Social media continues to draw attention and buzz in the marketing world and will continue to evolve. As a stand alone industry it is very new and generally thought of as a “service” within the Internet marketing umbrella. However, the foundation of social media is really about client/customer communication and conversation. Regardless of what some social media “consultants” might say, there is still not a black and white way to measure complete ROI with social media alone. The most important take away though is that without that active “conversation” with customers, you are not making progress with your social media strategy.
As the buzz grows, social media consultants have been coming out of the wood work…actually, due to the economy, ALL kinds of consultants have been coming out of the wood work as people transition between jobs. There is nothing wrong with this but as the volume grows, the range between actual experience and self proclaimed expertise grows.
There are two ways to offer social media marketing as a service: (1) consulting; and (2) actual implementation/management.
When seeking social media marketing services, many companies need everything from the research and strategy to implementation and management. Its usually a bandwidth issue. The company doesn’t know enough about social media nor do they have the internal resources to actively engage their online audience and manage a full campaign. This of course is totally normal and good Internet marketing/social media companies can provide this. The downside is the long term scalability and accuracy of the “message” being communicate to the audience. If communication between the service provider and the client is clear and regular (i.e. the client at least has one point of contact helping develop the strategy and message) then this type of relation can work very well.
On the other hand, many Internet marketing companies are leaning more to the consulting side rather than trying to implement and manage the entire effort. The benefit to this is that it gives the client the internal knowledge and capability to control their own client communication (via social networks). The consultant’s role is very robust however and involves continually educating the client, research, strategy, initial set-up and training, and ongoing management. The consultant plays an ongoing role overseeing the team on the client side. The long term take away though is that the client is empowered to take the reigns. Some companies fear this of course because they don’t want the client to “learn” the best practices and fire them after a few months. There is always that risk but if the consultant is doing their job, there will be real ongoing value as social media is a constantly changing environment.
Which approach is better is really based on the needs of the client but in the long run the client should learn as much as possible so they can play a close role in the online “conversation”.
So how do you choose a social media marketing company? The list of ways to choose a social media cosultant is pretty much the same as when you research an Internet marketing company. One of the main things I wanted to point out however, is that the more well-rounded a firm is the better. There is always value in a company that focuses on one thing and does it well. However, these days the lines between different online marketing strategies are very grey and most compliment one anther extremely well. For example, social media and organic search engine optimization (SEO) are huge compliments. I would always recommend ensuring the two strategues are tied together.
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