Let's say your company wants to hire a social media consultant to launch a blog for you. You're down to two candidates, one has a list of 12 different clients that they say they have helped developed blogging and social media initiatives for. The second consultant doesn't list any clients, and appears to be brand new to consulting.
So you naturally want to go with the first consultant, right?
But what if you check the consultant with the multiple clients, and notice that their blog has almost no comments, and the newest post was 27 days ago. And their SiteMeter link says their blog averages 29 visitors a day.
Then you check out the consultant with no clients, and see that their blog has an avg of 4 new posts a week, every posts gets at least 5 comments, and their blog averages 500 visitors a day.
Now who do you hire to create a vibrant blog for your company? The consultant that claims to have done this for multiple clients (but that has a dead blog), or the consultant that has no clients, but who also has a vibrant blog?
Who's the real social media expert here? Do we place more importance on client list, or what the person has actually done with social media?
This post is partly based on this post by Josh Hallett. Josh's main point is that if a social media speaker can't produce a list of clients for their work, then there's no reason why we should listen to that person. The big problem I have with this stance is that it implies that a list of clients is all the social media speaker/consultant needs to then be credible. In fact, I often see people speaking on blogging and social media that claim many well-known clients, yet you scan their blogs and presences on social sites, and virtual tumbleweeds are flying by.
But the MAIN reason for this post/rant is this...
Over the past several months, I have had the 'why aren't you consulting/speaking?' talk with several incredibly SMART people in the social media space. People that are clearly experts in creating social content that resonates with others. People that have vibrant blogs, people that have hundreds/thousands of engaged Twitter followers. People that truly understand why social media works, and that could make a good living teaching companies why social media works.
But most if not all of these people are/were hesitant to start consulting. Often because they didn't have a client list, and felt that people would think that they shouldn't be hired as a result. Nevermind that these people knew more about creating compelling blog content than most of the so-called 'experts'.
And then there's the whole issue of self-promotion. I had this talk with one friend and they told me 'but if I promote myself as being available for work, I am afraid that people will think I am calling myself an 'expert'.
This is how warped our idea of who a social media expert really has become. We are so scared to death of self-promotion that the REAL experts are afraid to promote themselves at all. Lisa Hoffmann is exactly right.
Can we stop the insanity? Having a list of clients you have performed social media work for doesn't mean you know the first thing about the social media initiative that my company wants to launch. And not having a client list shouldn't mean that a potential client would automatically eliminate you from consideration. Social media being utilized by businesses as a tool to reach their customers is still very new. Yes having a robust social media client list is VERY important. And perhaps even more important, is whether or not you actually understand why these tools work and can demonstrate that.
Pushing my soapbox back under the bed. I hate to launch into a rant, but when I see really smart people that are afraid to start consulting/speaking because of how they feel they will be viewed, or if they will be accused of claiming they are an 'expert' (and not if they are talented enough), then something's amiss.
Pic via Flickr user jgarber