Lately it seems as if everyone is an expert at social media. If they have a Facebook account or a Twitter account they’re automatically an expert who can solve all of your problems. The catch is, when it comes right down to it, many of these experts might be great at selling themselves on their own Twitter account which is being followed by old friends and relatives, but when it comes to being an expert in the sense that you would want to hire them to manage their online presence their skills tend to fall very short.
So how do you know if your local expert is all they claim to be? Here’s 5 tips that can help prove that their expertise exists far beyond their own egos.
1. They just signed up for Facebook or Twitter last week
These are the folks who claim to have been around “since the beginning.” They’ve been there and done that. When you follow-up on their own profiles however you notice that they’ve just signed up to some of the biggest names in the business. Maybe their Twitter account is only 2 weeks old or they just signed up for LinkedIn as an assignment in their last class. Regardless, if they’re not involved in the big players and haven’t had the time to learn their products then their claim to be an expert falls a little short.
Don’t get me wrong. Everyone has to get their start somewhere and the last social media person I hired didn’t even have a Twitter account. The difference however is that he never claimed to be an expert and was more that willing to start with the slate clean. When someone claims to be an expert yet has been avoiding some of the common tools of the trade they, more often than not, are not only not an expert, but are far too gone in their knowledge of just how much they don’t know.
2. They attempt to sell your company by creating a personal profile rather than a brand page
I see this all the time. XYZ restaurant wants to be my friend on Facebook or Foursquare or, well, you get the idea. Not only are these people not experts in that they aren’t familiar with the tools they’re claiming to be experts in, but their disregard for the basic terms of service of some of these networks can lead to some major headaches for the clients they attempt to represent.
There’s nothing quite like having your account deleted after you’ve spent time and money on it simply because someone just didn’t know what they were doing. In this case your expert was almost anything but.
3. Their own social profiles are full of plenty of insightful articles… by other people
One of the great benefits of all the major networks is the ability to share content created by others with your fans/friends/followers/etc. When this is all your expert does however it might be time to question their credentials. Where is the original content? What can they contribute to your customers and your community?
Composing a hundred tweets or Facebook posts a day is great if it adds value to your audience. But chances are, you are not the only brand that audience is following. If they can get all of your content from others why should they get it from you?
If your expert cannot come up with original content that applies to your business then perhaps their not really an expert at all.
4. They have the exact same friends/followers in every network they’re in
All networks are not created equal. To treat them as such misses the point of being on separate networks. On a personal level, for example, a phrase I’ve found useful is that Facebook is for those you know, and Twitter is for those you don’t (this of course doesn’t even begin to touch on LinkedIn, identi.ca, etc). While there is always some crossover, in general people tend to follow brands in groups over a given network. For example, on Facebook someone might follow their favorite authors and TV shows while on Twitter they may lean more to others from their industry or business. Over time your Facebook fans should differ from your Twitter followers which differ again from your LinkedIn members and those of every other network you participate in.
If your expert insists on treating all networks equal by posting all messages equally on each or striving to to reach everyone on every network equally they are definitely not an expert in the big picture of social networking.
5. No matter your business, they know it all
These “experts” are my favorite. They’re so caught up in their own expertise that they fail to realize how much it is they don’t know. One of the most important lessons to learn with social media is that every day brings something different. It doesn’t matter whether that something is a new network, a new feature, or an entirely new way to interact anything new requires some level of learning. Any expert that doesn’t realize they don’t know it all is they worst kind of expert of them all.
In addition, just because they know they tools doesn’t mean they know how to use them. For instance a tree trimmer might know how to tie a rope, but put him on a sail boat and he still won’t get you across the ocean. Every business and every brand is different. Making sure your expert knows about your business is often more important than making sure they know all the in and outs of social marketing.
Tools can be taught and every expert worth his or her salt will constantly learn new tools and new ways to use old tools. Your own business culture, goals, and products however may render all those tools obsolete for all but the few who can effectively utilize them in your business.