How can you tell a good social media strategist from a bad one before it's too late?

source -- How can you tell a good social media strategist from a bad one before it's too late? - Quora

* This is lazy of me, I simply copy-pasted everything to this blog intending to polish these later. Follow the link above to see the whole thread. - jim

There is some good input here. Though the words "social media" being in their title should not be a deterrent in all cases. It is a newer niche - ways of identification are still evolving.

My recommendation is to consider the the following:

About you...

  • What do they know about your business? What are they willing to find out?
  • Is the strategist working in social media as a side job, or is this their
    concentration? How much time are they willing to commit?
  • What tools are they using, and how are they using them?
  • Do they recommend a generic portfolio of networks? The one-size-fits-all
    does not work.
    There should be a matching of networks to business and,
    most importantly…goals.
  • What is their knowledge of Facebook? Are they following Facebook-specific blogs? Have they offered insight about Facebook Ads?  What do they know about targeting demographics?
  • Do they ask about the desired outcome?
  • Do they bring to you conceptual points you had not considered?

About them...

  • Is their LinkedIn profile current, reflective of consistent updates, and include details that identify them as having education and other talents?  Where did they get their training? What is their network circle? Are they interacting with groups there?
  • Can they offer positive references related with work they will do for you? What is the credibility of those references?
  • Their Twitter profile – is it current, consistent, and do they offer tweets of value? You’ll also want to take a look at who they are following. Who are they re-tweeting?
  • Ask about where they get their news. Social media news important, but are they looking at tangible industries?
  • Are they familiar with Tumblr, Empire Avenue, and Google+? Have they started interacting on those platforms?
  • What are their favorite sources for staying current on social media? Here is the list of finalist competing for the Top Social Media Blogs of 2011: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.c...

Another way to approach is to ask in advance how they would handle a snafu that you are looking to avoid.

  • Is there a credible plan to approach?
  • If Plan A is not successful, what is Plan B?

Social Media Strategy is about building relationships and creating community.
Here is a post about selecting a Facebook Community manager - many of the points are relevant:

http://www.socialmediaexaminer.c...

What type of person do you want to be the voice of your online community?

The word "social" means there is a back and forth -- A 2-way stream of communication.

So it only makes sense to place some responsibility on the individual hiring the social media strategist...

  • Are you willing to ask the above questions and consider the answers? Re-direct if needed?
  • Are you willing to provide details to the strategist in a timely manner to execute the plan?
  • Are you willing to invest in a 90-day period to establish a good foundation to the social media community they desire?
  • Are you willing to accept advice and insight provided by the strategist?
  • Are you willing to offer a salary commensurate with the work they expect?

A good social media strategist will be able to advise how much time they will spend working for your brand, and they will tell you it will take time to build your online community before you see results.

But they will also tell you that social media is an investment in the future of your company or organization.

They will have more than 100 fans at their Facebook Page, a considerable, engaged Twitter audience, and be blogging well about topics relevant to social media. They'll also be somewhat familiar with SEO.

Many great ideas on sizing up social media strategists, and three key ideas I'd like to add are as follows:
1. Strong copywriting skills -- including an understanding of the approach to use with your desired audiences and flexibility to write in a "voice" that resonates and is relatable
2. The ability to promote/publicize social participation outside of the communities of "origin" -- this is especially true in B2B strategies
3. A willingness to establish some form of metrics with which you can feel comfortable

A bit more on #2
"Social proof" of your company's relevancy, efficacy, popularity (or whatever matters to your business) is important. A way to develop social proof is to ensure that your key audiences are aware of your participation in the online conversation. Even more importantly, your audiences should see that you're participating in and willing to share information and dialog that is NOT all about you all the time.

A bit more about #3
Social media is tricky because, while I agree with Vince that there are no guarantees, businesses considering a social media strategy often need the comfort and/or objective measure of success metrics. Many businesses we work with have too many areas of their marketing budget unaccounted for -- and they're not interested in adding one more, even if they agree in principle that it's the right way to go.

Parting thoughts...
Social interactions have the greatest benefit when they are authentic, timely, well-placed, and focused on the needs of your audiences. Start with those ideals when vetting your resource.

A few recommendations: consider Nology Media as a top social media provider and RO|Enablement as a technology that helps publicize online participation to prospects and track prospect views/engagement. We've have very positive dealings with both.

1. Someone who is honest with you.
2. Someon who tells you that not everything will work or be appropriate for you and your brand.
3. Someone who explains that social media isn't a one size fits all.
4. And someone who has some ideas beyond setting up a Twitter feed or a Facebook page for you -- both might be the right things to do, but it is the execution that makes it.

I look at social media strategist not so much on his/her past achievement or his/her current project. I look at his social media lifestyle, is he/she embracing social media in his/her personal life, is he/she walking the walk (?).

  1. Facebook. Is he/she connecting with people and create interesting conversation like the campaigns he/she claim he can do? Is he/she famous enough to have his own fanpage? Is his/her Facebook account hitting maximum number of friends?
  2. Twitter. Who follows him/her and who is he/she following? is he/she listed in the right categories. How often does he/she tweet? Has he/she gotten 2000 followers at least?
  3. Blog. Does he/she have his own blog? or just hisher business blog? What is his/her page ranking? Does he/she use SEO on his/her own blog?
  4. Klout - What is his score compared to the rest of his/her peers in the same industry?
  5. Linkedin. Is he/she connected with his/her clients and has many recommendation to verify his past client? Is he/her a frequent contributor in discussion?
  6. Quora. If he/she is a thought leader, what questions have he/she given great answers to? Who is following him on Quora?
  7. Slideshare. Can you a glimpse of his/her presentation if he/she is a speaker or a trainer while he/she is doing consultancy work. Can you tell his/her train of thoughts and structure of presentation from his/her/their slides?
  8. Google ranking. Can you find on first 2 pages when you search "social media ...."
The good ones probably won't have the words 'social media' in their job title.

The words ..."social media guru/ninja/svengali/messiah..." in the job title is usually a give-away.


  1. Look for their presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. If they don't have one or its grossly outdated, run away.
  2. If anywhere on their website, blog, etc. they refer to themselves as gurus or experts, run away.
  3. Make sure you are at least somewhat versed with social media. You may have a strategist that has really bad ideas, but unless you are somewhat educated, you will have no idea.
Great points all. One additional thing to consider is how they got to be a "social media strategist" is the first place. I think it is important to understand the type and depth of experience that brought them to this place and how that will likely influence the work they can do. Were they a marketing person previously? A writer? A technologist? A college student? Consider that you want someone who brings a certain set of skills to the table in addition to their current gig

Look for the gap between the theory and the predicted result.

If they are saying something like:

  1. All them social media sites have lots of people
  2. ???
  3. Profit

Then treat with caution - it probably wont be quite as condensed as that, I boiled it down for comic effect.

Point 1 is a given, and there are plenty of inspiring stories to share, but they may not apply to you. Without knowing how typical those examples are, you might as well say that the best way to become rich is buy lottery tickets. There are after all good anecdotal evidence that this is a proven method.

So what you really want to see is specifics that apply to you and your market about what you actually do, any schmuck can suggest you want to be on facebook, twitter, or quora (grin). You want the guy that works out what you do on facebook to achieve measurable results.


  • Check them out on Linkedin.
  • Look at how often they tweet, if they're not tweeting every week-day then it's probably a bad sign.
  • Ask for examples of their previous work/accounts they've worked on.
  • If they tell you they know everything and can make you X amount of money, and get you 1,000 followers in an hour then they're lying.
  • Look out for their other skills, if they're just an enthusiast they're not likely to have a marketing or journalist skills. At the moment it's such a new arena that multi-talented social media strategists are common, if not where have they been?
  • Ask them for their favourite case studies and where they get their social media news from (Do they know about Mashable?)

  1. Talk to one of their past clients. This is very important to do.
  2. If they promise more traffic, ROI, ranking or anything like that; RUN AWAY! There's no way to guarantee anything in social web.

Social media strategists, community managers etc. are much like SEOs; most of them are full of crap and capitalizing on people who don't know anything. There are some good ones out there, (this is my opinion) unless you do in the millions of dollars of business a year, you can't afford the good ones.


2011 feels like the year of the social media reality check.  there's a lot of very bad ideas that have been badly executed.  and some good ideas that have also been badly executed through lack of thinking about seeding and propagation of the idea.  so many clients are sitting on badly performing campaigns on limited KPIs and no real understanding of long term business or brand value.  The proliferation of super-f**king-awesome social media strategists has not helped one bit.  (but then it's not that dis-similar to the explosion of SEO specialists in c2004/5)

as katy lindermann (freelance digital guru and ex-naked communications) would say, it's about social ideas, not social media.  if something contagious in should be in every aspect, not just as a 2 minute bit of online fun that delivers no change in behaviour (e.g. the facebook status updates to support charities that didn't go along with any genuine donaion of time or money)

so there's some good points above, but i'm fundamentally of the belief that it's more important to understand people, culture and how organisations and brands can be part of that ecosystem - whether it's online or in the physical world. 

for me, i'd want a social media strategist to help me take a cracking idea and make it be lit in the right places and propagated in the right way in the social media space - and help with understanding what might catch fire and how to manage interactions and feedback.  but then i'd also want a channel strategist / comms planner to be doing that too across all ways to have dialogue.  i don't know if it's a real fact or not, but recent WOMMA stats suggested that 92% of WOM still happens outside of the big social media channels of facebook, twitter and youtube - face-to-face, SMS, telephone, skype, email.


For a strategist look at the overall business experience rather than just use of tactical tools like Facebook, YouTube etc. Specific industry knowledge is another important factor to consider.

The problem with strategists is that they only give you strategies. Find someone with the creativity to create the right approach for you, and the dedication to put it into practice...

I am with Michael on his points: mandatory! And I would add 2 things: if his/her approach is to push you/your company with Social Media (any SM) regardless of your real needs that should sound an alert (1); does he/she have proven experience? One thing is reading about it the other is actually running it

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