Will you indulge me in a scenario for a moment?
Let’s say you and your friends play a few rounds of golf each year. You’re not a bad golfer and sometimes you even shoot the lowest of your group. Who knows, maybe you’ve even hit par on occasion. You have some talent with the clubs and you like to read Golf Digest. You may even tune into the Masters on Sundays, as a regular habit. You like golf and you like to talk about golf with other people.
But because of time, budgets and other commitments, you only actually play only a few times each year.
In that scenario, and given your fairly limited experience with actual game play, would you be comfortable becoming a caddy for a pro golfer? Would you be able to help people like Sergio Garcia, Tiger Woods or Michelle Wie improve their game? Would you be comfortable taking a paycheck from them?
Please, Get In The Game
If you’re consulting with businesses on how to use social media, good for you. There are plenty of opportunities for everyone in this thriving industry and plenty of businesses who are willing to spend some budget dollars for your help. I wouldn’t even say competition is high, because frankly, we are still in such a deep blue ocean that the demand for people who really understand this new world is high. What’s more is that at least for the next few years, demand will keep growing.
At the risk of sounding negative, here’s a small pet peeve of mine:
It bugs me when I see a consultant or strategist making recommendations to a business, when it’s clear that the individual hasn’t even invested sweat, equity and time in building out their own online presence. For instance, a business should simply be able to Google their consultant’s name and pull up at least one full-page of social objects and published content. The amount of content you can pull up for a human name simply indicates the amount of time and effort that individual has spent navigating the social web.
So with that said, how on earth could an individual possibly know what to recommend (as a social media consultant), if they aren’t really playing the game for themselves? Think about it for a minute. In reality, as a social web strategist you are your biggest client, right?
Don’t believe me? Go ahead. Google “Chris Brogan,” “Brian Solis,” “Gary Vaynerchuck” or “Jason Baer.” What do you see?
Call To Action
Contrary to what you may think, I’m not writing this post to discourage you or call out competitors. This is a call to action. We social media consultants are being called snake oil salesman all over the web. With a huge amount of blind leading the blind, I can see why. Can you?
It’s up to us to change this. You up for it?
How To Be Better Social Media Consultants
- Be a Power User. Here’s a clue. If someone tweets a question at you and it takes you a week to respond, you shouldn’t be consulting with anyone. If you’re not even active on Twitter or not actively expanding your personal social graph, start there first. Please.
- Read more. Books, blogs, forums, groups, oh my! Embrace the renaissance and get smarter. Pick new sources weekly and expand your knowledge base.
- Know your targets. Focus more effort learning what’s important to your target industries or markets. For example, I know that Mike Whaling knows more about what’s important to apartment complexes than anyone else I know. He’s an expert in the apartment industry. Mike also knows social media and how the web works in general.
- Build and own a process. How do you approach a client project? Do you have a set and tested methodology or are you just shooting into a dark room? What’s your process for getting to know your client’s needs and objectives?
- Invest 10,000 hours. Seth wrote about this once. If you want to be the best in the world, or at the very least an expert, you need to invest at least 10,000 hours of your time.
- Suck it up and blog. If you aren’t blogging at least three to four times per week, make it happen. Again, how can you possibly help a client if you don’t help yourself first? Stop saying you’re too busy. Make the commitment. Find the time. Start brainstorming. Start writing and, for God’s sake, please create your own original content. Okay?
- Try New Things. As a social media consultant you need to know what’s coming down the pipeline. Always be on the lookout for new technology. Jump in and test often. Here are 40 helpful technology tools I use. And here are 39 more that Jason Baer uses that are different. Can you come up with a list of 41 and one-up both of us?
- Focus on your clients’ business objectives. Starting a Facebook Fan Page, blog or community is great, as long as owning that presence helps your client move the needle for their business. If not, you’ve only wasted their dollars and created more work.
- Be honest. There’s no blueprint yet for best practices. If you are consulting on social media, get ready to cut a new path through the weeds. Make sure not to promise things you can’t deliver and be honest about what you can.
- This one is all you…
What would you add to the list? What will help social media consultants get better?