Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth: How Do Some People Get Hired as Social Media “Experts” When They Know Nothing About Social Media?

It’s no secret that I’m looking for work and that I’m accepting some consulting gigs in the meantime. I generally don’t write about my consulting work, but upon reading Robert M. Caruso’s entry on what he calls “fauxperts,” this entry came bursting out of me.

It’s become a frustration of mine that too many claim expertise when, indeed, they don’t have it. Major corporations find themselves eager to throw money at firms and individuals without any sense of social media.

Take this engagement, which turned out to be extraordinarily short. With some major brands on the line begging for in-depth social media research, reputation management and eventually strategic guidance and other brands in the midst of social media campaigns, the complete lack of comprehension how to make it work blew me away.

With principals barking commands about research but paralyzed beyond Google and credit cards to research anything. Clients would argue for days over the wording of a tweet or Facebook update, never mind actually interacting with consumers or target audience. Determining who an “influencer” might be? Left up to Google and whether that “influencer’s” e-mail address happened to be available on an index website showing a particular topic.

Did anyone bother with Twitter or Facebook or any actual blogs? No. Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal and Tumblr were all ignored.

These brands would pay tens of thousands of dollars of this sophisticated research paper, most of which got written the night before during an all-nighter (again, with one of the barking principals). An artist created charts, tweaked for each client based on a couple of Google searches and rough mathematics.

In the nice conference room over glorified doughnuts the next morning, freshly printed copies, all personalized and in lovely binders, would be presented with the razzle-dazzle of an Apple Keynote and an engraved iPad so the engaging brand’s principal could follow along (and take it home… a little gift).

All in the name of social media experts.

I’m sitting there and realizing there’s all sizzle and no steak.

That afternoon, I packed quietly and left. I had noticed noticed early on the firm never seemed to keep clients — or employees — very long.

And the principal and firm, which both have a Twitter and Facebook account, neither are active. It just makes me wonder why any major brand would hire and spend money on someone or at some place without such activity. The firm’s blog is empty. In fact, Google the name of the firm and it will not come up. No SEO.

I’ve made the mistake before, going against my gut. A little later on today, I’ll share 10 questions you should ask a firm and their principals before engaging them.

Why did I take the work? I needed the money. Of course, I didn’t stay long but still. It got me wondering what I’d do for cash.

I’m looking a gift horse in the mouth. Then again, you’re supposed to beware of Greeks bearing gifts because of a certain Trojan horse.

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Michael Cheek

With more than 20 years of communication experience, Michael Cheek offers solid marketing expertise, especially in the digital frontier. He currently resides in Georgia but he's open to relocate anywhere the opportunities take him. Learn more at http://MichaelCheek.com. You can follow him on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/MichaelCheek and see more about his professional experience at http://LinkedIn.com/in/MichaelCheek. Reach him via e-mail at mcheek@gmail.com.

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