Client Assumptions Regarding Social Media

As a social media strategy consultant I speak to a variety of clients, all interested in developing effective strategies for their businesses. Unfortunately, many have their own preconceptions about the practice – how SM should function and who should manage it for their companies. Some of the patterns I have noticed recently, include:

  • Companies without a structured marketing plan in place, feel that social media can fulfill all of their marketing needs.

WRONG – Unless you are dealing with a small or one-person business, with no other choice than guerilla marketing, social media strategizing needs to be developed and utilized as just one piece of a client’s overall marketing plan, not the end all and be all.

  • Some companies assume that social media marketing is just one more responsibility easily absorbed by other in-house departments.

POSSIBLY, BUT UNLIKELY — Bringing in a consultant already familiar with the platforms, research tools, analytics, competitive strategies and knowledge of current trends (Facebook’s new thumbs-up and Twitter’s new ad model, for example) adds a freshness of new ideas and knowledge for a company, helping them to get “beyond the buzz” of SM and learn more detail to help them understand what tools will be most effective for their strategy.

  • Potential clients often feel that because their younger employees already use Twitter and Facebook for leisure, that they must be more than qualified to handle their employer’s social media responsibilities.

POSSIBLY, BUT UNLIKELY — Experience is the word here, and it’s reasonable to ask what skillsets a social media consultant has. If past work includes utilizing intelligence and creativity to resolve business issues for a variety of businesses, then I would say you’re on the right track. If the resume lists online marketing experience, even better. But, don’t confuse that experience with someone whose only familiarity with the platforms is posting party photos and twitting their lunch menu to friends. This is business we’re talking about, here.

This obviously is not to say that no potential client understands social media. And as for consultant criticisms, clients often hear of consultants declaring that they are ‘Social Media Gurus.’ Well, there are social media gurus, but the majority of them write books and do speaking tours on the subject. Besides knowledge, a good social media consultant should have superior listening skills (don’t laugh) and bring a level of integrity to a project — one who explains the importance of ethics, civility and best practices as important elements of the marketing strategy.

Finally, for both client and consultant, it is important to be open, honest and patient with each other – most companies have never had this type of work done before and consultants are dealing in varied corporate cultures. Only by working together, will both sides be satisfied with the results.

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