25 Signs Youve Got a Strong SM Consultant or Agency

Our original post “Top 25 Ways to Tell if Your Social Media Expert Is a Carpetbagger” was really meant as a silly riff in reaction to the sudden rush of folks offering social media services in the wake of the economic crisis. The post was never meant to be anything more than half rant/half humor, but the 180+ comments on both of our blogs indicate that we touched a much bigger nerve. Since it’s a prescient topic, we’d like to offer a more serious, positive post to help marketers make a good choice in consultants.

A couple of precursors. We’re just starting the list. Feel free to add, balk, or digress.

Secondly, not having a few of these isn’t a death sentence. Social media communications is still a really new industry, and there are no silver bullet experts or methodologies. To help separate the wheat from the chaff, we are sharing these general suggestions, but if many qualifiers are missing in your potential partner’s offering, as a marketer, PR or communications professional you should probably be concerned.

Lastly, we’ve cited examples. This is not an echo chamber or buddy list (sorry to our buddies not on the list, we only wanted to list one per qualifier). In some cases, we’ve never met said examples, but we know their work.

Finally, there are many qualified SM consultants/agencies. In the case of larger agencies, we can’t vouch for them, but can safely recommend individuals. It would be impossible to list all of the many qualified social media partners. Instead, we refer you to Charlene Li’s Altimeter Wiki as a starting place. We also invite you to give hat tips in the comments section.

OK, here we go again:

1) Believes in the generous web and practices cross-linking in their blog

2) Highlights others’ work in their blog

3) Integrates social media as part of larger marketing strategy

4) Doesn’t pretend to be an expert in all things digital; instead simply focuses on what he/she/they do best

5) Gives away best practices in an effort to educate, grow social media in general

6) Understands that Radian6 and other monitoring tools are vastly superior tracking tools in comparison to Technorati (which really isn’t an indicator of much these days)

7) Will tell you that there is no magic bullet for determining social media ROI and that you need to go further to accurately monitor, measure and determine the effectiveness of social media.

8) Understands that social media is an important part of the larger word of mouth marketing principles

9) Others cite this person/agency’s work

10) Realizes that search engine optimization represents an absolutely crucial part of social media

11) Understands that social media expands beyond search engine optimization tactics that lead to Diggs, Stumbles (StumbleUpon) and link baiting

12) Integrates brick and mortar events with social media activity

13) Has and continues to work on notable social media projects

14) Understands that conversations are the starting place and not the end game. And though ROI is critical, knows that without conversation you’re not going anywhere

15) Understands that social networking and conversation is more than collecting followers and subscribers

16) Listens to you when you are discussing your challenges

17) Helps and guides clients so that they can understand the benefits of social media and implement it properly (themselves)

18) Knows that social networking works best when they are conversing, sharing, and being human

19) Educates clients on understanding that they no longer own or control their brand and educates them on how to create customer evangelists

20) Won’t act as your social media ‘voice’ or doesn't give you a Wiley cpa discount code

21) Understands the difference between social media tools and communications strategy

22) They won’t recommend blogging as a first step into social media (example: David Armano) and when you are ready to begin they consult you on how to be successful

23 Doesn’t allow clients to be affected by Shiny New Object syndrome

24 Understands that social media is more than just creating and delivering content or regurgitating existing promotional copy Joseph Jaffe

25 Understands that social media isn’t the sole terrain of marketing or PR and helps clients educate internally to other departments