10 Questions Your Facebook Marketing Consultant Better Be Able to Answer

If you don't work on cars, how do you know your mechanic isn't ripping you off? And if he's honest, he could still be inefficient -- and that costs you money. It seems like everyone on Facebook is a self-proclaimed social media expert. There are no degrees or certifications, so we all operate without a license.

If you don’t work on cars, how do you know your mechanic isn’t ripping you off? And if he’s honest, he could still be inefficient — and that costs you money. It seems like everyone on Facebook is a self-proclaimed social media expert. There are no degrees or certifications, so we all operate without a license.

Scary, isn’t it?

And what if you’re selling Facebook marketing services yourself? How do you distinguish yourself from all of the other guys who claim to be amazing social gurus?

To start, you should be able to answer these 10 questions:

1) What’s the people talking about this figure on your Facebook page?

Be prepared for plenty of hemming and hawing about how they’ve been so busy with client projects that they haven’t had time for their own stuff. Yes, I know – the cobbler’s son has no shoes.

2) Can you show me a few live examples of Facebook pages you manage?

You might not believe it, but this is where most consultants fail altogether, or they can only show you a couple pages with pathetic traffic. Have them log in to show you. The Catch-22 of any job is that a big brand isn’t going to let you touch its stuff unless you have experience with other big brands. But what if you don’t have the experience? If you’re a consultant in this space, you need to partner with the folks who do have access, because apprenticing is a faster way to learn than taking on a couple small businesses or start-ups (the worst) with no fans.

3) How do you promote posts?

If they say they simply hit the “promote” or “boost” button, walk away. That button is designed for small businesses owners who need something simpler than choosing targeting options inside Power Editor.

If they say they don’t believe in paid, walk away. You don’t have to spend much — often a couple of dollars per day against the right micro-audience is enough. But nowadays, it’s a paid game, even more so than Google.

If they don’t mention Power Editor, run away.

4) How do you measure return on investment on Facebook?

If they say it can’t be done or that it’s only about driving fans or engagement, they’re ignorant. You can absolutely measure ROI by looking at referral traffic to your site (Google Analytics and Site Catalyst), collecting emails in Facebook custom tabs (now called apps), measuring coupon redemptions, and so forth.

The smart ones will ask you what your business goals are — forget about Facebook-specific metrics. We’re talking about metrics that a chief financial officer or business owner would care about. Then they’ll figure out how to tie Facebook traffic to these goals.

5) I’d like to build a custom application: What do you think?

The only sensible answer is “no,” unless you’re a gaming company or have an engineering staff with more than 10 folks.  If they mention QR codes, the answer is, “Hell no.”  These are easy ways to blow $20,000 for virtually no traffic.

6) What should my custom audience strategy be?

Here, you’re just testing them to see if they know what custom audiences are and if they’ve used them effectively before. You can upload lists of your emails, phone numbers, and Facebook user IDs, but really, you’re just loading up emails from Constant Contact, Salesforce.com, Mailchimp, or whatever.

On a clean list, you should match north of 80 percent for consumer businesses and 30 percent for business-to-business. Facebook matches against these, so you can use it as social remarketing to help opportunities convert, bring opt-outs back, and amplify what’s in your regular email trigger system.

If you have a small list (under a few thousand), ask them what you can do. The answer is to use two types of lookalike audiences — where Facebook finds additional people that are similar (a smaller expansion) or a broader audience (to increase reach).

Custom audiences are the most powerful feature Facebook has released on the ads side in seven years — even stronger than sponsored stories, although, you can run custom audiences into sponsored stories.

7) I want to run a contest, what should I give away?

If they say an iPad, cash, or something like that, fire them. Those contests attract traffic, but not the people who want your product or service.

The only appropriate answer is to give out in-kind products and services. If you sell chocolates, then you give out chocolates. And you’d have their odds of winning contingent upon inviting others.

Tell them that you’d like to ask people to comment on your post and that you’d like to choose a winner from among the entries.

What they should tell you — the correct answer — is that you don’t want to do that. It’s against the terms of service, which means Facebook can shut you down. The only acceptable way to run contests is via an app.

8) What’s your content strategy for my niche?

This question is designed to catch the social prima donnas who think they only need to know social, but not understand your business. Whoever is posting on your behalf represents your brand. They must be credible against your best users, who can spot a fake.

One of our clients provides environment lab testing equipment to engineers. I don’t think any Blitz people are qualified to have a discussion with customers of that company.

The correct answer is that they will strive to learn your business, while developing internal processes for your own people to produce content regularly in-house.

If they say they want to use HootSuite to spam every social media channel at the same time, as well as load up the posting calendar a month in advance, you should cringe. These people are called “noisemakers” and will only erode your brand with your serious customers. I’m not saying you can’t post pictures of cats, but most of the content must be relevant.

9) Who are the top five social practitioners you admire most?

If they can’t readily name five people, they’re either too new to the space or they’re not willing to keep up with the times. Their knowledge is outdated at best and lethal (most likely) at worst.

10) Is Facebook for marketing, PR, advertising, customer care, or what?

This is to pull out whether they only have a single view. Many of them come from just the PR or community management angle. Successful Facebook marketing means that all parts of the company are involved, since Facebook is not a “channel.” People will complain, so we have to respond, and sometimes we even have to escalate. Will your consultant know what to do, or have a team in place to do it?

What if your organization is running TV or other types of media? Will social be able to amplify these messages and ready to respond with one voice?

What will happen if there’s a tragedy, such as the recent Boston bombings? Do they know what to do and have they built processes for it before?

Now, how many of these questions can you answer?

To be able to screen mechanics at your car dealership, you have to be a master mechanic yourself, or at least hire one who can screen them.

No matter how busy you are, you must still own your Facebook strategy, even if you delegate the execution.

Readers: What questions would you add to the list?

Dennis Yu has helped brands grow and measure their Facebook presences. He has spoken at Search Marketing Expo, Search Engine Strategies, Web 2.0, The American Marketing Association, PubCon, Conversational Commerce Conference, Pacific Conferences, HostingCon, Affiliate Summit, Affiliate Convention, UltraLight Startups, MIVA Merchant, and other venues. Yu has also counseled the Federal Trade Commission on privacy issues for social networks. Yu has held leadership positions at Yahoo and American Airlines. His educational background is finance and economics from Southern Methodist University and London School of Economics.