One of the posts you all read and shard the most this year was a recent one from October. It was a response to an article about how some charlatan was passing himself off as a social media consultant and taking his clients’ money while providing almost nothing in the way of value. The screed was an extended invitation for he and those like him to go away. It was called “Crappy Consultants” and is all about everything I certainly don’t want to be.
The screed today hits close to home since I want to throw a little sunlight on something going on in the consulting world. While it’s been on my mind for a bit I read a piece this morning called How Social Media Consultants Dupe Their Corporate Clients from Dave Copeland of ReadWriteWeb that brought it front and center. The piece talks about how a friend of Dave’s was underwhelmed by a consultant brought in to get the company up to speed with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and the rest. Not only was the presentation the consultant made stunningly simplistic, but it may have been wrong. As the article put it:
…the company has little digital expertise. That leaves it open to exploitation by so-called social media experts who take a one-size-fits-all approach to every client. These consultants often bill tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars before anyone realizes there is little or no return on the investment.
Amen. As I’m out meeting with potential clients I often run into the work of some “consultant” who knows how to post on Facebook but doesn’t understand how Facebook is used as part of a business. Forget knowing about the social graph – these folks don’t have a clue about asking the most important question – why social media in the first place? After all, it’s not right for every business and there certainly is no standard implementation that’s going to work across the board.
I’ve had prospective clients hand me the “white paper” some other consultant did that was nothing more than a document grabbed off the web. I’ve had another client think that someone had built them a solution when all they were doing was using a white-label provider and marking up the cost. In each case the warning signs were there – the person they’d hired didn’t have a lot of business experience (it’s hard to claim a ton of social media experience – it’s s new medium!) and treated social as just another marketing megaphone.
It’s hard to convince anyone that there is an ROI to social, especially since it’s very resource intensive if done well. It requires someone who can digest a 360 degree view of the business and align social with other marketing efforts, including the analytics to evaluate it all. The charlatans identified in the article hurt clients. They hurt folks like me who have to battle against their failures to get hired (usually to clean up a mess). They hurt the industry. I wish they’d go away – maybe a little sunlight will scare them off.
Have you had an experience with someone like this?