A Social Media Sucker: How Not to Be One

I’ve noticed an interesting advancement in the evolution of Social Media Marketing lately. When I started consulting businesses on Social Media Marketing about 4 years ago, there was really no title for what I was doing. Then the terms Social Media Manager and Social Media Strategist and the ridiculous “Social Media Guru” started to pop up everywhere from popular search queries to classified ads.  My job had evolved from explaining to businesses WHAT social media was, to explaining to them HOW to use it effectively.

With this evolution also came one more title, the Social Media Salesman. And with that new creature was born the Social Media Sucker.   The Salesperson preys on the ignorance of the Sucker, it’s an age old dance. The poor business owner doesn’t understand Social Media Marketing enough to see that the Salesman’s offer of 3 canned Facebook updates and 5 Twitter posts a week will mean very little to his business, if anything at all.

The new clients coming to me now are the ones who followed the Salesman’s pitch into a company that was churning out canned messages for all its clients. (I like to call them Twitter mills.) Placing 50 clients in the lap of a recent college grad and not caring whether the message is relevant to the client’s business or not. Posting a quote here, a “how’s the weather?” there, maybe a cutesy question once a week, and that is what they call a Social Media campaign.

One former Salesman who recently left his Twitter mill employer, said they would sell the same level of service from $250 to $2500. It all depended on where they could get the business to bite.  After hearing this and from new clients who had been led down this path, I felt the need to arm you with some tips on how not to fall prey to the social media sales pitch.

  1. Pay attention to how much the company wants to know about your business. When I talk with a prospective client, my main goal is to find out about their target market, their products or services, their resources for providing us with sharable content. If the company you meet with has a pre-packaged service that they are trying to sell you, they are not planning to tailor anything to truly fit your business.
  2. Ask the salesman where he sees your company being most successful in Social Media? If Twitter and Facebook is all they preach without a mention of blogging or video or if they never bring up LinkedIn and you are a B to B company tell them to hit the bricks.
  3. Ask the salesman how his company integrates social media with the other forms of marketing your company does? Do they also offer email marketing and consult on how to market your social media offline? Social media should be part of a holistic marketing effort and a company worth their salt knows this.
  4. Ask the salesman “besides messaging 3 times on Facebook and 5 times on Twitter” what else will you be doing with social media for my company?  A legitimate social media marketing company will be monitoring mentions of your competition, your team, keywords that your prospective clients might use. They will be seeking out relevant individuals for your company to follow and interact with. They may suggest training for staff or set up of a method of communication through key staff to assist in the flow of content.
  5. Ask for references and call them. Ask the references if they feel their social media campaigns are representing them the way they had hoped.  Does the company work to come up with relevant, shareable content for their business?  Have they come up with creative suggestions for building a following? Are they responsive when called?
  6. Look at the social media accounts of the references. Compare several clients. Is the messaging all the same? Is there any engagement on the page?
  7. Look at the social media presence of the company you are considering hiring. Are they practicing what they preach?  Do they have a substantial following that they can use to help your following grow?
  8. And finally, businesses need to realize that $300 per month for social media management will not buy you much more than 3 canned Facebook updates and 5 Twitter posts.  Quality social media messaging and engagement is time consuming, especially if the business is not helping to create content. We try very hard to get our clients involved in supplying content. It cuts down on the hours we have to spend on finding relevant, creative content and of course, it’s far more authentic. We are also very honest with prospective clients and will tell them if we think a presence on Facebook is a waste of time or with their limited resources, they should be concentrating on the one platform where they will really be able to generate leads.  Everything is always tailored to the individual client. I don’t know any other way quite frankly.

I was once called a “Social Media Purist” during a conversation with another social media consultant. I have to say, I’ll take that title any day. To me, that’s a compliment. I personally know the lasting value of an authentic social media program. I used social media to start and grow my own business in 1998 and developed lasting relationships with many influencers who have proven invaluable to me over and over in my career. I created an email group that lasted for 13 years, a private social media group on Ning that has over 1000 members and is still growing and thriving under new ownership. My blog receives over 20,000 visits per month and through social media I have recruited a team of over 30 contributors to that blog. My company’s twitter account was started in 2008 and grew slowly and organically to a very responsive community of over 6000 followers. I use LinkedIn primarily to market my social media consulting and Facebook and Twitter to market my food blog. I’ve learned over the years, that this works best for my two businesses.

So, social media salespeople, beware. The social media sucker is getting wise. Hopefully this article has helped. What other advice would you give to the business in search of a social media marketing firm?



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