Earlier last week I was contacted by a large consumer products company with a problem. It seems they had hired “a social media expert” to help them develop and launch their social media marketing but now that ship was adrift and was getting pounded by the rocks under the waves. Not only was it poorly executed but what they had done so far was costing them business. Their social media “expert” was hit and run. He told them what to do but not how to do it within THEIR culture and industry.
As a marketing consultant I never go into a client with a prepared Power Point deck and talk about what I have done in the past because frankly that is irrelevant in their situation.
I will say that I have 20 years of consumer marketing experience and that I have added value to every brand and product that I have worked on but that’s it. What I do first is ask a lot of questions. My objective is to both find out what the brand objectives are and to learn about the culture/roadblocks within the company. I then conduct a lot of research to learn as much as I can about the brand, product and competitors and follow up with more questions as I prepare my recommendations. More importantly I usually ask to stay around when they are ready to implement recommendations so I can both learn of issues and ensure that it goes as planned.
There have a been numerous times when I have recommended that clients do not use social media marketing because of several challenges. The biggest challenge that I have found is finding someone to take over their social media and speak as the voice of the brand. Too many clients just want to get a Facebook page up and update it once in awhile upon which I say “that is like walking away from a conversation and coming back later and still expecting people to be talking about you or what you said”.
Even with all this being said the latest casualty of a social media expert was a natural skin care company that did not have the resources to monitor the questions from people on their Facebook page. It seems that a lot people wanted to know more about what product to use for certain skin conditions and also they wanted to know about the ingredients. When we contacted the person they hired to do their social media strategy all he kept talking about was the number of people who liked their brand on Facebook in 3 weeks. When I heard that I could keep silent no more and finally said “that is totally irrelevant to the brand and business objectives”. Since then the client has pulled down their Facebook page because they now understand that they need someone to monitor it, be the voice of the brand and have a media plan to ensure consistent updates.
I am not a social media expert and I am not even a marketing expert. I believe my strength is being able to quickly diagnose brand marketing issues and recommend a strategy based on both my business savvy and what I learned about actually doing things in matrix organizations. Too many social media experts are using the ignorance of marketers to propel their own brands and write books and give presentations at conferences.
If you are going to hire someone make sure;
1ne: they have had past successes in working with big brands and companies in implementing not just suggeting social media strategies.
2wo: It’s about you and your business not them and books they are trying to promote. If your social media expert is someone who has written a book and mentions it to you that is not relevant to your business and it should be a warning. Another warning is someone who has his face plastered all over his website and is often a featured speaker at marketing conventions. These people no doubt have inflated ego’s.
3hree: They have the business savvy to get things done. This means that what they tell you to do is implementable within your culture and company not pie in the sky “this is what you should do”.
4our: They don’t talk about themselves rather than ask you “who, what and why?”
5ive: They are willing to say “this isn’t a goo idea for your product/brand but this may be….” Consultants should not be people who agree with everything you do. They should be there to provide a solution not leave the status quo.
A good consultant will tell you like it is and will work to understand both the internal and external challenges you face. One more thing..if you want your consultant to do great things than pay him/her what they are worth and don’t nickel and dime them. If you don’t pay them what they are worth than you’re not going to get the best out of them unless they really love what they do. (most don’t)