Social Media Experts for Classical Music

With the explosion of social media and the desire for arts organizations to jump on the band wagon, hiring a social media consultant/expert seems to be the order of the day. How do you know if you're actually hiring an expert?

I was reading a blog post the other day from a self-proclaimed orchestra expert. Granted the information this 'expert' writes about in terms of orchestra administration, budgeting, and contract negotiations seems to be spot on. {I'm not an expert in these topics so I have no way to certify if the advice is correct or not.} However, this person also claims to know social media and is quite outspoken at how poorly orchestras are using social media, particularly Twitter. I do understand Social Media, Twitter specifically, and find the advice this expert offers to be wrong in numerous ways.

Don't just take my word on what's right and wrong. If you're an arts organization, do some research into the person you want to hire as a consultant. Here are some ways you can determine if the person really understands social media.

It isn't a perfect system. Lots of people abuse the process. But, if the person you want to hire can't achieve a Klout score of 45 then they aren't active enough on social media to warrant your attention. If they can't get a score of 45 for themselves (and they claim to be an expert) how are they going to get you the attention you deserve?

Peer Index and Kred are also good ways to look at someone's exposure in the social media realm. Peer Index gives you a range of topics they are communicating on, and Kred gives you a glimpse at a person's outreach level.

Google Search
If they're an expert in social media they should have a blog, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account at the very least. They should also have at least two other outlets for their online profile. Normally, I wouldn't ask for these things in an interview, but when you're considering social media they are necessary for your research.

Try and find their blog using Google's search. It may not be your search engine of choice, but it is for 80% of the internet so it's a good benchmark. Don't search using their name. Use items they should be talking about: orchestras, classical music, social media. Even go so far as pulling words from their titles and see what you get. If their blog doesn't show up on the first three pages (first thirty hits) they aren't topical. If you can't find them nobody else can either. If they cannot drive traffic and create good search ranking for themselves how can they be expected to do so for you?

On their Facebook page, how many posts do they submit per week? If it's less than three they aren't active on Facebook. How many people do they have as friends (or if it's a page - and it should be - how many likes)? What are they talking about? Is it the kind of topics you want associated with your organization. You can learn a lot about someone by what they say on their Facebook profile.

A friend of mine who is interested in being a professional political activist leans quite far to one one side of the political spectrum. A client hired them to help promote their campaign. However, in the midst of the campaign the client needed to appear more middle of the road. A few of the comments on my friend's Facebook page mentioned working for the client which resulted in these comments becoming public knowledge. Suddenly the client was being painted with the same brush as my friend, even though nothing on the client's social media campaign said anything of the sort. There is an old adage, "We know you by the friends you keep." Unfortunately, while much of my friend's advice was excellent, his personal profile became a detriment to his client.

Twitter is a great way to find out what a person chooses to talk about as well as who they converse with. Look at their tweets. Is there a common group of people they regularly communicate with? If so, who are these people, what topics are they talking about and does it relate to your business? People should be multidimensional, but if there aren't any topics that relate to your business and/or there are topics you definitely don't want associated with your business, this expert probably isn't the one for you.

I was working with someone who wanted to leverage his web business into social media advice. His twitter account was filled with conversations with people in the adult entertainment industry. While I have nothing against the industry, this person was going to have a difficult time selling his services to the local toy store as a social media expert. Twitter was working for him personally, but it wasn't a profile that could work well in general public

Linked in is an excellent professional resource. But keep in mind what you're getting is professional responses. People are less likely to provide details here that illuminate less flattering aspects. While it is great for recommendations and cross checking references, it doesn't provide the whole picture.

The key to hiring a Social Media Expert: Know who you're hiring. Investigate their own effectiveness. Choose someone who not only understands social media but who has an understanding and enthusiasm for your art. Do your homework. It is often thought that someone young is a good choice because 'all the kids use social media'. But just like having a driver's license does not make you a professional driver, using Social Media does not make you an expert.

I don't want to harp on the so-called 'expert' mentioned at the beginning of this post, but I did a little research on him as I am advocating for here. This is what I found: their Klout score is 40, I couldn't find a blog in 10 pages of Google Searches, found no Facebook page, and while they have nearly 2000 followers on Twitter, their tweets are almost 100% self-promotion and very little dialogue, interaction or responsiveness to those followers. When searching related keywords, the only articles I found were his own promotional ones. Basically it seems you are to believe he is an expert because he tells you he is.

For an example of someone who does it right, look to Greg Sandow. He has a klout score of 58, his blog posts can be found on the first page of a Google search, and he has a lively and entertaining Facebook page. Although his Twitter account is less active, when discussions do occur there they are very topical. Key to Greg's approach is his collaborative attitude - he wants to work with you rather than dictate to you.

In the end run, a Social Media Expert should first discover what you wish to accomplish as an organization, and then help establish the social media campaign that can support and enhance those goals and raise your standing in the community. This is work that requires knowledge, experience and vision. Anyone can call themselves an expert, before you hire them, make sure that they actually are.


Bill said…
Absolutely right-on! Advice is sound for anyone looking to hire an "expert". There are really very few of them out there!

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