Gurus. Ninjas. Evangelists. Divas. Socialites. Rockstars. Social media “professionals” give themselves some pretty stupid titles. Unfortunately, the social media craze has attracted a class of pretenders who know nothing about marketing, public relations, or even business.  They attempt to pass themselves off as social media experts who can help you improve your ROI, leverage your connections, and solve all your problems.

Blah, blah, blah.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but many of these social media experts are full of crap. So how do you know who’s the real deal and who’s full of hot air? A few tips on the warning signs. Please note, these are all drawn from real examples. Really.

  1. They say they can help you with “The Twitter.” Or “The Tweeter.” If they can’t get the name right, run.
  2. They don’t have a blog, or they don’t update their blog regularly.
  3. Look at their Twitter account: Do they use it daily, or is it gathering dust? Are they interacting with people, or just broadcasting messages out?  How they handle their social media is a good indication of how they will handle  your social media.
  4. They don’t have a background in business, marketing, communications, public relations, or anything remotely related to these fields. Social media isn’t just about posting cute things on Facebook: It needs to be strongly backed up by strategy grounded in business goals.
  5. They tell you that social media is free. Yes, many of the tools are free, but most of the better analytic packages aren’t free. And time isn’t free: time that’s needed to develop those strategies, implement them, respond to people, and generally grow a strong community. Social media, done right, can be very expensive in terms of time and commitment.
  6. They call themselves a rockstar, guru, evangelist, or some other stupid name. People who do this are buying into the hype and perceived glamor of social media. You don’t want someone so infatuated with their own image and success that they forget about yours. Look for terms like “analyst,” “specialist,” or “consultant” instead.

Don’t let this list scare you: there are many, many excellent social media professionals out there who can genuinely help you grow your business.  Taking the time to make sure you’re getting the real deal is equally important if you are part of a Fortune 500 firm, or a small mom and pop business.