Commentary: Be wary of hiring social media 'experts'

Jan. 25, 2012

By Debbie Goldberg

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. (For example, my friend Ann Evanston runs an amazing course that walks you through the entire process of Social Media Marketing.)

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 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 (California-based Fresh Brothers Pizza) was noted by Inc. Magazine as one of "20 Awesome Facebook Fan Pages," alongside national brands. Shouldn't they know that ahead of time?

Before ramping up your social media marketing efforts and recruiting an "expert" to help, ask yourself first why you're not doing it on your own.

Here are some other important questions to ask before making the hire.

Debbie Goldberg and her husband Adam founded Fresh Brothers pizza in 2008. The company now includes six units throughout the Los Angeles market, and has been named "Best Pizza" by the LA HotList. Goldberg manages the chain's social media campaigns and also runs her own personal blog, Manhattan Beach Momma.

Topics: Hiring and Retention , Marketing / Branding / Promotion , Online / Mobile / Social , Operations Management , Staffing & Training

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