Social media has become such an essential tool in today’s business environment, but too many companies have been caught snoozing, having to play catch up. So when someone says they can help you, beware of the social media marketing guru!

Just like when websites first appeared, few people knew what a good website was; therefore, anyone who claimed they could create one was a hero. The result was an Internet full of really bad sites.

Today, many believe if they understand how to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, “… well, that qualifies me to be a social media marketing guru!” They learn the fancy clichés and buzzwords, talk about the technology and, Shazam, the business owner is impressed. Fast-forward several months and there is really no coherent strategy or measurable results and the answer is “… well mister you-know-less-than-I-do, I don’t understand why what works for EVERYONE else isn’t working for you, but if we keep at it… ”

So here are some things you should look for.

When asked, “… what’s the goal of the campaign,” they reply with benefits and NOT goals. While each goal is different (as one goal could be to reduce customer service costs; another may be lead generation; still another may be to remove bad press and complaints from being found online), without asking what YOUR goal is, they jump in with what are the benefits of a well structured and implemented campaign. “To build your following, to increase awareness, to strengthen credibility, etc.”

Granted, these are benefits you want, but they may be gotten using different tactics that support other goals. Since most companies want to generate leads for sales, the goal should be to drive traffic to your website, so you can capture that data and create an asset you own and can use for ongoing marketing. How that will be done is another question!

When asked, “How will you do this,” they reply with the most popular networks and nothing else. While Facebook is the 800 Lbs. gorilla in social media and Twitter is all the craze, there are many more, very useful networks. However, if Facebook and Twitter is all they know, it will be all they offer! There is a wealth of networks that have different focuses and depending on your goal, product or service and demographic, you may be better served with LinkedIn, Biznik, Pinterest, Referral Key (among others) in the mix. And let’s not forget a host of other services and tools needed to manage the campaign and increase the online footprint.

So ask them how they came up with their game plan that only included what they offer?

When asked, “What will my ROI be,” they promise it can be measured and quantified. Social media ROI is a difficult thing to measure, as there are so many dynamics of benefits that are hard to measure. While you can measure certain things, like how many followers, likes, comments, visits to the website, sales, subscribers, etc; there is an added value that cannot be measured.

For example, how do you measure someone who made a buying decision based on all your content and interactions when they bought directly from your website without any human engagement? You see a sale, but do not know what persuaded the customer to buy. Or, how do you measure the increase in credibility and trust that feeds growth and future sales? But, had social media not been in the mix giving you this credibility and trust, you would not know you lost that business, either; since there was no one to measure!

When asked, “What considerations need to be taken on our part,” the answers are all social networking based. What do I mean by this? The typical answer will be about pictures, posts, articles and engaging the followers. Now don’t get me wrong, these ARE considerations, but there are others that only an experienced social media marketer would know to address.

For example, your content must be original; it cannot be regurgitated press releases and articles. Google will look at five-word snippets that will trigger alarms for human inspection of plagiarism. This will hurt you since Google is making an all-out push for websites to be ranked based on authorship and quality content. The frequency of fresh content! Social media is an ongoing part of an overall marketing plan and must be consistent; so weekly articles are crucial.

Another example is your website and blog. As a social media professional, my concern is after I do a proper campaign and drive the traffic, a bad website and blog loses the business, and the campaign is judged by something I have no control over. For this reason, I always look at their website and make recommendations.

So don’t be fooled by techno-speak. Ask proper questions. If they cannot answer them properly and in a way you can understand, remember what Albert Einstein said, “If you cannot explain it simply, you don’t understand it.” Well said! I guess being an (the) Einstein does help.

By   Andrew  Adamson

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