expert' than for a 'GOOD social media expert'). Here are some subtle things that can help in sifting through the experts, gurus, ninjas, and rockstars:

Do they use the tools?

If you want 'expert' advice on YouTube, shouldn't it come from someone who uses YouTube? Isn't it even better to find someone who uses it really well? This seems like given, yet many social media 'experts' don't use the the tools they speak so assuredly about. While it's true you can gain a great deal of knowledge about something without firsthand experience, if you're paying someone for their expertise you may want to consider placing firsthand experience among the essential criteria.

Do they have proven accountability?

Social media effectively acts as a voice to the public, so it's pretty important to be comfortable with someone who has a major influence on that voice. Asking a social media expert to tell you how they have, or will handle missteps can offer great insights to how they will be accountable to you.

Do they Actively Listen? 

Pretty critical if you want a social media professional to be working for YOU (and not the other way around). It can also suggest a lot about the way you'll be advised to engage with the people you connect with. Do they ever use their own social media to ask for, validate, listen to, and integrate the opinions of others?

How do they talk to people?

Have they ever used their own social media to bully? Insult? Share privileged information? Harass? Do they say things that your supporters would find inappropriate, or just don't mesh with your values?
Keeping in mind that (like anyone else) social media professionals are completely capable of drawing a line between things they'll say personally and professionally, they're also aware that everything said on social media is in the public eye being perceived in ways they cannot control. Taking the time to get a sense of what they share publicly can give you valuable information about their fit with your organization. If someone has a style that's radically different it could benefit and grow your relationships, or potentially create a lot of conflict (for instance, if your core relationships are with people who are disenfranchised, employing a social media expert who is domineering, aggressive, authoritative, or otherwise insensitive could cost you relationships in the long run).

Do they kite off of other people's authority? 

For better or for worse it's easier than ever to get a snapshot of people through their social media. To understand if a social media strategist genuinely fits with the values of your organization it's pretty easy to look back through a Twitter stream. Watch their videos. Read things they've written. If you go digging, keep an eye on whether they compare their own work to more successful counterparts. Do they name drop, or mention people they don't actually interact with? There's a fine line between giving credit where credit is due, and claiming credit where it's not.

Social interaction of any kind is complex. Expecting that a business or organization would never need any assistance with the way they interact and utilize complicated digital tools is unreasonable. Let people help you make a great sandwich.

Are social media experts really as irrelevant as Peter Shankman suggests?

by Jane Barkley

You should visit me on YouTube HERE.