5 signs your social media guru is a quack

  • Previous
  • 1 of 2
  • View as single page

We all know that you call an incompetent medical professional a "quack." This epithet derives, according to Wikipedia, from the word "quacksalver," which itself comes from a Dutch word, kwakzalver, meaning "boaster who applies salve." In the medieval markets, the sellers of patent medicines would shout, or "quack," to get attention for their wares.

The same kind of phenomenon has developed with the rise of the social media field. As opportunities for communications practitioners to "quack" their salves have dwindled in other, more traditional markets like advertising, public relations, or marketing collateral materials, a coterie of counselors and consultants with reasonable skills in these areas have found it necessary to reinvent themselves to respond to the demand from clients for these new communications skill sets.

Some have taken the time to learn and understand this very different communications channel in order to help brands engage in conversations with social media participants. Unfortunately, others still think of social media tools as the newest megaphone through which they can shout out a one-way advertising message.

Because so many social media consultants come with impressive credentials in other communications arenas, how can you tell whether your consultant is social media savvy or just a quack?

Here are five things to consider when you are choosing a social media consultant.

Experience counts
Forget the wisdom that prevails among some senior executives -- that social media is only understood by 20-something interns. You need to look for consultants whose experience in communications and online technology extends well beyond the last business cycle.

Yes, older people actually might add some value to the discussion. I have blogged on this topic before, with some degree of passion. Here's why.

People who have long exposure to organizations and their management teams can help shape a social media initiative in a way that will be more palatable -- and consequently, more saleable -- to the C-suite.

Moreover, they frequently are not the dinosaurs we think they are. They are often people who have been early adopters/embracers of new technologies throughout their careers. They've just been at it a lot longer.

They also can help manage (not crush) the enthusiasm of younger team members for social media initiatives like contests on Facebook or street theater, while adding appropriate context that will convince senior management to greenlight the projects. Senior managements, as your consultants should know, give projects the go-ahead because they expect them to add to revenue in some way, not because someone with a pierced eyebrow or a sleeve tattoo says it's "awesome."

Experience in social media also counts
Your social media consultant needs to have some kind of track record in, well, social media. It's important that they are active users of the social media channels that they are trying to convince you to pay them to use for you. They also should be able to show you actual social media initiatives implemented for other clients. You don't want to be the alpha or beta test for the consultant's practice.

Don't pay too much attention to how many Twitter followers the consultant has. Pay more attention to the level of engagement the consultant has with followers and friends in these social networks.

Plenty of people are accumulating followers with automated tweeting tools or gimmicks on Facebook, but they really don't make a connection with those followers by having real conversations. Look at their Twitter and Facebook newsfeeds to see what kind of interaction is taking place. If there is none, your consultant is wielding a megaphone, not starting a conversation.

Next page >>



Paul Kasianchuk
Paul Kasianchuk January 18, 2011 at 12:08 PM


Kerry Rego
Kerry Rego September 25, 2010 at 3:28 PM

Challenging concepts, behavior, and the norm. It's where we see thought process (and character). Half of what I do is educate so that my clients and colleagues will be informed consumers so the "quacks" won't get them.
Well said.

Bob Sacco
Bob Sacco September 17, 2010 at 11:04 AM

"Social Media" is more than just Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc... It's whenever a User generates content and shares it. So, it's all about content and conversations. Marketers should be looking for opportunities to get their brand in the middle of those conversations with long-form content so they can influence brand preference. Brands should be seeking not only ways to monitor their long-form content but actionable-data as a result. That is, turning earned media into paid media. Just make sure you buy the paid media portion from an exclusive source so that you avoid media duplication and low-value inventory. I recommend Dlvr.it as a content marketing platform.

Tim O''Hare
Tim O''Hare September 17, 2010 at 9:50 AM

Thanks for sharing. I think I know a number of social media "quacks."

Beverly Dracos
Beverly Dracos September 17, 2010 at 9:26 AM

Relationship is the key word. If someone has practiced relationship marketing they see social media as a logical extension of the work they have been doing. If someone has abandoned what they were doing and started fresh as a social media consultant that would be the red flag to me.

Social media is not the silver bullet, but it does provide new platforms and new tools for those who understand their customers and clients and genuinely want to listen and respond.

Jeff Cannon
Jeff Cannon September 17, 2010 at 9:11 AM

Looks like a duck. Smells like a duck. Quacks like a duck.

Great article to look behind the curtain of most agencies...

Think next time.

Think Cannon


Marty Martindale
Marty Martindale September 17, 2010 at 8:13 AM

Your headlines continually promise bullets, yet you do not deliver.