a social media consultant can come from anywhere... but not everyone can be a social media consultant

There are many terms that are being attributed to a person who is an expert in social media.  Some of the terms that you hear in the media and PR community include “social media guru,” “community manager,” and “digital storyteller” just to name a few.  However, one that is popular as well is a social media consultant.  A social media consultant is someone that does live and breath new emerging technology – not just for their professional role in their business or profession – but also in their personal lives.  Do they have a blog?  What about a personal website?  Are they aware and actively engaged professionally on the main social media platforms out there?

Creating content and engaging in dialogue curates influence in digital community and with others who are interested in the same topics. What is key to understand about social media and its applications is that it is a platform and virtual realm in which traditional human behavior is present, but just in digital form.  Sure, there are some differences involved of course, but what is key for a social media consultant is to be able to detect what is similar and what is different – and be able to apply these strategically in traditional business practices and campaigns.  Mark Schaefer interviewed Jay Baer at the Social Slam event last week, and he shared how to be a social media consultant.  Very good suggestions! 🙂

There are many tips in how to effectively consult in social media – both in research and application.  Here are a few tips that I have some of my own that I would like to share with you:

Be confident with creative ideas, but back up with facts and core figures to support: It is great to have some of the best ideas – but you have to support them with reason, facts, and address both the positives and negatives of these actions.  For example, your client may want to just be active on Facebook – but it may not be the right platform for their particular audience based on the behavior, use, or knowledge of the platform. Balancing the art and science of social media is the goal for business professionals today.

Content is still king, but research is social media’s queen: With all business and communication professions, research is the fundamental role that guides where we go with our strategies, tactics, and key messages towards our audiences, especially with social media.  Content and great ideas is key – but the way to get to these is through detailed research that provides the consultant with an overview of what is going on in the digital environment.  Interviews, metrics, focus groups, surveys, and observations are just some of the ways that research can be conducted in regards to social media.

Understand the positives of social media and acknowledge the risks and challenges: Many times, you see social media consultants or professionals jump on one platform and only focus on the positives and opportunities that this one site has – but it is key to acknowledge what are some of the concerns that we have to have when it comes to this new technology.  For example, when you think of the opportunities of Foursquare and how people can check in and get deals at specific locations – but what are the risks towards privacy and broadcasting your location for the world to see?  What about the ethics of having others check you in even if you are not there?

Live, breath, educate, grow, and repeat: Social media is not for the long-term, we have to be students of the medium and continue to learn about the changes that are happening as well as being aware of case studies associated with each of these various platforms.  Learning is ongoing – and social media consultants not only have to educate themselves, but be aware that they can be a resource to others if they have questions about the technology internally or externally in the community.

Able to connect the dots: Being aware of the gaps in the profession both in opportunities and challenges, reviewing what others have done both in the profession and research, and synthesizing all of the information together is what makes a social media consultant unique and valuable for a company or brand.  Someone that is able to put the pieces of the puzzle together will be successful in providing a creative and scientific approach to formulating effective strategies in social media.  How is this done?  One way is to learn and observe what other  well-known social media consultants are doing – see what they are doing, read their posts and articles, and consider what they did that was effective, and figure out what you personally can bring to the table to extend their contribution to the field.

Key message here is that there are many different factors that contribute to exactly what is a social media consultant.  Using the technology both professionally and personally, being a life-long learner who is willing to share insights with others openly, having a balanced perspective for each new form of technology, and strategically organize all of the information to present a comprehensive overview of the situation for clients, researchers, and students.  Having all of these characteristics help contribute to the conceptualization of a social media consultant.

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,