How To Tell If A Social Media Expert or Agency is Legitimate

What kind of Guru are you Gnu?

What kind of Guru are you Gnu?

I used to get a lot of pitches by agencies and solo marketers when I was running Social Media for a client. I would get emails and sometimes pitches on Facebook. Very few were legitimate. And they charged a lot of money for doing nothing. One client recently left me for someone because she was the typical small business owner who gets caught up in spin. It is why Marketers rank with Politicians and Used Car Salespeople for trustworthiness.

So what can you do to see if they are on the level? Here are a few very simple tips that will expose them.

1] Check out their Social Media presence.

Yesterday I found a new follower on Twitter who had in his bio Social Media Guru (see photo!). He had 94 followers and was following over 500 accounts. Many Agencies have very poor Social Media presences. Now to be fair I got asked yesterday by a company I would love to work with where my Facebook page is. I don’t have one. Facebook to me is a people to people platform. While Brands are there we ignore even Consumer Brands for the most part. I have run several client pages and for me to prove my worth by showing I have a page that targets clients who most likely won’t find me there doesn’t make sense. But if you look at my Twitter account you will find a different story. And I have this blog.

Ask who their peers are. If you see my list of blogs to the right those are some of my peers. Except for Fred Wilson I personally know those people. Look at my twitter network and see who I talk with. Do a Google search see where I have guest posted or if I have been published elsewhere? Ask me what Brands that are not clients that I have a relationship with in terms of their marketing people.

2] Ask for proof of their work.

Recently I got on the Clever Girls Collective and Collective Bias. They have paid blogger networks set up to promote major brands. But their case studies show zero proof the money spent was well spent. Lets take the Clever Girls Cool Whip case study:

What is wrong here? Well first off the numbers are underwhelming. They claim 4.6 million social impressions but we have no idea what that really means. 300 Blog posts that averaged less than 4 comments per post not even sure why that number is included. Were they positive or negative? 300 Pins on Pinterest each also re-pinned less than 4 time each. So their 300 influential bloggers don’t seem that influential.

But the real kicker is what did this cost Cool Whip? Let’s say the 4.6 million social impressions are real. if you see a Tweet or a Facebook post vs a 30 sec commercial obviously the commercial has overwhelmingly more value. So you have to compare the price of a spot to reach 4.6 million and what their cost was just to see if they are in the ballpark. And lastly…

DID ANYONE BUY COOL WHIP FROM THIS CAMPAIGN?

Another client was being pitched by Hypewell Media. They charge $1000 to post 1x on Facebook and 1x on 1x on Twitter per day, plus 1x on Instagram per week. That comes out to $133/hr minus their expenses (they have a photographer on staff). In looking at their work from their client roster their clients were not getting much in return. They grew Facebook by spending some of the money on ads. They had very little customer engagement and almost never would they post on their wall. They also have very little to show from Twitter or Instagram.

3] Ask about strategies and tactics.

How would they go about handling your social media efforts. Will they offer customer service all day? How do they identify the best customers? Will they ask anything of you?

I had a client last year that paid me well (when they paid) who left me on an Island. Literally. It was a new Brand with zero public recognition, barely even in their industry. I was given no support. They refused to allow me to work with their franchises to rope in their customers to the networks. I was given no email lists and they had suspended email marketing. The only content I was given was from their website. And there was pretty much zero communication. I would find out about a Trade Show the day they were there. The only way someone would know they had a social presence was me actually finding them online (hugely labor intensive) or if they came to their website.

I ran two twitter accounts for two business units. Three Facebook pages and 1 Pinterest account. And considering they left me cut below the knees with no support I did great. I got them industry recognition including with the Industry Trade Publications. I developed relationships with Brands that would be great for cross promotions. I supported their vendors and their industry using Twitter lists and lots of research. I identified sales channels for commercial and consumer. I provided them a lot of industry insights and business opportunities which they never acted upon. I could only imagine what I could of done if they had done their part.

4] Ask questions.

Ask their opinions of various networks. Ask them if they have researched your Brand online and off. Ask them what they feel their strategies and tactics would be. Anyone promising a big return for very little work is lying. Social Media takes huge effort and resources to really work beyond basic customer service. Ask them who their peers are in the industry and where they get their news. Ask them how they would learn your business so they can truly represent you authentically.

You have no idea how many marketers and agencies never Googled my clients. I would get crazy pitches of all sorts and wonder why they are contacting them. If they can’t tell you about your business up front, run away.

Lastly

5] Stay away from personal brands.

Personal brands are those Social Media Rockstars. Chris Brogan’s. Brian Solis’s. Etc. They have never built or run Brand Communities which are polar opposites of personal ones. They have written books with no proof their ideas have worked. They use a lot of jargon and crazy gibberish which somehow garners attention from others in Social Media and from gullible business owners seeking insights to make them instantly rich. But they never show proof anything worked!

I am not a personal brand. I have built and run communities successfully. I have tried all the tricks spouted by these people and rarely has anything worked. I do my research. If you pour through the blog posts from years past most of my insights have come true. Most of the HYPE I have called out failed: F-Commerce (what?), Brand Page Storefronts (didn’t work), Social Commerce (Farmville? Zynga is in trouble), Viral Campaigns (No such thing), Location Check ins (Dead), People love talking with Brands on Social Media (only for deals and customer service), Social Media as a direct marketing platform (only if you pay for ads which isn’t social media it’s paid advertising), should I continue?

It is a shame there are so many con artists out there. Trust me even big successful agencies are con artists when it comes to marketing and advertising, never mind social media. So you need to do due diligence when you contract your public persona’s. Remember anyone working for you represents your Brand and if they can’t be honest with you to win your business, how will they be with your customers?

About Howie Goldfarb

Howie Goldfarb

Also playfully known as the Chief Alien of Blue Star Strategic Marketing, Howie Goldfarb relishes his role as an industry outsider. With 20 years of Sales, Marketing, and Business Operations experience founded Blue Star Strategic Marketing to serve as the objective and strategic adviser of brands to help them grow and thrive.

His Degree in Finance givess him a CFO’s view to marketing, bringing a dose of reality to the confusing world of jargon, spin, and hype. After a 14-year career in direct B2B industrial sales Howie decided to lighten up his dreary work life and move into consumer advertising and marketing. Now he champions up and coming Consumer Brands.

Formerly an Angelino and New Yorker, he currently lives in the Green Mountains of Vermont and is still seeking his first moose sighting. His passions are his family, community, art, music, and the outdoors, He tries to cook, has been known to hunt Fiddleheads and loves the Vermont Fresh Network and other sustainability initiatives like farm to table and buying local.

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  1. […] I used to get a lot of pitches by agencies and solo marketers when I was running Social Media for a client. I would get emails and sometimes pitches on Facebook. Very few were legitimate. And they charged a lot of money for doing nothing. One client recently left me for someone because she was the typical small business owner who gets caught up in spin. It is why Marketers rank with Politicians and Used Car Salespeople for trustworthiness.So what can you do to see if they are on the level? Here are a few very simple tips that will expose them….  […]

  2. […] I used to get a lot of pitches by agencies and solo marketers when I was running Social Media for a client. I would get emails and sometimes pitches on Facebook. Very few were legitimate. And they charged a lot of money for doing nothing. One client recently left me for someone because she was the typical small business owner who gets caught up in spin. It is why Marketers rank with Politicians and Used Car Salespeople for trustworthiness. So what can you do to see if they are on the level? Here are a few very simple tips that will expose them….  […]