How To : Choose a Social Media Partner

Posted on April 17, 2009. Filed under: Business, Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , , |

expertsWith the term “Social Media Expert” being added to just about every company and consultants profile these days it is hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. What follows is my opinion on how to identify a Social Media partner for your business or organization. I want to explain why I am writing this post, it is the product of several conversations with people, clients, prospective clients and just friends who all asked me this question.

Disclaimer

Before going any further with this post it is important that I acknowledge that I & my company provide Social Media advice, guidance and execution as part of our service offerings as an integrated Marketing communication company. However, what follows is in no way an advertorial, I will not be promoting our services in this post.

The Basics

A quick search of Twitter profiles turned up 80 Twitter users just on one results page that included the term Social Media expert in their profile. I think most people know to be wary of “self-proclaimed” experts. However, just in case you aren’t, you should be.

So ignoring those who will loudly proclaim their own expertise how can you find someone to work with who can provide you and your organization sound advice? There are several important criteria to consider when evaluating a potential Social Media Partner:

  • Longevity
  • Experience – Doing Not Saying
  • Results
  • Shiny Object Syndrome

Longevity

How long have they actually been doing this? Some people maintain that Social Media is so new that it is impossible for anyone to have gained expertise in the space. I disagree, Social Media has only been new to those who didn’t recognize it for what it was – primarily the mainstream media. Social Media has been around a long time in one form or another. Podcasts used to be called Webcasts, they pre-date the iPod by several years (I launched my first series of webcasts in 1998). Blogs have been around at least that long, admittedly you had to have some coding skills to create one and they weren’t really recognized as blogs per se, they were referred more to as lifestreaming or online journals (posted my first one in 2002). So to state that the space is so new that no one has gained enough knowledge to have expertise seems to me to be a way of making excuses for those who, after 3 months of Twitter use hang out their shingle as a Social Media expert. As with any “consultant” check and see how long they have been in the field.

Experience – Doing Not Saying

This is where I prefer the term Practitioner rather than Consultant – its a semantics thing, and at the end of the day the job title doesn’t really matter. However, in my experience consultants are usually very good at talking about a topic, not necessarily good at executing. When considering a Social Media Partner find out if they have actually had personal success with Social Media. When I think of Social Media Practitioners I think of people like Chris Brogan who doesn’t just talk about Social Media, nor does he just consult with companies on the topic, he “does” Social Media and as such has gained recognition as a Social Media Influencer, being approached by brands to be an online evangelist for their product. At a more local level to me, here in Austin, we are very fortunate to have some excellent Social Media practitioners. One that jumps immediately to mind is the very talented Shelia Scarborough. Sheila is a blogger, Social Media trainer and practitioner. As a travel blogger she was invited to go on a tour of China to experience the growth and changes in that country. You don’t get invited on trips like that simply by calling yourself an expert, other people have to recognize your ability and your practice in the space.

Results

Does your prospective partner know how to get you results? Can they cite previous examples of having gained results for others? Remember that in this age of sometimes semi-transparent business practices, some companies demand that external consultants sign strict Non-disclosure agreements that prevent them from using the company name on any marketing materials. So don’t be overly surprised if they aren’t able to give you a name and number to call for a large project, but they should be able to produce data at a detail level such that they aren’t faking it.

Shiny Object Syndrome

If your potential Social Media Partner wants to talk endlessly about the latest new technology, new platform or widget that they think you should be using, proceed with caution. While a good knowledge of upcoming trends is essential, the habit of simply running to the latest and greatest platform and dragging you & your organization with them isn’t good for you. Remember that Social Media isn’t about technology, its about people. The platforms we use now will be very old hat in 2 years time. Being obsessed with the technology won’t lead to a successful Social Media strategy.

Hopefully you have some things with which to separate the wheat from the chaff when considering a Social Media partner. What qualities do you think I missed, what would you add to the list?

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Is Social Media the latest lifeline in a downturn economy?

Posted on December 10, 2008. Filed under: blogging, Business, Marketing, Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

A life preserver icon.

In times of economic uncertainty people instinctively look for some way in which to add additional value to their position, either within an organization or within the broader business environment.

The Rise of The ‘Expert’

In 2007/2008 SEO & SEM became attached to almost any position that vaguely involves some form of online activity. Marketers, PR, copywriters, web designers, web developers everyone suddenly claimed that they had the secret sauce that would enable your website to be on page one of any search any results remotely connected with your business.

The second half of 2008 has seen a shift of this toward Social Media. With the rise in popularity of Social Media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn & Facebook and their increasing use by corporates as a communication tool employees and freelance individuals are shifting their attention to becoming Social Media ‘experts’.

This is not all that surprising. It happens with the advent of all new technologies and for that matter non-technology trends.

The Cool Kids

There have been some interesting conversations on Twitter regarding the craze for gaining a high number of followers and achieving this by following as many people as possible. Indeed Gennefer Snowfield (@acclimedia) made the astute observation that the trend for applications like Tweetdeck that allow the management of large quantities of followers is a reaction to this method of using Twitter.

This method is perhaps being inspired by the perception of Social Media “rockstars” like Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble & others who are seen as having large numbers of followers and that there is some correlation between having a large following on Twitter and the degree of ‘expertise’ in Social Media. Therefore if you are to be seen as a Social Media ‘expert’ you should have a large number of followers and to achieve this you should follow a large number of people.

This is where unfortunately the ‘Social’ in Social Media gets over-emphasized and the Media part gets practically ignored. Social Media isn’t high school. It isn’t about being like the cool kids. Chris Brogan et al are not the Senior year whilst the rest are all Freshmen.

However, this type of behavior is to be expected in uncertain times. In the late 90’s everyone wanted to append the title ‘Webmaster’ to themselves. Not just because it was cool, but because the trend in business was to start using the Internet and in particular the web as a new method of communication. Social Media is the new channel. So individuals with no marketing communication experience are suddenly becoming Social Media ‘experts’.

Just as there are those who have and continue to present themselves as being SEO ‘experts’ without anything more than a slim veneer of search engine knowledge so I believe we will see a rise in the number of Social Media ‘experts’. Of course this is all possible because even someone with a shallow level of knowledge can be convincing in a room full of people with no knowledge. 2010 will see the shake out of those people, but 2009 will be their year. As more and more organizations wake up to the way communications between provider and consumers are happening and start to invest in Social Media and realize that they need help but can’t afford the A listers so they will turn to whatever resource they can find, either internally or amongst the budget providers.

I actually don’t see too much wrong with this. Of course there will be some charlatans, and Caveat Emptor will always apply. Organizations that don’t carry out some form of due diligence when hiring consultants of any nature share the responsibility if they implement bad advice.

Embracing The Talent You Have

What I think will continue to happen will be the rise in the numbers of Social Media participants who are conducting self branding campaigns. Jeremiah Owyang posted an article about how corporations respond to employees who develop personal brands. Given that there are over a million blogs created daily in the US the likelihood that a large or even medium sized organization doesn’t already have several bloggers amongst its workforce is fairly slim. Instead of restricting this activity why not nurture it? Provide training, hone skills, develop an integrated communications strategy that includes these individuals.

Does your organization encourage or discourage your Social Media activity?

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Mommy blogs:Why you should read them

Posted on December 7, 2008. Filed under: blogging, Business, Observations, Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , , , , |

Sharing Mommy's Breakfast

Do you read Mommy blogs? No? Perhaps you think they are only for other Mommy’s or that they have no relevance to your business or communication strategy – think again.

The first Mommy blog I started reading was TheDailyblonde, written by Cheryl Phillips. I honestly can’t remember how I found her but I was an instant fan. She writes honestly openly and very frankly. Since discovering Cheryl I have been finding others who are also a lot of fun to read. Just yesterday I came across Elle on Twitter. She started following me so I did as I always do, checked her Twitter profile page and followed the link to her blog. The first post I read was a note to her daughters teacher explaining her daughters homework. I got a great laugh from reading it.

More Than Just Laughs

I am sure I don’t need to tell you that it is acknowledged fact that women are stereotypically better at nuturing than men. Social networking is all about nuturing relationships. In my experience Mothers are extremely good at building networks especially with other Mothers. They have a common interest, they share common experiences, they have similar concerns.

Chris Brogan wrote a post on 40 ways to deliver killer content to your blog audience. He makes great points about how to create a dynamic blog and generate followers. When you compare his list with most Mommy blogs, there they are, all his tips in action. Why? Because for the most part, Mommy bloggers aren’t trying to be clever, they aren’t trying to be seen as “better than”, they are focused on sharing.

What Has The Menopause Got To Do With My Business?

Now if you clicked the link to Cheryl’s blog at the beginning of this post you will have found yourself reading about the menopause. Why is that at all relevant to your business. Because it meets all the measures of how a blog should be written. Brogan’s rule #3 – ” Use small words. You don’t have to impress people. You have to be clear.” Check. Cheryl isn’t writing a medical paper she is writing for other women. Brogan’s rule #8 ” Make your point from the reader’s side of the fence. Who is your audience?” Check. Cheryl and other Mommy bloggers know their audience. They understand them, they know their issues and concerns and they know how to communicate with them.

Honestly?

Brogan’s rule #22 ” Don’t mince words. If it’s a “pissing match,” it’s not a disagreement.” Trust me, no don’t, go read for yourself and you will find it harder to read a more honest group of bloggers than Mommy bloggers.

If you are writing a business blog, definitely follow the tips that you will find at Chris Brogan’s blog, Darren Rowse, Guy Kawasaki or any of the other big name bloggers but don’t forget to read blogs that have implemented these rules, sometimes without even knowing it. Put yourself in their shoes, are you as in tune with your audience as they are? If not then perhaps you should spend sometime reading Mommy blogs.

On Twitter there is now a MILT movement starting – Mom I’d Like to Tweet. Who would you add to your MILR (Mom I Like to Read) list ?

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