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Do consultant/agency social footprints matter to clients?

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Interesting discussion with a friend the other day who’s been a long-time agency pro, but is now on the client side. The topic? Do consultants need a significant social footprint to get hired and do great work on behalf of clients?

Footprint

In other words, do you need 500+ connections on LinkedIn, 4,000 followers on Twitter and 500 followers on Instagram to be an effective social counselor?

Forget about the numbers for a moment. We all get hung up on the numbers. Answer this: Does the social footprint matter to clients when making vendor hiring decisions? If you’re on the client side, do you even look at it when researching your social firms/consultants?

It’s an interesting topic of discussion. One that’s been bandied about for a number of years. But, since the industry has evolved the last few years and SO many people have entered the “social” industry, here’s where I stand on this topic:

Footprint matters

Like it or not, social footprints should matter to clients. Not so much the numbers. I don’t think there’s a big difference between someone with 500 Twitter followers and someone with 5,000. But, the big picture? Yes. What does their LinkedIn profile look like? How complete is it? Who else are they connected to? How do they show up in a simple Google search? How do they even use Twitter? Are they using other niche networks? Are they a blogger? What does their thinking look like there? The footprint shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all, but it should be a factor in your decision to work with the agency/consultant. Why? Because the footprint is a signal. A signal that tells you this consultant knows what they’re doing–and that they’re going to apply that knowledge and those ideas to your business. How else can you figure that out? The agency can show you case studies. But, how do you know the specific team you’ll be working with worked on that other client? You don’t. All you have is your due diligence. So, don’t forget to do it. (I realize this is a pretty self-serving opinion from the guy who has a pretty large social footprint–I have no defense here)

All or nothing

My friend had an interesting take on the agency social footprint perspective–and I think I agree with it. Her opinion: Agencies should either be “all in” in terms of a social footprint or not do anything at all. Her reasoning was this: Either go all in and have a solid footprint. This means probably assigning a team (for agencies) to keeping up your profiles on a daily basis. This means resources–and money (even if you’re a solo). A means to a new business pipeline. Or, it means doing nothing at all–which means you’re too busy doing all the great client work to get to your agency or consultant social profiles. Anything in the middle looks sloppy and shoddy. Your blog hasn’t been updated for three months. You haven’t posted to your Facebook page in two weeks. And you haven’t responded to that question on Twitter in a week. How does that look to a client? Not good. Not good at all. All or nothing.

Hire for passion

Ever think about who works for professional sports teams in social, marketing and PR? Mostly kids. 20-somethings with minimal experience, but a crapload of passion and interest in profressional sports. They don’t get paid much, but most people I’ve known who have done it, absolutely loved it. Why? Because they LOVED football, or basketball or baseball or soccer. And I’m guessing that passion showed through to their employer–and in their work. Think about our world now. Who would you hire? The consultant/agency who says they’re passionate about social media, who knows it inside and out, but doesn’t really show up online that well. Or, would you hire the team that also claimed they had a passion for social AND showed up in a big way on LinkedIn, on Twitter and on Instagram. And, who had a blog that was pretty darn good, too. Think about it–who would you hire? You can claim you have passion up and down the river, but until I see some proof, why should I believe you? It’s about social proof points folks. You either have them, or you don’t. And 9 out of 10 times, I’m going with the folks that have them.

That’s my two cents. What do you think? I know you have thoughts–this is a pretty heated topic. Still.

Note: Photo courtesy of artfullblogger via FlickR Creative Commons.

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Do consultant/agency social footprints matter to clients?

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