Are social media consultants solving the wrong problem?

by Carl Natale on April 12, 2011

My half-baked plan to help small business

I have a half-baked idea about how to help small businesses handle social media.

I’m working on a presentation I’m giving next week for the Maine Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development. Somewhere toward the beginning I slip in the sentence, “Social media is a conversation happening online.” I then explain some examples. If I do it right, the audience will walk away with an understanding of how to use social media tools to develop training programs.

Does that take away some of the work that a social media consultant would do? If so, I’m not the only one. There’s no shortage of free webinars and ebooks to explain all this.

What else does a social media consultant do? Let’s look at a few options:

  • Create the idea for a campaign
  • Actually do the work of updating and using the social networks
  • Monitoring the networks for relevant conversations

If I understand Chris Brogan correctly, that’s where the growth is:

“I believe the biggest growth potential for social media is in small business, but it will be had through a shift out of consulting/education and into service products. In other words, small business owners will pay people for the benefits granted from social media. For instance, a small chain of restaurants might pay for someone to build them a campaign manager for Foursquare, and/or perhaps a managed Facebook presence. I think it’ll be less about the small business people wanting to engage themselves (in the majority) and more about them wanting services that emulate those results.”

Why would a small business pay someone to manage their social media presence? Time. They don’t have enough time to handle the time suck that becomes social networking. So common business sense says it’s time to outsource that work so they can spend the time on the business.

Two questions about social media consulting come to mind

First, change  couple words of my definition of social media to “Social media is a conversation with customers.” Should small business owners outsource conversations to a social media consultant?

Second, what is the price point that makes social media consulting worth it for both parties? Social media takes time. If consultants are going to spend time on it for a client, they need to charge enough money to make it worth their while. But small business owners might choke on that price.

Social media consulting doesn’t seem like a scalable business to me. If it a consultant $X to work for a client, does that cost per client go down if there are 10 clients? Or 100 clients?

I could be wrong

It happens quite often. So I’m asking for people to explain the economics to me.

But if I’m right, it seems like it’s better for small businesses to handle social media in house. But what about the time problem?

Maybe that’s the problem that’s more important to solve. What can a consultant do to give a small business owner more time? And make it economically feasible for both parties.

Of course I don’t know what that is. It would require actually talking to small business owners to determine their problems. Then solving probably would require doing more than using an app on my phone.

Like I said, I can be wrong. And I would love for you to explain to me where I go off the rails here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Previous post:

Next post: