There is something happening more and more often out there in the world of social media. Businesses are falling prey to it, and individuals aren’t immune either. For the second time in as many weeks, we’ve been contacted to meet with a business owner who is already a client of a competitor. The business owner usually calls confused, asking about what it is that we do then launches into an explanation about how “We hired these social media gurus, but we’re just not seeing the results. Can you help us?”
It’s right about at this point I think to myself, “Here we go again. Another company snowed by flowery numbers, promises of social media Nirvana, and a dazzled by gang of social media fauxperts.” The fauxpert pops up everyday in various forms. Truthfully, there is nothing barring anyone from slapping up a shingle and calling themselves a social media expert (keep watch for these terms too: guru, expert, ninja, master, Jedi etc.) and promising huge returns, massive numbers of followers, gigantic amounts of “Likes”, etc. They over-promise and under-deliver consistently. Then when the business owner questions their methods or strategy, the business owner is told they can’t possibly understand how social media really works. Business owners are told, “Just keep the cheques coming. We’ll take care of it.” But these Fauxperts are faking their way through it, taking your money, and not delivering any tangible or intangible benefit to you. Put the brakes on this runaway train as fast as you can.
Here are 7 signs you should rethink the Fauxpert disguised as an expert that expects to be trusted with your brand reputation. If the social media firm you’re thinking of hiring is guilty of any of these social media deadly sins–run, don’t walk, away.
- Guru. Expert. NOT. If any derivative of a self-aggrandizing term is used when used to describe themselves—run, don’t walk for the nearest exit. Yes, it may be tempting to see if they can deliver on what they promised but actions speak louder than words. Save yourself the headache. This leads us to our next warning sign.
- No references. Any successful social media strategist should be able to provide at least 5 or 6 (yes, that many) references that you could call for a reference check. Why more businesses don’t conduct reference checks on potential partners or agencies is beyond me. With 3 references, it could be fairly easy to stack the deck in their favour. But if you ask for more references, the chances of all references being able or willing to gloss over any shortcomings becomes smaller. Make reference checks part of the process for finding your next social media firm.
- Operating in a vacuum. Are their social media profiles barren wastelands of push marketing statements or consist only of retweets? If so, you’ve got yourself a Fauxpert. Any social media boutique or firm worth their salt should be working their own profiles with organic engagement and interaction. There is a healthy mix of business and pleasure and when you scan their tweets from the last 24 hours (ideally, you should check their feeds to as far back as Twitter will allow. Facebook’s Timeline makes this check very easy) you see some conversations and discussions happening about mutually interesting topics. Are they keeping it REAL in social media?
- They have no social media profiles. Yes, this really happens. Enough said. The flipside of this, however, happens when they have TOO MANY followers. It’s more likely these followers are bots or spam accounts. If there is evidence of any other signs listed here, it does not bode well if they have an inordinate amount of followers, ESPECIALLY in relation to how many they are following. If they are following back every single person who is following them, this can be problematic and an attempt to inflate the importance of their number of followers. Then again, if they have 30K followers but are only following 300, one has to wonder what their social media goals are. In short, falling on either end of the spectrum is a red flag. Well-rounded social media profiles will be balanced and promote interaction and real-time engagement.
- One button social media. Each social media channel needs a distinct voice. It’s not that you have to be different for each channel it’s that you need to tailor your “voice” for each channel. This can’t be done when your Facebook posts automatically to your Twitter feed, which then automatically posts to your LinkedIn profile. Nothing shows social media laziness more than the tweets I see every day that are simply copied from a company’s Facebook page. On occasion, due to Twitter’s 140 character restriction, the message will simply be cut off. Are you really OK with your business putting this type of half-assed effort out there? If you don’t care to communicate a full thought to your followers/customers, what’s the point? And if you think anyone is clicking on your automatic Facebook links from Twitter, think again. They’re likely not. Five or more in a day and this type of behaviour just might cause you to get unfollowed.
- No clue about Terms of Service or simply ignore them. Our post about brands “friend requesting” individuals on Facebook is still going strong and popular. Just this past week, I met someone working for a local business who was the in-house “social media specialist” (this title was on his business card) who was operating the business’ Facebook page under a personal profile because in his words “It allows us to engage better with our customers.” Don’t blame the profile for hindering engagement—that is a total cop-out. What this really means is this “specialist” doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. He mistakenly believes that a personal profile is the answer to their social media prayers, when in reality, it’s about the strategy and tactics used to engage with all of your customers. Brand pages provide (free!) analytics, allow advertising campaigns to be created and managed, can help create events, and so much more. Furthermore, operating a brand or business under a personal profile is AGAINST Facebook’s Terms of Service. Do you really want to risk having your profile taken down and losing your best interactive marketing tool? If your social media “guru” or firm suggests this and tells you “It’s the way to go”, the way to go is out the door with your wallet intact.
- ‘BUY THIS NOW’ button. Real, organic, and authentic social media excellence takes time. Unless your brand is already established (we’re talking Coca Cola or VW), building a solid presence takes time, commitment, and finesse. It’s not for the faint of heart. But when a Fauxpert meets with a prospect, s/he usually knows exactly what to say to get the dollar signs shining in the prospect’s eyes: “We’ll get you 50,000 ‘Likes’ in a month.” Eyes glaze over, promises are made, expectations are raised, cheques are signed, and then the wait begins. One day, there are 10 ‘Likes’ on the Facebook. Then the next week, there are 20,000. Wow, that must be some guru dust. No, dear friends. Buying ‘Likes’ is not rocket science. It’s relatively cheap and easy. But it is also a highly flawed yardstick to measure social media success. The secret to any social media strategy is that the numbers rarely matter. A bold statement, but it’s true. The numbers only matter insomuch as they actually translate into conversions. Yes, influence matters. But again, only insomuch as they will result in conversions and meeting goals and objectives. Any company who decides to “solve” your social media strategy by buying ‘Likes’ is not one you should be giving money to. Not only is buying “Likes” the equivalent of paying someone to go to the prom with you, but it reeks of desperation and fakeness. Stay classy.
Have you encountered a Fauxpert? What were some of the more outlandish things you were promised by a social media guru who never delivered? What tips would you offer to avoid the slick promises of the Fauxpert?