However, as with any human endeavor, where there are legitimate people coming into the field all the time, there are also lots of charlatans out there who will take your money and provide no value for the services they provide (if they provide any at all).
Here are five ways to spot them and protect yourself.
I’ll Get You 100,000 Facebook Likes in Two Days
Wild claims should always be looked at askance, but sadly many people fall for social media consulting charlatans just as they fall for get rich quick schemes. It’s not that you cannot get 100,000 Facebook likes for your page. You can. However, it takes time to build it up. Usually, it involves giving something of real value away and investing money in advertising that fact as well.
Anyone who says that they can get you 100,000 Facebook likes in two days (or even a week – a month is more realistic as a bare minimum) or for that matter 100,000 Twitter followers in the same period of time is either lying outright or providing false goods. That’s because there is a way to get those 100,000 likes in two days – by using bot accounts which are mostly fake and which automatically sign up to “like” you.
The problem is that these “likes” will do nothing for you since they’re not from real people. Similarly, Twitter followers which are just computers sending out spam are not worth anything at all as far as making a dent in social media.
Check Their Personal Twitter and Facebook Profiles
A successful social media consulting professional should have a healthy and successful Twitter and Facebook following. After all – if they can’t manage to get a following for their own personal brand name, how can you trust them to get you a following for your business?
It’s also useful to look at what’s been posted and who is doing the posting. Some social media consulting charlatans have built up large Twitter followings for example by using auto follow services. The problem is that almost all their followers are either dead accounts or bots which spew spam all over the Twitterverse without providing real value.
Ask for References
Everyone has to start somewhere, but you don’t need to be the first one to take a chance on someone who just hung out her shingle for social media consulting services. There will be plenty of others who will not bother to heed this advice and will do it anyway. So be sure to ask for references and check them carefully. Contact the owners of the Twitter and or Facebook pages that they refer you to and ask probing questions. Find out what they did to make the brand name a success story.
Guarantees are for Suckers
Another way to spot a social media consulting charlatan is that they make wild guarantees about how popular you’ll become or about what this will do for your SEO efforts.
They guarantee for example that by getting yourself on Twitter you’ll get page one results in Google as well for your preferred keyword (it’s not that it can’t happen, but those who make absolute statements usually don’t know what they’re talking about. The reliable ones will either say “we’ll do this or your money back in full” or will simply tell you what can and can’t be done).
Now it is possible that they may offer guarantees which are legitimate – that they can get you a certain number of followers or likes in a reasonable period of time. However, be on the lookout for “too good to be true” guarantees. These are the people who don’t know what they’re doing.
Ask for a Plan
Finally, speaking of people who don’t know what they’re doing — the very best way to spot a social media consulting charlatan is to ask them for a plan of action.
While they don’t need to dot every i and cross every t for you, they should be able to lay out the broad strokes of a plan for achieving your goals. If they’re vague or claim it’s a “trade secret,” look elsewhere.
A real social media consultant isn’t afraid to explain what they do because 80% of what you’re paying for is the legwork and skill with turning phrases rather than the knowledge of the mechanics of social media (which you can just easily learn about by reading a few books –books which the social media consulting charlatan probably hasn’t bothered to read).
Frank Anderson is a technology and Internet blogger. When not writing about information technology he works with exchange hosting and other various hosting solutions.