Another day, another social media expert... Or so it seems.

As marketing/advertising firms struggle to find clientele during the "Great Recession," more and more of them are turning to social media as a timely service offering that can drive new sales. 

The reality is that more often than not, these firms/consultants have no practical experience and end up taking their client's money for work that a college intern could do in their sleep.

In an attempt to expose the pseudo from the authentic social media experts, here are 5 questions you should ask before signing any contracts.

1) "How do you approach social media?" -- If the first thing they say is, "You need to have a presence on all the social networks - especially Facebook and Twitter and then all the lesser known ones." Thank them for their time and continue your search. Just like going to a high school dance, you won't get kissed sitting along the wall. Get a plan and determine what makes sense before jumping in to anything.
2) "What success stories do you have?" -- If their success story is a lucky idea that took place over 3 years ago, it's completely irrelevant and won't apply to your business. As the saying goes, "What have you done for me lately?" Social media is changing every day and what worked 3 years ago won't work today. Also, if their success was spawned from a "viral idea" it means they got lucky. Viral success isn't repeatable without millions of dollars. Think about it, how many Central Ohio companies have had viral success online? 1 maybe?
3) "What metrics do you use to measure success?" -- The wrong answer is "number of followers, number of fans and comments." Ask for real numbers from their other clients like average visitor value from social media traffic, e-commerce conversion rate, time on site, weekly interactions, etc... Being popular sucks if you're popular for the wrong reasons. Number of followers and/or fans means absolutely nothing if the other stats are less than desirable.
4) "How did your firm learn these skills?" -- Most likely, they read a book. You could do the same and spend $30 instead of $13,000. Experience is the correct answer.
5) "Will social media work for my business?" -- They shouldn't be able to answer this question in the first meeting. After hearing your business goals for the first time, they should do a little research and thinking before offering a blanket guarantee that social media will drive your business success.


6: "Is social media the best way to spend my money?" -- I've seen a lot of situations where companies are spending money with a social media consultant while missing more obvious internet marketing strategies that have the potential to drive significantly more results. In other words, don't do social media just because it's the thing to do. Should you eat the doughnuts in the break room just because everyone else does? Spend money where you'll get the quickest results. Once you've maximized your marketing investment, look for other ways to generate results.

With these questions, you'll expose the impostors and find the best consultants that will be certain to help you achieve your goals for social media.