People who are deeply interested in starting their own social media consultancy business — especially those who all too familiar with the story of how I fell in love with social media — often ask me this question: How hard was it to become so knowledgeable about social media?
The funny thing is, well, I’m not exactly sure how to answer that question without scaring them away.
You see, getting to the point where you can be considered an expert on social media isn’t that hard. Heck, the first few steps of your journey can basically be summed up in two sentences: “Get on social media” and “Google everything you can about them.”
There’s a wealth of resources online that can tell you all the things you need to know about social media — from choosing the right social media tools to understanding the responsibilities that being a social media strategist, consultant, or manager entails.
Here’s the simple truth:
Ask any veteran social media consultant about the biggest challenge they’d ever faced in their roles, and they’re likely to tell you one of the problem areas I’ve listed below.
Don’t be discouraged, though — as I’m a big fan of finding solutions to problems instead of simply pointing them out, I’m sharing some of my own experiences as well, specifically regarding how I managed to overcome these challenges. And believe me, with the right mindset and tools, you can, too!
1. Marketing is inherently challenging to begin with.
Mark Schaefer of Schaefer Marketing Solutions has an interesting take on social media consulting:
(1) that the job is actually more about marketing than social media, and
(2) that, unlike everything else that has become easier because of social media, marketing has actually become harder.
About the first point, I think it’s a balanced mix of both. Giving sound advice on how to use social media for business involves having a solid grasp of the various aspects of marketing; however, it also means knowing how to maximize the social media platforms at your disposal, based on your client’s objectives and target audience.
As for the second, well, marketing isn’t really what you’d call a walk in the park. The very field of marketing exists specifically because businesses need the help of experts to keep their brands relevant to their audiences. Here’s something you should keep in mind: Getting your prospective customers to trust you has always been tough, and it’s the same for social media consultants.
The best way to get around this is to get as much knowledge and experience as you can. Take time to familiarize yourself with the marketing, and learn how to build relationships and tell brand stories.
Build your own presence on social media by putting out content, being active on social media platforms, and reaching out to people; not only will this establish you as a consultant worth trusting, it’s great marketing practice, too!
2. It’s not enough to know something; more often than not, you have to know everything.
Being a social media consultant means that it’s not enough to master just one social media platform. Running ads on Facebook, for example, is a completely different animal from advertising on LinkedIn.
It’s a good business practice to establish online presence on more than one platform, or at least on the platforms that mean the most to you and for your business. This means that, as a social media consultant, you need to be able to come up with effective strategies for your clients, not just on one platform, but on every single one that your clients choose to be on.
Mere familiarity with these sites also won’t suffice, either; every year or so, social media platforms roll out changes in layout, features, or algorithms that can affect your strategies so drastically that you might as well throw them out the window and start over.
The solution, again, is to keep yourself updated. Make it a habit to monitor news about new social media platforms, trends on social media, and changes and updates on existing sites.
3. To find (and get) clients, you need to offer something that others don’t.
You’re not the only person who has looked at social media marketing and decided that it would be a good career to pursue; if that were the case, then I wouldn’t be here communicating with you through this article!
With social media experts populating the four corners of the Internet, it’s very easy for you to get lost in the vast ocean of people offering the same services you do. This is why it’s also important to think about what sort of unique value you can offer clients. Out of all the social media consultants out there – some with more experience and credibility – why would they hire you?
It also helps to have some examples of social media strategies that you can suggest to them as ideas for when you help them in running their campaigns. This will assure your clients that you do understand how the market works and what would benefit them most.
Some food for thought: Take a look at this list of questions for hiring a social media consultant — how would you answer these?
4. You need to know how to pick the right tools for the job.
The best — and oftentimes, only — way for you to convince clients that you are absolutely qualified to provide assistance to them when it comes to utilizing social media effectively is to show them statistical evidence.
In the first item on this list, I mentioned how you should work on building your own brand online. Here’s why: When hiring a social media consultant, clients are likely to look at that person’s social media accounts and ask things.
How has this person been monitoring their social media ROI? Have they been taking steps to broaden their network and influence? If so, what tools are they using, and can those be used for my business, too?
Thus, a social media consultant needs to be familiar with the numerous online tools used for measuring ROI, optimizing social media content, marketing automation, and social media management.
A day in the life of a social media consultant
Now that you’ve seen the challenges of a social media consultant, let’s take a look at how a social media consultant’s day roughly looks like. Of course, this may vary from one day to another and from one consultant to another. So please look at it as more of a guide as to what to expect.
Liz Azyan is interested in the ways new kinds of social data and technology introduce challenges and opportunities to society. Get involved with Liz’s latest project here.