ImageAre you looking to hire a social media consultant? There are plenty of them out there, be sure to ask the right questions to get the best one for you and your business.

How successful are you in your own social media?

I quite often see so-called social media consultants telling us how we could build up thousands of twitter followers or Facebook followers, yet when you look at their own accounts they don't have many followers themselves. Do not get me wrong here, a painter never paints his own house as the saying goes, but if the painter's house is her show home then maybe she should. It is a measure at least.

What do you know of my market?

Most may not know your market, which is why it is important to see if the consultant spends time to understand it before you start paying them. Why would you pay for them to learn after all! See how engaged they are in your market then ask them questions about it to measure how good they will be for you and your company.

How would you engage my audience ?

An interesting question, but for the social media consultant they should easily be able to answer it. Look for answers beyond "We follow some on twitter and some follow back." Any monkey can do that and you do not need to pay for that type of service.

What tools do you use?

There are so many tools out there now and some social media consultants may choose not to reveal the "dark secret" of how and what, which is of course a load of rubbish because all you need to do is Google social media tools and see what comes up. Transparency is key here and so important in this type of relationship. Hootsuite, Tweetadder, Tweepie, Twuffer, Buffer and many more are just some examples and all interact in different ways.

Which social media aspects do you specialise in?

The funny thing with social media is that everyone is an expert, yet no one is. It is still new to us - only dates back around 10 years, which is not a lot on the scale of things. It is not possible for any one person to know all of the social networks, but it is possible for the consultant to identify which one or ones suite your business and objectives, so ask them outright.

How much and how often would you spend time on my campaigns ?

If you get told one hour a day for £1,000 a month, run a mile! Most things you can do yourself, so you are really looking for that extra leap, the extra dimension to assist you developing your social presence. It takes time to build and is a medium- to long-term gain.

What campaigns would you setup for my business?

You are looking for some creativeness here rather than same old same old. Maybe social competition, social gaming or simply social engagement. Test the consultant and ask for examples of work done and check the results and timeframe.

How long will it take?

If you get told "We will get you a zillion connections, followers, friends, links" in two months, again, run a mile. Be realistic about the results and make sure the consultant shares your vision. Just ask them the question and see what they say.

How do you measure the ROI?

This is a great question and one many struggle with. Do you measure by how many friends you have or how many convert to sales? As always it is time times cost times income over lifetime value of a customer. If the consultant has spent time understanding your business and objectives for social media, then they should be able to easily tell you how it will be measured.

Get it in writing

Make sure you get all the above in writing as part of your payment and contract conditions. You want results and the only way you will get them is by dealing with the consultant properly and measuring properly.

What other advice would you give when hiring a social media consultant?

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