10 Questions to Evaluate a Social Media ‘Expert’

by Mark Hess

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by ian lurie

If you know more than 5 people, chances are you now know someone who declares themselves a social media expert. How can you tell if someone’s claim of expertise is legit? Here’s my quick quiz. Ask each question and take the appropriate action:

1: Do you have a blog?

If the expert answers ‘no’, that may be OK. Follow up with something like ‘Oh, you’re using Posterous instead?’. If they look at you blankly, end the meeting there. No sense wasting your time.

If the expert answers ‘yes’, get the address and go look. If they’ve been blogging for less than 2-3 years, and there’s no explanation like “I had to move my blog”, again, end the meeting.

Any social media expert has been somehow participating in the conversation for a long time.

2: When did you start in social media?

“6 months ago”. Yeah. OK. Bye.

“2 years ago”. Hey, not bad. Worth a chat.

“In 1992″. Er. Um. They’d better be referencing BBSes and Usenet.

3: What is social media?

“Blogging and Twitter and stuff”. Excuse yourself for a bathroom break and don’t come back.

“All of the conversations going on between people and people and businesses and such online”. Not bad.

“A trendy term to describe a new kind of mass media”. Totally acceptable.

4: What’s a social media campaign?

“Voting something to the front page of Digg using my proxy server and 35 computers”. Flee the scene, and get to a minimum safe distance as soon as possible. The Digg brigade may be on its way. Whatever you do, don’t hire them. While this is a valid tactic (I guess), it’s not a campaign. Nor does it generate long term results in most cases.

“Developing a great message and then reaching out to people, while giving them an incentive to ‘pass it on’”. Yeah, OK, keep ‘em around.

“I have this great software that will put a link to your site on 21,000 forums and 10,000 blogs…”. Push them down the garbage chute. Don’t be seen with them in public.

5: How do you monitor social media for a client?

“Huh?” Hopefully your next step is obvious.

“Google alerts”. Not bad, but wait and see if they add in stuff like subscribing to Twitter searches and the like.

“I use a 3rd party tool”. Fine, but make sure they do more than plug in some keywords and wait for e-mails. A human being needs to review what the tool reports or its worthless.

6: How do you measure ROI?

“Oh, shut up”. Perfectly OK, especially if the expert turns purple for a moment first. They’re just sick of hearing this question, which means they’ve been around the block a few times.

“It’s complicated, but here’s a high-level view…”. Nice!!!

“I track clicks from Twitter”. Nope, sorry.

7: How do you build an audience?

“I auto-follow 20,000 people on Twitter”. If you’re OK with it, kick them in the groin for me. If not, nod politely and move on.

“I follow interesting, relevant people on Twitter, comment on relevant blog posts and try to get into the conversation”. Home run. Try not to weep with joy.

“We need to figure out the campaign first”. Good answer. Give them a hypothetical campaign to be sure, but clearly you’re on the right track.

8: Do you offer a guarantee?

“Yes, I’ll get you 1000 links and 20,000 clicks”. See number 7, first action.

“Yes, that I’ll work my butt off for you”. I like it.

“No, because we’re marketing to people, and it’s hard to say what they’ll like/not like, or what might happen in the world that will affect behavior”. Also good.

9: How did you learn all this stuff?

“Oh, I read this book I bought from Amazon.com”. Wargh. By the time that book went to print it was out of date. No go.

“I’m always learning”. Good answer.

“I read a lot of blogs, and try to use as many different tools as I can”. Also good.

“I go to conferences”. Yeahhhhhh. Might be OK. Answers to the other 9 questions should tell you.

10: How does social media impact SEO?

“It doesn’t”. Slap them and tell ‘em that’s from Ian.

“It builds links”. That’s half the answer.

“It builds relationships that turn into links later”. HIRE THEM NOW.

Bonus question: How often do you write?

“I hate writing”. Cough.

“Oh, I try to but I don’t have much time”. Cough. Cough.

“Every day”. DING DING DING. A winner!

There you go. An instant social media expert evaluator. Sort of like a Cylon Detector, but hopefully more effective.

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