Snake Oil Social Media

There are many, many reputable social media firms out there. These organizations are dedicated to educating and empowering businesses to map out strong social media plans and execute them (either on their own or with help from the agency) for fun and profit. These firms are staffed with smart, passionate people who understand that measuring success is more than counting the number of likes or retweets.

Then there are the snake oil peddlers. These people heard social media was hot and hopped on to make a quick buck. They take advantage of the naive or inexperienced, bilk them for all they’re worth, and leave only failure in their wake.

Don’t be a victim. Don’t be taken advantage of by these unscrupulous “marketers.” Here are a few warning signs that the social media company you are considering is not as good as they claim:

  • They don’t tell you who they are. Many companies don’t list every employee on their website; that’s a legitimate choice. But if they don’t show you a single picture or name, you should be concerned. Knowing who the people behind the company are gives you a chance to ask questions, check out their credentials on LinkedIn and generally understand who’s going to be taking care of your account. If they aren’t telling you who the players are, they might have something to hide, like outsourcing the work to India or a bad reputation.
  • They don’t list any social media accounts. No Facebook. No Twitter. No LinkedIn. No nothing. Look, there’s no cause to freak out if the company doesn’t have every social network known to man listed on their website–in fact, that’s a good thing. It probably means they are being selective and strategic in their approach to social media. But if they don’t have at least one or two social icons so you can evaluate the kind of marketing they do for themselves, that’s a big issue.
  • All they talk about is building likes or followers. If the only measurement of success the company can offer is that they’ll get you a lot of fans in a hurry, they’re simply going to buy junk followers for pennies a piece and call it a success because you quintupled your fans in a week. You might initially feel good because there are thousands of people seeing your message, but even if there are actual people behind those accounts and not robots, are they actually your target customers? Ask about true measurements of success: driving web traffic, phone calls, email signups, and of course, conversions.
  • They can’t list any success stories. Many social media companies choose to be a bit circumspect when talking about their social media clients. That’s okay. They don’t have to scream their names from the rooftops, but they should be able to privately send you a few examples of work they’ve done. If they can’t or they won’t, you should move on.

Please, please, please don’t be taken in by a charlatan. I’m going to make a blanket offer here: If you’re considering working with a social media company and have concerns, talk to me. I promise I won’t try to sell you, but I’ll offer a completely honest opinion on the company based on their website. Why? Because these frauds give the rest of us a bad name. Their sloppy work convinces people that social media doesn’t work, and that doesn’t sit well with me.

Be smart. Be prepared. Be successful.

photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc