Own a Small Business? Be wary of Social Media “Experts”

 

I just have to get this off my chest. It’s seems that at least once or twice a month I hear that so-and-so has decided to open their own business as a Social Media “Expert.”  Ugh.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, asserts in his book that in order to become an expert or a professional in any field – be it sports or business – you must study or practice for at least 10,000 hours.  Say it with me – 10,000 hours.

10,000 hours = 417 days.  Whole days.  Like 24 hours straight times 417 days.

Do me a favor?  The next time someone approaches you, a small business owner, and tells you that they are a social media “expert,” ask them how long they’ve had their Twitter account.  Ask them how long they’ve had a Facebook Business Page.

Yah, I thought so.

Here’s the thing – as a small business owner – I get that your time is incredibly valuable.  I also know that money is probably tight.  The lack of money and time makes it real tempting to consider turning over the reigns of your Facebook page and Twitter account to a so-called expert who can do it for you.  I get it.

Here’s why you shouldn’t do it:

1.) Your customers want to hear from you.  Period.  End of story.  They want to know they are chatting with the owner of the company when Tweeting or posting on Facebook.  It matters.

2.) If you feel like you don’t know what you are doing or you don’t know how to do it well, there are resources out there to help you.  Many Chamber of Commerce groups and networking organizations run social media marketing seminars – often for free or at a low cost.  (My friend, Ann Evanston, runs an amazing course that walks you through the entire process of Social Media Marketing.  Great resource.) 

3.) While I’m not dissing the entire field of social media marketing “experts,” I have personally experienced this at a small business level:

Many have had limited success with their own business and their social media marketing.  These experts may have done some social media marketing well for their last boss or their business, but it doesn’t mean that their techniques will work for you.  Many of these people often run two or three businesses at a time (like MLM type things) hoping that one of these endeavors will succeed.  I believe your time and money is too valuable to hand it over to someone who is experimenting with a second career.   If they don’t do this full-time, run!

And, a note to those who call themselves “experts,” check and see what your potential new clients’ Facebook and Twitter accounts look like.  I triple pinky-swear to you about this – every single person I’ve met with who claims they are a a social media expert and that they could help our business never, ever checked our Twitter or FB acct.  I’m serious.  I asked each and everyone if they had and they’d sputter and say “no,” but I will after this.  Guess what?  Our Facebook page was noted by Inc. Magazine as one of “20 Awesome Facebook Fan Pages,” alongside national brands.  Shouldn’t they know that ahead of time?

So, even after reading this, and you are thinking about working with someone to amp up or start up your social media marketing, please ask the following questions:

1.)  What makes you an “expert?”  Why should I work with you rather than doing it on my own?

2.) What other forms of social media do you think I should be on with this business?  YoutubePinterest?  Why?

3.) Check their references! Talk to previous clients (and make sure they aren’t friends) to see if they are happy with their results.

4.) Cyber-stalk them for a while.  Follow their Twitter account.  Watch their activity on Facebook.  Do you like what they are doing?  How they handle themselves?  Can you see this person representing your business?

5.)  If you do decide to work with someone, put together a contract with clear expectations about what will be posted, when, where and how.  Do this for a limited time so you can measure your results.

Are you a small business owner? Do you have other tips you’d like to share about working with Social Media experts?  Have you successfully done it yourself?  If so, share with us so we can support you!

* This is a sponsored post, brought to you by Pro Dunk Hoops.  Pro Dunk Hoops, a very professional and experienced company, creates and installs bad-ass basketball goal systems.  My husband recently started coaching our son and his yet-to-be-named basketball team.  Boy, could we use one of these Pro Dunk Hoops at our house for practiceLarry Bird has nothing on our kid!

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  8. I am a marketing consultant and my specialty is public relations. When it comes to social media, I farm it out to a specialist, much like I would do with graphic design. I am glad you wrote this piece. It needs to be said. But, most business owners are not equipped or do not want to spend the time managing their social media marketing. There are valid and credible people out there who a good job. You do have to do the leg work to find them. Thanks!

  9. Samantha Kuhr says:

    Great post Debbie! I agree with it for the most part, and realize that customers love to interact with the actual business owners, however if social media is working well, the company is growing and the business owner has less and less time to keep up those relationships. All great problems to have in this economy. Hence the need for a Social Media Manager.

    That said, the business owner needs to not underestimate the power of that first connection and contact with a company, and needs to be sure that they are being represented well. The communication needs to be delivered with authenticity, honesty and believability to succeed. The Social Media Manger must FULLY understand the mission of the company, marketing goals, direction and almost be able to climb into the mind of the owner.

    When this is done well, the owner and Social Media Manager can tag-team on comments and posts almost seamlessly.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that small businesses need look out for hack’s, ask themselves if they feel comfortable with this person representing them and trust their instincts! There are some great ‘Social Media Experts’ out there if you know what to look for!

    Have a great weekend!

  10. Michael says:

    Great post. So-called coaches are churning out so-called gurus at a nauseating pace. Most don’t even know or care about the fundamentals of marketing, and couldn’t care less about authentic audience engagement and the relationship.

  11. Carolyn says:

    LOVE THIS and SO TRUE…. if someone claims they can sell your ‘high end’ packages only via social media and webisodes on vokle… they are NOT TELLING THE TRUTH…ask me I’ll tell you who NOT to hire!

    :) Thanks for the great article!

  12. Caryn B says:

    Expert would imply extensive knowledge and skill along with a proven track record. I’m not a small business owner but your tips are valuable and definitely ones that can be generalized to other aspects of social media. Great post!

  13. Alexis Grace says:

    My actual day job is as a social media director for a international company…. but even I know there is so much more to learn! I am constantly going to conferences, taking classes, etc. to hone my knowledge. I don’t do much outside consulting (small jobs usually for friends etc….), but even I am careful not to use the word “expert”…..

    My personal blog is truly a labor of love. I work on it in a much more grass roots fashion and do it with a different set of goals than I do with my company’s sm platforms….

  14. sandyabrams says:

    Great comments from all…there are so many “life coaches” & social media experts these days and everyone is bringing some biz & life experience to the table with those titles, but it may not be enough to be recognized as an expert.

    I also believe that outsourcing social media can be complicated and as noted above, the real feel & culture of the insiders within a company is then lost in translation to a hired tweeter. I’m for quality over quantity with social media.
    We can’t be everywhere with amazing content, making incredible connections 24/7/365. But we can slowly build relationships by being present on platforms that we are comfortable being authentic on.

    Now, we’re seeing lawsuits by companies arguing over who owns the twitter account when someone is let go from a company. Is it the tweeter who used to work for the company or the company? It’s unchartered territory, we are all in on ground level, which is exciting to me as an entrepreneur…There are still many people that haven’t hopped onto other platforms besides FB.

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Twitter and just now getting into FB, but I do take it all with a grain of salt as to what I’m gaining in terms of biz ROI. I’m learning more & more everyday and am grateful that I have the time to connect with people and build a community that I’ve come to value and trust…that’s something that can’t be outsourced.

  15. Bibi says:

    Great post! I think everyone having small business and thinking about social media exposure should read this….especially since every teenager and 20-something that opens a twitter account or starts “business” page calls himself/herself SOCIAL MEDIA GURU. I get so annoyed when I watch TV and they pop up on certain shows mostly reality and under their name instead of real job title or profession says “social media guru”…..not even an expert anymore….they are now gurus.

    I am a firm believer on keeping personal touch when owning a small business.

  16. Great list of questions! I agree that people shouldn’t automatically call themselves experts. I know I’m an expert in my technical field of over 15 years and still don’t call myself one. Thank you for bringing attention to this. Hopefully Small Business owners will heed the warning.

  17. I earn my living as a marketing strategist and consultant. But I am very uncomfortable calling myself a social media expert. Not because I don’t think I deserve the title or have the skills. I’ve been working in direct marketing since I was a teen and working on online campaigns since companies first started hanging out a web shingle. I’ve been on Twitter & Facebook far too much since 2007. I shudder to count those hours. I’m confident in my expert-hood. But I loathe the title for the same reasons I cringe about being called a mommy blogger.

    It’s an oft misused one size fits all label that does little to describe the things that I do. It doesn’t really descibe anything, does it?

    The campaigns I work on are usually corporate and specific but on occasion I work with small business. When I meet with a client the very first thing I do is sit down and discuss their goals. It doesn’t matter how many social media accounts you have, or what kind of network you’ve got, if you are not using them to accomplish anything. As you know, there is so much you *can* accomplish with social media. But first you need a goal, second a plan, third a reasonable way to execute and follow up. The bad “experts” skip the goal setting and play slight of hand games when it comes time to execute, leaving you writing a big check for something you can only scratch your head about. Like a pretty Twitter background.

    Also… unfortunately many small biz owners have a dual fear/distrust of social media (with or without the bogus experts) that pretty much damns them before they begin. They don’t want to spend time learning a new skillset (especially without a goal in mind and an idea of the ROI) and they don’t want to just hire someone else outside the company to do it. Probably wise. There’s only so far you can get with an “expert” at the helm being you. Finding someone to be your company voice is not as simple as getting your nephew the intern to tweet for you.

    I believe the role of a social media expert consultant is to provide guidance and training along with some basic technical assistance to help you ramp up. But sorry to say this – if you want real results, you will need to hire an in house community manager. Only someone in house will know and understand your company culture and be able to tweet/facebook/post confidently with your voice. And you will need to hit the books and learn enough about what they are doing to recognize a job well done.

    So should you hire an expert? Sure. But with eyes open. Hire a consultant to set you up, bring you to speed skillwise and establish goals, and then find the community manager.

    PS: Other considerations when working with a consultant and goal setting are your plans to integrate your social media efforts with your other traditional marketing & PR efforts (how will you cross pollinate and remain consistent?) and whether you are using your social media to build a list and how that is/will be managed. Of course customer contact management is a whole other ball of charlatan riddled wax.

    Anyway, had to pipe up. I agree completely with your sentiment as a small biz owner and rational thinker. But I also hate to see a group lumped like this.

  18. I got a very valuable piece of information and that is the 10000 hours. I believe I’m even harsher in my assessments. I want to know years of experience and I prefer 5 or more in the arena. But what about those that are calling themselves experts not to do your pages for you but want to teach how to do things yourself? Don’t you think they should also have 10000 hours of doing this as well?

    Julieanne Case
    Always from the heart!

    Reconnecting you to your Original Blueprint, Your Essence, Your Joy| Healing you from the Inside Out |Reconnective Healing | The Reconnection| AgeLoc Skin Care | Pharmanex Supplements

    http://thereconnectivehighway.com

  19. Jamie says:

    Thank you for the awesome warning!!! Wow, I would have never thought of that..

  20. I’ve been doing things for many years in the computer industry and I’m still hesitant to say I’m an expert! :D I agree that credible references and portfolios are key.

    • mbmomma says:

      Hi Michael – Thank you for commenting! I bet you are much closer to being an “expert” than many of these people I have met with!
      Have a great weekend!
      Debbie

  21. Debbie- Great post. For me, the conflict is always the balance to finding someone to take over an aspect of your business that would be better done by someone else, and the need to understand that part of the business to make yourself a better business person. But that being said, once you have a basic understanding of what is going on, and once you decide to delegate to another person, as you said, you HAVE to be confident that that person will be doing the best for your company. The only way you can do that is to do the research and find that person who will fit and who actually knows what they are doing!

    Candace Davenport
    http://www.ourlittlebooks.com ~ Little Books with a Big Message

  22. Amelia says:

    I definitely agree with you about doing heavy research on anyone you’d hire to help build or maintain any of your social media outlets. If their’s sucks, why would yours be any better after you work with them?

    One thing to consider though, when talking about “doing it yourself” (which by the way, I do) – is how your own time is best spent. If you are an expert in your field, why should you waste precious time that you could be spending on the “meat” of your business, just for the sake of inefficiently learning how to publicize yourself? It’s easy to blow a whole day learning one or two things about social media, and not accomplish anything related to your actual business. So having some help can in fact be helpful.

    • mbmomma says:

      Hi Amelia – Thank you for your thoughtful reply!

      I just visited a local social media maven’s website – it’s the worst piece of shit I have seen in a LONG time! I am amazed that she has the high-level clients that she does…

      I also agree that you need to pick and choose (very carefully) where you spend your time within your small business. For me, it’s a struggle to pull myself out of the muck of daily administrative work. We have hired an amazing assistant and more and more work is landing on her plate. And she’s thrilled to have a job – so this works well!

      Again, thank you for your comment!
      Debbie

  23. Rachel says:

    marvelous insight — I recently chatted with someone who hired an ‘expert’ and that so-called ‘expert’ did not know the TOS and the client had to walk them through it…..
    I think we are often fooled that we need an expert when the ability to learn and teach ourselves is right in front of us.

    • mbmomma says:

      Hi Rachel – Wow, that’s amazing!

      You make a great point – social media isn’t that difficult. It’s not difficult to teach yourself!

      Have a fantastic weekend!
      Debbie

  24. Isn’t it all smoke and mirrors anyway? We’re all “experts” in our own heads. With that being said, I’d love for a small business to contact me, I’m an expert at being a jackass. ;-P

  25. Ann Evanston says:

    Thank you Debbie for this awesome post, and reality of the biz I am in! And the positive shout out! I LOVE the 10,000 hours thought! Recently talking with one of my partners Michael Clark about shady experts not even understanding basic TOS on these sites! Ok I rant- lol! love ya for this- thank you!

    Ann Evanston
    Discover your REAL Edge!

  26. Jamie says:

    This is GREAT information. Kudos to you. Each day as I learn more and more about social media, and I see the tactics and potential that is out there, I realize there is a true science to it.

    And as I talk to more and more bloggers, I’ve learned more and more about techniques and how to market oneself. It is also a science.

    I like the points about how readers WANT to hear from you, the person. We, as people, are curious, we want to know more about the person behind the business, the product, the blog, etc. The more we know, the more we feel we can connect.

    Good read this beautiful Friday AM =)

    • mbmomma says:

      HI Jamie – Thank you for your thoughtful response to my post!

      I firmly believe that customers would rather hear from the owners of the company you are dealing with instead of an outsider.

      Have a great weekend!
      Debbie

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