06/09/2015 08:39 EDT | Updated 06/09/2016 05:59 EDT

What You Should Consider Before Hiring a Social Media "Expert"

There is no shortage of "gurus" or "experts" in an exploding social media field, but do they really have the experience, skills and understanding to support your business and boost your social capital? If you are looking to hire someone as your internal community manager, or ‎to outsource your social media, please consider the following.

I'm not sure that in this day and age it makes sense to trust any label or title -- not on products, and not on people either. A claim is very different from fact and function.

One of the biggest challenges -- and defining moments -- when I work with clients developing their business and brand is creating the title or tagline that captures and communicates the essence of the product or service being delivered (meanwhile, I just have a long list of titles that evolves because "business development" is too boring and broad for me, and "idea girl," my original title from 1994, when I started my business, doesn't accurately deliver that I also execute my ideas). It's really much more about what you do, than what you claim to be, so I choose to put the emphasis in the activity of "being" once the "packaging" is complete.

If you believe that you don't have time for social media and prefer to hire a consultant or expert, let me start by urging you to get familiar with each platform and how others use it for business before you explore your options. Social media today is your customer service desk, your sales platform, your marketing tool, your networking meeting, your brand developer, and your birthday party -- you are not too old or too busy to get involved, trust me. I always ask clients if they would allow another individual or agency ‎to determine their voice, write copy, post anywhere and anytime, engage with anyone, and answer as their customer service without any involvement, because that is virtually what you are doing when you assign another to your social media. You must be involved, and/or hire someone who can support and understand this work.

There is no shortage of "gurus" or "experts" in an exploding social media field, but do they really have the experience, skills and understanding to support your business and boost your social capital? Many business owners are challenged to understand who and what needs to happen with social media since it's a relatively new space for us all -- many do not understand, or have time for to explore, and default to hiring someone else to do it. This is not as simple as engaging someone who knows how to use the platforms. If you are looking to hire someone as your internal community manager, or ‎to outsource your social media, please consider the following:

Google Their Name.

Do they come up? What does come up? If they are going to be animating and building community for your brand, you want to make sure they do that for themselves, too. If you cannot immediately locate their contact information, I would have early reservations.

Check Their Social Networks.

It's not all about how many followers they have (those can be purchased), it's about engagement, their consistency, and also about their writing skills. It is remarkable how often I see a twitter feed run by an "expert" and their tweets are sporadic, they have issues with spelling and grammar, and they have very little, if any engagement. A claim that they are so busy with other feeds that they don't invest in their own is not a valid one. If they believe in social media, and want to run yours, they should probably believe in it enough to use it themselves. Those immersed in social media do not need to schedule time to update their feeds, they just do it, and enjoy it -- it's instinctual, not a chore.

Check Their Klout

(a social influence rating platform). Make sure they have at least a score of 50 (you will need to connect your own twitter account to view this, and it's worth it).

Read Some of What They Have Written.

You want to ensure that the person on the front lines of your business has great communication skills. This is not about being young enough to understand what a hashtag is, or how to use Instagram, this is about how to use the tools effectively in order to meet and exceed your goals and support your growth. Do they tap into trending topics? Are they interesting? Do they have wit? Do they react in a timely manner? They should have good style, be respectful while being able to get a rise out of their audience, and have a head for business.

‎Ask What They Think They Can Accomplish When Running Your Accounts.

You should receive an answer that is clear and goes well beyond, "excitement over your brand". Make sure they have vision and care about your business and your success, not just securing a contract. Ask what "community management" means to them, and make sure it goes beyond posting on social media channels. It's about identifying opportunities, and engaging with your growing community.

Do They Understand Your Business and Your Industry?

Do they know how to engage well, and know what to stay away from? If you are a vegan business, you want someone who understands what this means, and what can and can never be shared. If you are a charitable organization, you should make sure your hire has some experience working with charities, and understands how you speak. If you wouldn't want that person working a trade show with you right away, you don't want them running your social channels.

What Distinguishes the Individual From Others in the Field?

Will you reap added opportunities by being part of a larger community?

Personally, I don't like the term "expert" or "guru," especially when it comes to social media. With social media platforms updating features perpetually and with increasing speed, it would be impossible to be an expert at all of this -- or maybe I'm just speaking for myself. What is possible? Focus on excellent content, messaging, strategy and engagement -- this remains as a finite need, no matter what channels you choose to leverage.

There is a huge difference between hiring someone with the ability to tweet, and hiring someone with talent and drive to execute your social media with result, integrating and attaching it to your business and brand. Social media is not a separate activity or department, it is a way to amplify all you are doing, a powerful tool, and should be woven into the sustainable fabric of your company's culture and activity.

If you are going to hire someone, choose an individual that not only understands their limitations, but admits that they aren't an expert. If they are immersed online, understand you and your business, and are constantly experimenting as technology and social media evolves all around all of us, that's a great place to start. Here's to community, and being part of it!

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