How to Hire a Social Media Company

On this third and last day of Blog World Expo 2010, one of the sessions I’d underlined with a red marker was “How to Hire a Social Media Company”.  Of course, I’m not hiring any social media companies, as we ARE a social media company.  But with a lineup that included David Armano from Edelman, and the afore-blogged-about Maggie Fox, I thought the sheer brain power in the room might rub off a little bit.  Maggie couldn’t make it, but two other heavy-hitters were on the panel, CC Chapman and Jim TobinJason Keath from, the moderator did a great job of keeping the dialogue flowing.

A strong theme throughout the discussion was that companies that are seeking a social media agency need to think through their goals.  They also need to understand where social is going to fit into their company.  Social can play a role in many parts of a company, not just marketing.  As David Armano said, “social hits across many verticals – so while social media might be somewhat separate right now, in the future social is going to be a part of all groups in a business.”

Some agencies, of course, can help you with that pre-thinking process.  The challenge is that companies don’t know to evaluate social media companies.   Jim Tobin reiterated that you need to check references thoroughly.  Creating complex RFPs aren’t the best way to get the relationship you need.  And neither is not providing a budget.

As CC Chapman said, “ask them what they’ve actually done, and tell me about it .  What were the strategies, what were the results? Don’t just depend on the numbers of Facebook.  Do some investigation.”

Jim Tobin said, “if you’ve done that first part, ‘what do we want out of it’, you’ll be able to ask better questions.  Have they (potential vendor) done a plan that works with the business plan and objectives?  And don’t be overwhelmed by numbers.  Large numbers can sound impressive – but it could be because of the brands.  So what did the company do to make a difference?”

And Armano added, “It’s not just questions to the agency; it’s the responsibility of the company to ask the right questions of them.  Companies are trying to figure out who internally should be put in charge.”

A good agency is going to ask YOU questions. And if they challenge you, it might be a good indication that they’re good.

Asked about the idea of individuals in companies taking on social media, Tim Tobin said it is a classic case of “the puppy problem; you’ve asked for a puppy; but if you’re not willing to feed and care for the puppy, it will die.  I’m not giving you a puppy to kill.”

A bit of conversation took place around the idea of an agency providing coaching to company staffers.  From my angle, this should be a requirement.  The last thing any company needs is a vendor that holds back information.  The way I see it, we should be working ourselves OUT of our jobs, so that we can provide more value in some other way.

As in yesterday’s panel on ROI, there were some good questions from the audience on Key Performance Indicators (KPI).  Again, this underlines the feeling – the zeitgeist if you will – that social media measurement is a real concern, and is still a nascent endeavor.