After @Nero‘s damming post on the state of the social media industry and the unsurprising backlash it’s caused we thought it might be worth giving you some pointers on how to choose your social media consultant / agency, the role we think they should take in your marketing strategy and to ensure you do not to fall for these ‘bloodsuckers’ and ‘snake oil sellers’ as Milo Yiannopoulos so eloquently put it.Snake oilFirst and foremost a proven track record. It’s what you would expect from any other consultant or person you are going to hire, get them to show you their case studies of previous clients.Secondly look at their numbers (ROI) do remember this is not always necessarily a hard sales figure, it can be sentiment, saving over traditional marcom activity, levels of engagement and followers. These are just some of the forms of measurement and we’ll go into more detail in the book.You’ll also need to gauge their knowledge of social channels and ask them about their strategic approach to your business, I’m not suggesting that they give you all the answers in the first meeting, but they should have a framework or initial suggestions on how to move your organisation into the social world.They should have a marketing background of some sort; although the old interruption ways of marketing are becoming less and less effective, there are still many of old “best practice” methods that are invaluable to planning and strategy. Ideally they should also have experience in digital media and writing too (it adds to the mix).What do we think your consultants or agencies role should be? Very simply it should be one of education with an end goal of complete hand over to move the day to day engagement back in house. The people who know your business, product, service and how to answer your customers best, is you, you’ll be able to answer questions quicker and communicate your brands culture and personality far better than any 3rd party.The role of the consultant should be to assist top level management in bringing around culture change in your business and open the doors up to your customers (scary thought maybe), train staff in social channels, content generation, planning and measurement.The other time you may wish to bring a consultant or agency in is for that “big creative idea or execution” so this would tend to be based more around a social campaign rather than an ongoing engagement strategy, this may be for a specific product launch or re-launch or a method to increase your follower base, or you may just need some fresh ideas and creative to re-invigorate a specific channel.I will say that the education and initial strategy period should be as long as you, the client, feels it needs to be to get your business fully up to speed (but set yourself some targets with the consultant).The time where we feel you can allow an agency or consultant to run with a social channel on your behalf is where they may actually have more knowledge with regard to a specific topic that your audience will have a keen interest, but this is where ghost writing and community management come into play, and you’ll need to weigh the pro’s and con’s of bringing it in house or not.What’s your thoughts on what you expect a social media consultant to be and do for you?

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