You may not need the former, and you have to carefully screen the latter.
Most people that approach you claiming to be “social media experts,” probably aren’t. They’ll try and dazzle/confuse you with buzz words and key phrases that you’ve heard bandied about but may actually have no idea what they mean. “Analytic” “Click Bait” “Geotagging” “ROR” and so on. Guess what? The “expert” probably doesn’t understand them either. (Here’s a quick glossary).
It’s best to familiarize yourself with some of the terminology so you can at least ask informed questions.
With so many “non-experts” out there, I really question whether there is a need to have an outside social media consultant, or a full-time person on staff. Tools like Hootsuite and others have greatly simplified, automated the tasks, and there is no reason why you can’t have one or more of your regular, full-time employees take on the social media posting tasks. There will be a few rules to remember and install: 1) nearly everybody merits a reply, even the most unfavorable feedback – but not for the purpose of doing battle with them online. 2) stay away from politics and most social issues. 3) just as you wouldn’t do on “the street,” don’t bash competitors. 4) have ‘calls to action” and useful links, when appropriate. 5) humor is perfectly ok, as long as it’s not at someone elses expense. 6) brief introduction into your goals and taboos is necessary.
Website building, maintenance is a more complicated and time-intensive, and that is probably a task you want to outsource, but you’ll have to do your due diligence before hiring a firm.
Here are some questions to pose in the interview process:
- Show me examples of sites you’ve built, maintained. (And check with the owners for their satisfaction of the process and results). Don’t simply take whatever examples of “our work” that they post on their site as representative, remember, those are the ones they are ‘happy’ with. Also, note the AGE of the sites they are bragging about, and go to the URL and see if the site has been substantially changed, or there is a different agency taking credit for the site. (Usually a button at the bottom of the page).
- Can they help you select ancillary parts of the process, like plug-ins, hosting providers and so on. Many web firms offer to “host’ your site, but you’ll want to be at an independent provider, for your own security, and so the web firm can’t hold your site hostage or have a rogue employee conduct some malicious activity.
- Important. Ask, determine how much of their work is done in-house, and how much is outsourced. Outsourced to whom? Where? Will you have a dedicated account manager? The firm should have resources beyond their “sales person” that can effectively manage communications between you and the tech people.
- How is communication effected? In person? Phone? Email? Personally, I think impersonal, electronic, virtual communication can lead to a lot of errors.
- Costs? Calculations of costs? Included? Not included? Fixes? Redesigns?
- What happens, what are the steps, if the scope changes during the project? This can happen, and you need to know in advance what to expect from the firm in this instance.
- Sourcing, ownership, of materials used to build the site. Who owns the graphics, outside media? They will need to establish a path of ownership to you, the client. You don’t want the design firm to retain ownership to ANY parts of your site.
- Coders, builders, and different than “look and feel” (design) people. The firm needs to have both in-house.
- Flexibility. Part of your job mandate needs to be compatibility with the popular browsers, for both computers and mobile devices. The look and feel between computer and mobile sites should be VERY similar.
Take your time. Be diligent in your investigation. Don’t pay more than 25% up front. Approach it like a home remodeling project, with pay dates tied to accomplishments, with a hold back on the final remainder until everything is fixed.
Have outsiders (outside of your company) use different versions of the site, beta test, along the way, and give you feedback.
And if you’re the boss? USE your own website, from the perspective of a consumer, especially if you are selling anything, go through the process of buying and taking delivery. Absolutely.