Monday, April 11, 2011

Social Media Consultants...Abundant Supply

Important note: For the sake of this post, and this post only, a social media consultant is referred to a person who self attributed the term "consultant" to himself, knowing that his experience lies in creating a Facebook page, a Twitter account, occasional a YouTube channel, and playing around them mildly, by either posting some random posts, or installing applications left, right and center.

The events mentioned below are from my personal observation of the market in the gulf area, mainly in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Social media...The Demand

It has become a fact, that every business would like to tap into social media, especially B2Cs. Those businesses are aware of the strong benefits of social media such as the ability to target their audience, direct more traffic to the website, engage and gather feedback and so on; They have heard some wild success stories, and excited about it. Yet, since they are not the industry experts, the only KPI they see is the number of followers. So this is the demand

Social media....The Supply

The businesses are asking for followers....Yay! Here comes the social media consultant to the rescue. "You want Facebook followers? I give you Facebook followers" says the social media consultant, and the randomness begins...
A Facebook page is created, an ad is created, random text and images are loaded, miscellaneous apps are integrated and the followers start rolling in. 3 months afterwards, the social media consultant has reached a Facebook page with 20,000 followers (or whatever budget was spent on advertising has allowed him to reach), the website traffic has slightly increased, more forms have been filled online, yet the client is unsure whether he should be happy or not...There seems to be something missing

Social media...The Adventure

After all, it was a nice adventure, now comes the real challenge...No more ads for driving additional followers it is time to grow the page based on the existing followers. This is where randomness can no longer be tolerated, to make a long story short, below is a sample graph:

The area on the left of the red circle, is actually the social media consultant, randomly posting stuff on the page, till a critical point has been reached (the red circle), where the number of Dislikes are actually surpassing the number of Likes...In other words, the page is starting to lose followers. (The area on the right of the circle will be discussed later on within this post).

Sustainability is something that the social media consultant did not consider, and without the support of an ad the page simply became a collection of followers that is practically useless for the client.

A great quote come to mind: "Activate your fans, don’t just collect them like Baseball cards" - Jay Baer

Social media...The Report

To answer the original demand, the social media consultant reported two things: The number of followers on that Facebook page, and the number of visitors on the website. And about the ROI....well....not really.

Strangely, the "report" section should be largest of this post, but the social media consultant is simply measuring two things :)

What was not portrayed?

The social media consultant:
  • Acted independently on the Facebook page, and forgot about the other mediums his client is enabled on
  • Measured the number of followers only, instead of measuring the number of interactions
  • Linked the number of followers to the number of visits to the website, but did not include in his analysis the bounce rate, the number of pages viewed on the site, the average time spent on the site, the entry and exit pages. In brief, he was unable to detect problems with User Experience and User Journeys on the website and rectify them
  • Did not assign a dollar value to the follower, in order to benchmark his campaign and improve with time. i.e.: Did the follower cost 1$? 0.1$?
  • Did not properly manage the ads CPC, and yielded (for the sake of this example) 20,000 followers, whereby double that amount could have been generated with the same budget, if multiple ads were created, with different targets, with different appearance dates...etc...
  • Did not speak his audience' language, whether by using the appropriate tone or character. He simply spoke to them as if it was himself, which might be good sometimes, but not suitable to the business's audience
  • Did not plan ahead, and integrate the social media strategy within a wider marketing strategy
  • Focused on monologues, and did not create dialogs

and in the near future...

The client is expected to have the following problems:
  • Problem with administration, page transfer and delegation
  • Page unique names, especially if the business is part of an international entity, has affiliates or subsidiaries
  • Burdened with a major collection of idle followers due to the Facebook News Feed policy

What is the social media consultant missing?

Creative team to help design landing pages, banners and attractive visuals based on engagements. Posting a banner stating "thank you" is more efficient and reactive to simply typing in "thank you" (Example).

Usability experts to help read, analyse and react based on statistics generated by all the business digital mediums

Developers and producers to help develop custom made application that are suited for the business, promoting the viral effect

Copywriters to help adapting the content, make it attractive and suitable for the target audience

Social Media, and Search Engine Optimization specialists/strategists to enable a long term campaign of engagement and making sure ROI is crystallized and KPIs clearly defined

Having the above components, would put the client in the right section of the circle highlighted above in the graph. Main reason for that is that social media is not an independent activity held by a business, it is part of a holistic strategy including multiple social media platform, the website itself, offline marketing activities...etc... Thus the need for multiple resources of different skill set to properly maintain and sustain the platforms.

For the sake of honesty, and ethical business, social media consultant should spend time educating their clients and providing them real insights on social media by uncovering the real data, and the real reports. There is no need to hide behind the "number of followers", social media for every business has its learning curve, and it is best for businesses to listen to their followers and react accordingly.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on that post, and please do follow me on Twitter @rafyouni


  1. I love your blog post it brings the message home like no one could.

    You missed to mention the consultants ( who are in fact agencies) that have all the resources in the world but still provide campaigns and not strategies, bribe mindlessly to get followers, or buy followers, create meaningless microsites and applications...

    It is not entirely the so called "consultant's faults" some of the blame should also go the clients. Too often when companies want to jump into social media now and are baffled when I tell them that:
    - a Strategy should be developed first with brand personas translated to online, Brand voice and tone... ,
    - are baffled that one has to study all the ins and outs of their business, that they should share their marketing strategy for the upcoming year so integrated campaigns are created around their brand so that social media activity is not isolated form all brand communication.
    - that it is a process to take time and they should not focus on the number of followers / likes because that is irrelevant
    - No one cares about their brand more than them and they have to learn the tools and use them (I am against outsourcing community management)
    - They can not just install a couple of plugins tat will re-post content on all their channels, they have to localize their content for each social media channel
    - instant buzz does not happen even social media campaigns need planning

    and many other quirks which I am sure you are familiar with. What baffles me completely is that if these clients just bothered to google "social media marketing" or "how to hire a social media consultant" for an hour they would learn all that.

    Still, all this havoc in the industry will filter out the good and the bad and maybe teach clients to make better choices, whilst raising awareness in the market overall.

  2. Thank you for the comment and I have witnessed the so called agencies you are talking about in the Saudi market. Particularly, the big boss asking his employee to open several account on a specific social media platform and create a "fake" hype.

    Nevertheless, I strongly believe that "consultants" or "agencies" have a strong role in educating their clients and reflect the true nature of Social Media, and not just aim for the quick dollars :)

  3. Absolutely, I always same that big part of teh blame goes to agencies not educating their clients and trying to keep all knowledge to themselves!

    The problem is this:

    A professional consultant/agency offers a well rounded solution at cost X whilst and refuses to do amateurish work, the amateur offers hype and X/10 so customer chooses him.

    And sometimes no matter how many presentations you make to educate customers and tell them what is right or wrong they end up choosing the bad guys. I think the situation is unavoidable and is the same in all industries, closest being web and software development.