Watch out for the fauxperts, people claiming to be experts when they’re not. Here’s a few questions you might want to ask:
[dropcap]1.[/dropcap] How many other clients do you currently have on your social media programs? How long? Unless the firm is brand new or just starting a program, existing clients should have at least a year if not two to three under their belt with the firm. If your organization is a long-time client of the firm, perhaps being a guinea pig for a new program won’t bother you, but if this firm can’t list a respectable number of clients based on the size of the firm, then step away.
[dropcap]2.[/dropcap] What social media services does your firm engage on a regular basis and might I get your addresses, names or links? You should expect the big three from the firm at the very least: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The firm should have a blog. Depending on their level of sophistication, they may be involved in several other services like FourSquare, Yelp, Angie’s List, Quora, Vimeo, MySpace, Ping, FriendFeed, StumbleUpon, Flickr, Digg, Reddit, LinkedIn and more.
[dropcap]3.[/dropcap] Who write your Twitter feed? Blog entries? Facebook updates? Etc. Hopefully you’re online as you’ve gathered the update information, if you haven’t Googled it or gotten it from the firm’s website already. Find out who’s writing the content, who’s making the decision and how often they’re doing it. Read through their Twitter stream and analyze it. Ask questions about the entries. “I see you haven’t posted anything in more than a month. Why is that?” Be direct. “I noticed that you don’t interact with your followers. Why not?”
[dropcap]4.[/dropcap] Who does your client’s social media strategy? Who implements that strategy? Who would be responsible for my strategy? See who jumps at this one. Who is in the room for this? Now the principal or principals may handle this entirely or another person might be in the room. Don’t always make judgments on people’s age, but ask pointed questions here as well. I’ve noticed a trend to name fresh, out-of-college kids and name then “social media analysts.” Which leads me to my next set of questions, once the people are identified.
[dropcap]5.[/dropcap] Do you have a personal blog and Twitter account? What is it? How many follow you? What do you write about? You might be interrupted here and asked whether this is relevant and it certainly is. Promoting your personal brand matters a great deal. If the principal(s) lack any Twitter account and they’re responsible for your company’s strategy, I’d walk. If a 23-year-old with 200 followers who writes about getting drunk with his friends on weekends is responsible for your strategy, I’d walk.
[dropcap]6.[/dropcap] What was one of your last Tweet about? How often do you Tweet? I find my tweets might be random but I’ll be trending on a topic for a while, just like in my blog (dovetails into my next question). A discussion with someone might come up or a recent retweet. Just expect something relatively recent, within the last week.
[dropcap]7.[/dropcap] What was your last blog entry about? How often do you blog? Personally, blogging once a week is not a struggle. You might notice that I attempt to write once a day. Some entries are long while others are relatively short. Since one can schedule entries in the future, the most recent one published might not be fresh, so a little slack is fine. Expect a good topic to come up, though.
[dropcap]8.[/dropcap] Who is your favorite blogger and Tweeter? Why? Except an answer from someone of whom you’ve never heard. If they list someone mainstream, they might just be making it up, so probe deeper. Again, have your screen up and be connected to the Internet. “I just love Charlie Sheen. He’s so funny.” Then you can say, “I’m reading through his tweets right now. He’s talking about going to the House of Blues and Danika Patrick in the Indy 500. I don’t see anything funny. It’s mostly shout outs to people lately. What are you thinking of as funny?”
[dropcap]9.[/dropcap] How much automation belongs in social media? If the answer is, “We’ll automate everything,” then walk. You can’t. Human interaction will need to be one of the cornerstones for any social media effort to be successful, no matter what. Even if you think about doing it later, don’t. Do it from the start or don’t do it at all. Don’t believe anyone who claims they can personalize it so it seems human. People read through those fake word replacement scripts easily.
[dropcap]10.[/dropcap] Why should I trust my social media with your firm? Listen to what they say. Let me be perfectly clean that with social media, everything will not go perfectly. Social media is still very, very young. Predicting how friends, followers and fans will react to everything that happens will be impossible. The bigger question is how your choice in firms will handle the issues that arise.