You don’t have to look very far to see that there are a lot of social media marketing companies cropping up. Between new “marketing” companies that provide digital marketing services and traditional marketers who are adding social media to their repertoire, Social Media Marketers are multiplying as fast as Gremlins in a Steven Speilberg movie.

But not all social media marketers are created equal, and there are several things a business/organization should think about before hiring a SMM (Social Media Marketer). Here are some pitfalls to avoid.

Mistake #1: Not defining goals

This error can sink any endeavor, for sure. Don’t start unless you have a clear set of goals in place. Make sure you and your social media marketer work together to identify your specific goals. Are you trying to expand your brand reach to a new geographic area? Want to penetrate the mobile market? Maybe you simply want to grow your fans on Facebook by 25%. Whatever your goals are, make sure your SMM knows what they are and has a plan on how to reach the goals. Otherwise, why are you doing this?

Mistake #2: Not discussing how much time it will take

I can’t stress this enough – make sure you discuss how much time your SMM will be working for you. This is critical for determining your costs and factoring a benefit analysis. It’s not just to be able to predict how much you’ll be spending each month, it’s to maximize their efforts. For example, I recommend that you negotiate a flat fee per month that equates to X number of hours. That way you can know how many hours are being spent on each social media channel (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ etc.) and how many are being spent on certain tasks (creating graphics, writing status updates, responding to comments and tweets). If your prospective SMM gives you a flat rate but has no idea how many hours of work that will entail, press them to answer that question.

Mistake #3: Hiring someone because they use social media a lot

Though trends are changing, social media is still a young person’s passion. Most folks spending a lot of time on social media are young and very savvy with technology. But just because someone has a lot of experience on Twitter and Facebook, doesn’t make them qualified to market your brand on social media. Find out what experience they have with marketing. Many of the principles of marketing on social media are nothing more than repackaged old school rules of marketing that have been around for generations. It’s not enough that the SMM company that courts you has young people working for them that live and breath Google+ and Pinterest. They need to be creative, organized, and professional. They should have some track record of success doing marketing and social marketing. Too many companies (especially those that are small to mid-sized and can’t afford to hire larger SM marketing firms) settle on outsourcing their social media to someone who is little more than a Facebook “power user.”

Mistake #4: Failing to get buy-in from your own organization

This mistake can trip up a business/organization of any size. It’s very important that you get buy-in from the principles in your company. Too often I see companies who have someone in their organization who have treated social media as something they have been “meaning to get to” but haven’t had the resources. So, they hire a SMM without first selling the idea to the the owner and other top level people. If the key players on your team don’t see the value in SMM, your efforts will come up short. Social media will be an afterthought, and the results will be lackluster. Make sure you convince your organization that social media can be a valuable channel to market for customers, leads, etc. Show them examples of brands who are having success (a good SMM can help you find these) and set goals (see Mistake #1) to prove to them that this is a serious effort. Once they buy-in, the culture of your organization will more readily accept the things you have to do to make social media a marketing priority.

You don’t have to wade into Social Media Marketing blindly. There are steps that can be taken to ensure that your efforts can deliver results. Make sure to consult these common mistakes so you don’t make them. Please share this article with others if you feel they would benefit from it, and I welcome your comments.