Yes, Mom, I Really AM a Professional Social Media Consultant

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It’s not easy being a social media consultant these days.  Between the bashing of some social media “experts” and the viral what the **** is my social media strategy blog, you’d think that every social media “guru” is a quack.  I thought it was about time to clear the air and stick up for my profession and the need for our existence, and I am glad to see that Shannon Paul just did something similar by writing an excellent blog post on why we still need real social media strategists.  Yes, there are professionals with years of successful sales, marketing, public relations, human relations, customer service, and business development experience that are out there helping businesses who are behind the ball or just lack the experience or expertise in understanding how to integrate social into their organization.  While some who call themselves “social media consultants” may be engaging in less consulting and more sheer “implementation” of their client’s Facebook and Twitter accounts without any strategy in hopes of obtaining an endless retainer, I look at what I do as being less about pure marketing and more about management consulting to get an organization up to speed and to help them start thinking strategically about new media.   After all, social media can and will be utilized by most departments of a given company, not just marketing.  And often, in order to get the ball rolling, it involves executives from most departments to understand social media and be on board in implementing strategic decisions.

So what does a social media consultant do?

I inform my clients that I am versed in the tools of utilizing the various platforms for business objectives, have worked on social media strategy creation for more than a dozen companies, and work to personally guide my clients to merge social media with their corporate strategies and objectives.   This requires creating a custom strategy for how they should approach social media as well as a great deal of education on the platforms, tools, and best practices to allow each client to be self-sufficient after my engagement ends.   While there is a social media strategy created, it is a mere subset of their entire organization-wide strategy.  And it is a consultative process, because no strategy can be created without understanding more about each particular company and their products, industry, competition, history, culture, corporate strategy et. al.

Why do companies need social media consultants?

Just like the emergence of the Web two decades ago, those in the decision making positions at any given company are also those who may not have had enough time to understand social media, see sites like Facebook as a huge time suck, or even think that social networking sites are helping to corrupt their children.  Well publicized cases of Facebook bullying only serve to reinforce the image to some that social media is something some executives actually wish would just go away.  I recently spoke to a group of 30 CEOs for small to mid-size businesses, and apparently 20+ something of them did not see much value in utilizing social media at their company until after I spoke to them.  I have also met many Vice Presidents of Marketing at SMBs who confide in me that they just haven’t had time to educate themselves or keep up on social media but know that they need to.  A professional and experienced social media consultant can help them.

Facebook and the like are obviously not going away – they are becoming a ubiquitous part of our lives. “Status updates” permeate our communications, social networking is more popular than email, and we now have a habit of sharing news over social media. The average American is spending 23% of their online time in social media, and since we spend almost as much time on the Internet as we do watching TV, that is a significant amount of time that cannot be ignored by any business.

While I cannot stand up and vouch for every social media consultant that is out there, there are some professionals who are dedicated to helping educate our clients and work with their Management Team hand-in-hand in mapping social to their corporate objectives.   For those “consultants” with no experience or business background who are merely rehashing blog post content and trying to convince every company that they need to do this or that without any rational business logic, it is only a matter of time before companies start asking the right questions to properly qualify candidates and weed them out of the system.

Are there any others out there that agree with me here?

About the Author:

Neal Schaffer, Founder and Editor-In-Chief

The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professional strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professional strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

@nealschaffer

Author, @MaxYourSocial | Founder @msocialbusiness | Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, and Speaker | 日米ソーシャルメディア専門家|G+: https://t.co/BqaJvubiP8
The Content Marketing Mantra: “Create Once, Use Many” http://t.co/tTxLd9mfiU via @justicemitchell @msocialbusiness - 31 mins ago
Neal Schaffer
Social Fresh West

Comments

  1. says

    Neal,

    You got me agreeing with you, funny thing was I had this question when I woke up this morning. I was reading some blog post the other day. One of them is a “social media consultant” and what she does for a living. For some reason the only thing they did is build twitter and facebook accounts for clients. They are doing quite well from it. I heard many of them are doing this these days.

    What about about setting goals? or strategy after that? Are they going to leave their clients lost later on?

    Since I don’t have much experience, most of the things and post I give out are based on my own experience (hoping to expand that) because I do have some asking me “advice” sometimes.

    Well hoping to explore the social media world in the future.

    Great post as always from you Neal,

    Cheers
    Aaron

    • says

      Aaron,

      Thanks for the comment and compliment Aaron. Yes, there are a lot of “consultants” out there just building and managing social media accounts for clients, and some I’m sure are doing quite well. As long as clients keep hiring them, they will continue to get business. However, there are others involved in social media consulting that are doing something which I would call more traditional business consulting, similar to how we understand sales consulting, marketing consulting, HR consulting, etc. I believe there is a role for social media consultants to be helping businesses out through education and strategy, and that was the main message of my blog post.

  2. Anonymous says

    Neal, it’s great to see this topic hoisted and thanks for your insights (and digging up those great links; definitely keepers for future posts and reference). This reminds me of the early to mid-1980s, when we were the office “tech wizards” — the early adopters of PC technology. And let’s be clear, we were marketers, not IT people. We ripped the IBM Selectrics and the beige Steelcase towers out of a skeptical, resistant corporate world and replaced them with cool, powerful tools. Today I guess we would be called gurus. It’s hard to blame the skeptics, especially when people tout adjective-laden expertise in a field that is barely a few years old. Even the respected (revered?) Peter Shankman, who rubs shoulders in rarified airs with the global corporate elite, complains today that the smartest of the smart in the Fortune 100 don’t quite “get it” yet (http://bit.ly/asOgq3). But they will, eventually. So we’re not quite exactly there yet. And if past is a predictor, we won’t have influencers and gurus and hopefully, excuse me, no more “wonks.” We will have cool and far more powerful options — and lots of new tools that exceed the musings of even the most astute of prognosticators. But the business at hand will be the same — helping clients and companies expand market presence and achieve great business success.

    P.S. Unfortunately I can’t tell my mom about anything that I do because she has never used a computer and only knows that the Internet is something you get with HBO.

    • says

      Hey Joel,

      Thanks for the comment! Yes, I thought it was time to talk openly about this topic and, you are right, with every new technical revolution there have been “experts” that have been ahead of the curve until everyone catches up. The differences with the past and social media is that it doesn’t require much technical knowledge to post updates, photos, and videos on the various social media sites. But at the end of the day, everything that any business, and thus consultant does with social media, has to be attached to a business objective. It’s not just about having a “Twitter Strategy” but a holistic approach to seeing where social media can fit into any aspect of a corporate organization.

      P.S. My mom still cuts recipes out of the newspaper and files them in index card boxes ;-) #oldschool

  3. says

    Neal, I very much agree. It is amazing to see how many “experts” there are – can we say coming out of the woodwork? And there are many social media consultants without much of a business background. Social media is a great thing and can be a great part of a good marketing program but it must be strategic. Great post again! And I will share.

  4. says

    Love it. Agree!! Once companies and people in general get a common knowledge of what social media is, that is when they can distinguish between legit consultants and titled consultants.

  5. says

    Hi Neal,

    You wrote: “While there is a social media strategy created, it is a mere subset of their entire organization-wide strategy. And it is a consultative process, because no strategy can be created without understanding more about each particular company and their products, industry, competition, history, culture, corporate strategy et. al.”

    That’s the golden nugget from your article. The medium is not the message. You don’t jump into Facebook just because “it’s the new thing and everybody is doing it” but rather because it allows you to achieve your company objectives better. Facebook marketing is not for everybody. (*Gasp* did he just say that a company may survive without a Facebook page!?!? Yes, actually if you have Twitter account you might not even need a Facebook Page at all!).

    I agree with you that first define your objectives, allocate resources, define how are you going to keep track of how close/far are you from your objectives…and then decide what social media tool to use. Not the other way around.

    Cheers,

    Damian

    • says

      Thanks Damian, I really appreciate the thought that went into your creating your comment, which is like an extended ReTweet that added a lot of extra content and value to the blog post. Thank you! I really think that the only way to approach social media is through a rational way like I have suggested. Glad to see that you agreed!

  6. says

    Neil your post was very true and honest with things. A lot of companies don’t have the time to understand the logic of implementing social media within there companies. So, it takes a real strategist to assist them in understanding the importance of that matter. A lot of people are on social media so to not tap into that specific marketing method would be foolish on any company.

    • says

      Glad you enjoyed the post Justice. Yes, instead of just implementing social media for the sake of implementing social media, companies need to first strategize on why they are using social media for what objective to begin with. Someone who understands business as well as social media from a holistic perspective is their best bet in hiring a social media consultant.

  7. says

    I completely agree Neil, so many businesses still don’t understand the benefits of social media which is a shame. However, everything is rejected at first before it starts to become accepted, right? :)

    One thing that I had trouble with initially was truly showing value to the clients that I ended up working with. They told me they had already paid $5,000-$10,000 for a “social media consultant” who ended up pretty much screwing them with an overpriced plan that didn’t turn into any new prospects for their business.

    I agree that as a “consultant” you need to understand how the business could possibly utilize social media prior to being hired. I personally have turned down a few potential clients because I didn’t feel comfortable working with their business because I couldn’t put together a social media plan that I felt would truly benefit their business. It really is all about the business owner and how social media can help them.

    Props for giving us a good name man!

    • says

      Thanks for the thanks Chris ;-) Yes, there are many “social media consultants” who will take the money and provide a plan. But I am finding that the education is equally important as the plan, and that there is a need to provide a considerable amount of time hand-holding each customer while the plan is being developed. If you are going to a company that has already had an unfortunate experience with a consultant, it may be hard to sell them on your services…unfortunately, as long as companies have no expectations nor objectives in hiring a social media consultant, it will be hard for them to get value out of it. A good social media consultant will actually “consult” with their customers and find out how they can be using social media to begin with!

      I feel that social media can help any and every business. There is no more cost-effective way in being able to reach out to your potential customers, maintain the loyalty of your present customers, and find out about what your competition is doing as well as industry trends than social media.

      As for being choosy about customers, this is a strategic decision that every businessperson needs to decide on.

      Thanks for stopping by and hope to see you again here soon!

      • says

        my pleasure Neal, I appreciated learning a lesson from ya! I definitely agree with you about it being one of the most cost-effective ways to reach potential customers.

        One thing that I’ve been working on is tracking my ROI for these customers, do you focus more on ROI or ROE (return on engagement) when first consulting with these businesses?

        • says

          Chris, in business, it’s either about increasing sales or decreasing costs. I believe that any investment has to take this into account. Therefore, I always tell my customers that they can achieve ROI through utilizing social media in a number of ways. I really don’t like the term ROE as I understand that companies are not going to blindly throw money at social media without any ways of measuring how effective their investment will be.

  8. says

    Hey Neal,

    Just wanted to drop you a line real quick and let you know what a great post this was. I couldn’t agree more. Our hearts have always been in the right place- and we have had a similar outlook on things since that sunny day in Carlsbad when we met for coffee where we began to embark on the social media for business journey (I remember it like it was yesterday). Who would of thought our influence would grow (especially yours :) and continue to be the “GPS” for many other up and coming business consultants. Not to mention all the FREE advice we’ve given for businesses trying to navigate through the social media ocean. One thing is for certain- when businesses are ready to “invest” in social media- we will be there to give them results. Cheers

    • says

      Hey Justin,

      Thank you so much for your note…yes, I remember that day very clearly as well. Social media consultants get a bad wrap, but I wanted to point out to the world that there is value in what a real consultant of our caliber can provide. We definitely need to get together again soon and compare notes!!!!

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