Is social media consultancy worth paying for?

Yesterday I was drawn into a discussion on the value of social media consultancy. I came across a conversation which suggested that people should not be paying “so called” social media consultants to provide a service around tools which are free, specifically social networking sites.

It may well be a fair point, the sites are all free to use after all so why pay someone to use them for you?

Well, I can think of plenty of reasons

Not least of which is that it’s nothing new to pay someone for a service that you don’t have the time or the will to do for yourself. Cleaner, taxi driver, nanny, PA, website designer, kitchen fitter…the list is probably without end. We pay these people for their time which allows us, in turn, the time to do whatever it is that we do best. We also pay them for their skill and experience, knowing that, in most cases, they will do a much better job than us.

I can only speak of my own practise when it comes to social media “consultancy” but I firmly believe that my skills and experience make me worth paying for. I’m not setting up a twitter account for you and telling to you to tweet before holding out my cap. In fact, I’m kind of assuming that you’re willing to at least make that step for yourself because from that point on you’re going to be using it a lot more.

What do I do?

What I offer clients is an analysis of their communications and marketing efforts. From there I can then advise as to what I feel would best suit them in terms of improving their visibility online.

I spend time learning about their business, then I spend time learning about their clients. I then spend more time thinking about how they might be better engaged in conversation. I set up search feeds to listen to the conversations, after which I draw up plans for how best to join them.

I help them improve their websites to include more relevant and up-to-date content. I edit their blogs for them. I hold their hands and I prompt them, I reassure them and keep their best interests at the heart of my own. I represent them to other clients. I pitch them ideas to help them tie online and offline together. I travel in buses, taxis and trains to meet them in cafes and talk to them about improving what they do.

And, as if that’s not enough, I then come on here and blog about how I’m doing it.

I do all of the above very well

I do it very well because I have 15 years experience of  digital communications. You seriously can’t underestimate that when you’re poised to press send on an email campaign which is going to roll out to 50,000 people. I’ve worked for an enormous cross section of clients and understand the marketplace online for anything from whisky to community food initiatives. I also love what I do.

Now, believe it or not, all of this “so called” stuff takes up a lot of time. My time which I’m spending to improve business for my clients. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I prefer to be compensated for that.

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7 thoughts on “Is social media consultancy worth paying for?

  1. Hi Barry,

    Absolutely agree. The fact that you can use a free tool doesn’t necessarily mean that you will use it in the best way. This is where the value of consulting, in advising on using something in the best and most appropriate way, can be realised.

    A further point I’d add is the benefit of getting an independent view – a ‘fresh pair of eyes’. This can be seen in something as simple as proofreading; where familiarisation can mean that mistakes do not get spotted by the author of the piece, but they do by the proofreader – the independent. In the social-media situation that you mention above, the consultant can provide that independent view and identify those areas for improvement that may otherwise have been hidden by the familiarity.

    I think a further issue to arise in the defending of social media consulting is that the value and impact of the work is often difficult to measure; because of the dissipation of the ideas amongst the social network – where other influences are present – and the ensuing difficulty of tracing what had which effect. When we get this cracked at least we’ll be able to better qualify what we can achieve.

    Emma
    tw: Emma_Pickering

  2. Hi Barry

    Another great post, agree completely with your sentiment here, the two most common concerns raised by potential clients to me are “I don’t have enough time to manage this” and “I’m worried about making mistakes”.

    So we offer them the opportunity to dip their toe in the water by managing the communication for them and we promise to “make less mistakes” than they would.

    But to enable this we really need to invest quality time to understand their business and online goals and ally these to the Social activity.

    So is this worth paying for? I would say yes, but I’m biased.

    Cheers
    James

  3. I’ve got a tool-box full of tools in my garage, does that make me qualified to re-wire my house?

    Good advice that effects a positive/desired change for a client is worth paying for. The other kind isn’t.

    Simple as that.

    (Sorry, it’s Friday – I’m feeling flippant.)

    @allanbarr

  4. Allan, you have a point. I’d compare Social Media Consultant to Search Engine Optimisation Consultants (notice the un-necessary capitalisation there) or to bring it into what clients might understand – a personal trainer.

    I know the rudimentary basics of getting a six-pack. Eat less carbs in the evening, eat less fat generally, do lots of cardio, do some weights too – anything to increase the calories I burn – not just doing sit-ups.

    However, and this is the killer – when am I going to be motivated enough to do so. On my own – never. With a personal trainer – very likely. It doesn’t mean it’ll be a success – I may not see the mythical six-pack in a year of hard training – but I’ll be stronger, fitter and more likely to get into a routine of doing it myself if I stop with the trainer.

    Social Media consultancy and training is about getting used to it enough to get on with it and being challenged to do the right thing. I know that as a web development company I have all the tools and a lot of the knowledge to do what Barry does – but not the expertise in specific areas. He’s the guru – not me. That’s why we need consultancy and why we should be urging a clients to pay for it.

  5. Paying for expertise is such common sense.

    The free tools only come alive and show their worth if applied properly and appropriately. I’ve had great advice, attended a few excellent, paid-for, informative seminars but I’m never happier than when an expert is “showing” me how to use the tools correctly, one to one.

    I’ve no problems paying for such a service. Means less time fiddling around to sort out self-inflicted problems. I’m also grateful to the free advice and guidance I’ve had as well.

    @MikeRitchiePR

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