Top ten ways not to choose a social media consultant

I’ve just come from a breakfast meeting with Thomas Gensemer, the managing partner of Blue State Digital (BSD) and Joe Rospars, partner in BSD and Barack Obama’s former new media director. My post was inspired by a comment from Gensemer who said: ‘the notion of anyone being an expert in this stuff is bull shit." This echoes something that I’m constantly saying when I’m speaking at conferences ‘the easiest way to find out who not to work with is someone who describes themselves as an expert.’ I like Thomas’s version better!

Inspired by this I’ve come up with my top 10 ways how not to choose a social media consultant (actually it’s 11 as I couldn’t edit it down to ten!):

  1. They describe themselves as an expert. This space is so new and changing so rapidly it’s impossible to be an expert, at Wolfstar we only claim to be ahead of the curve.
  2. They think advertising, marketing and public relations are ‘dead’ and that online is where it’s all happening. Traditional communications isn’t going anywhere, but equally you can’t afford to ignore online and new media.
  3. The first thing they talk about isn’t how to integrate social media into overall corporate communications strategy or public relations plan. Just like traditional public relations or marketing communications you’ve got to focus on the business objectives and what communications can do to achieve them.
  4. The first thing they advise is you should start a blog or Facebook group. Focus on the business and what you want to achieve and then think about the tools and the technology.
  5. They’ve only been blogging for a year and don’t have many comments or inbound links from other blogs, or much of a personal or corporate presence within other social media and networks. How can they do it for you if they can’t do it for themselves?
  6. They equate measurement with evaluation and ROI. Online campaigns and social media are incredibly easy to measure with lots of numbers available, but that’s not the same as evaluating ROI which can be as hard online as it is in ‘real world’ public relations.
  7. They tell you how they can help to control your messages in social media and social networks. You can’t control the message online and it’s a myth that you ever controlled it off-line, but you can listen, respond and influence.
  8. They don’t have a track record of success in both online and traditional public relations for clients and themselves. Lots of PR, advertising and digital agencies are claiming social media as a service, but that doesn’t mean they can do.
  9. They talk about talking to or at people rather than with people. It’s a conversation you can’t jump in and interject your message, you’ve got to participate and think about what you can bring rather than what you can get.
  10. They promise you quick results and instant success. Online, social media and social networks are all representative of how society and the economy is changing, you’ve got to be in it for the long haul.
  11. They think social media is new. It isn’t, it’s simply about relationships, which is why it’s called public relations and not advertising or digital marketing.

That’s my 10 11, please feel free to leave your ideas in the comments.


About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.