Social Media Guru? Prove it! Here’s How

1 Jun

Dear business owner,

If a  search on Angie’s List fails, where can you turn?  As a child of the 1960s I recall the advice of former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who, in dealing with “Cold War” nuclear detente issues, issued the simple phrase to characterize all negotiations:  “Trust but Verify”.  When you see the phrase “expert” or “guru” in a consultant’s biography, don’t you (too) mutter to yourself: “prove it, bud”?   Urban legend defines an “expert” as someone with at least 10,000 hours of high-intensity practical experience.  Hmm, working full time (2,000 hours per year), that means you’d have to be at it at least 5 years full-time to justify your “expert” label.  By the way, IMHO the “guru” label may be intended as a snarky, funny label, but please drop it.   “Expert” will suffice – if you qualify.

How can you verify that the marketing guru proposing to help your business is genuinely knowledgeable and qualified?  Thanks to the Interwebs, we have multiple ways of observing whether that person selling their services actually walks the talk.  Expertise today borders on transparent – or at least less opaque.  Try this:

  • LinkedIn – Why LinkedIn? Simple: it’s been around long enough.  Check your prospective consultant’s profile for Recommendations from former bosses and customers – not just from peers.  Oh, and check out the LinkedIn profile of the person who wrote the recommendation too, to get a sense of whether they  know what they’re talking about too.  What’s that, you say?  Neither the “expert” nor their “reference” has a decent LinkedIn profile?  Red flag!  Why?   Do the numbers.  There are 310 million US citizens, about half of us are working age (~160M), and over 400 million LinkedIn members, half of whom are in the US .  Statistically, that means anybody who’s anybody in business – at least in the US of A – has a LinkedIn profile.   If your prospective social media guru has no LinkedIn profile, exactly what do they know about being visible online?
  • Smarterer ( – a simple testing site that assesses each applicant’s knowledge on a battery of social media and marketing tools, technologies and platforms.  Ask your prospective consultant to show / link you to their badge(s).  The numerical score is a rough equivocation of their prowess.  Hey, it’s only a number, but at least it’s a consistent measurement.  What, no badge?  Insist they get one, then call you back when they have it.
  • Social Presence – do they have a blog?  How often do they blog?  Do they have a social media presence of any sort?  How well maintained is it?  (Commenter:  Julia Campbell of J Campbell Social Marketing)
  • Score – This single numeric measurement of your online reputation has come under a lot of scrutiny lately and, just like a Smarterer badge, it’s just a single measurement.  But it beats having no measurement at all.  Keep in mind, however, that even having a mid-range Klout score (30 or above) is an indication that at least your social media expert has a digital “pulse”.
  • Paid audition – try carving out a discrete set of chores, or ask for  work delivered in natural phases, with your payments linked to successful completion of each gated phase of the project in question.  In other words, pay for performance….not just activity.  Mind you, actual results do take time.
  • “Viral” promises.  Does your “expert” actually promise to deliver a “viral” marketing result?   Anybody can no sooner promise viral results than a biologist can instruct an actual virus whom to infect next.  Hope is not a strategy.  Great content that is worth sharing gets shared, but it’s the eye of the beholder that matters, and no social media expert actually has mind control over your audience’s eyeballs and mouse clicks.  And having had a “viral” success in the consultant’s portfolio is – at best – proof that they learned something, but it cannot assure you they can make lightning strike twice.  Don’t buy on the promise of replicating a viral response.  Buy on the promise that the knowledge gained from that experience can be applied to your situation.  But a promise of Viral marketing?   Myth:  busted.

What other methods have you found to vet the qualifications of your marketing consultants?  Leave a comment and let’s list them here!




2 Responses to “Social Media Guru? Prove it! Here’s How”

  1. Julia Claire Campbell June 1, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

    Ed, I like this. I also use as a barometer the person’s social media presence themselves – are their profiles updated, do they blog, do they seem comfortable on social media themselves.

    • Ed June 1, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

      Excellent reminders, Julia! I’ve added those items to the bullet list above. ~Ed

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