Do Not Trust: Self-Proclaimed Social Media “Consultants” Are Dangerous

by Susanna Gebauer (@dreckbaerfrau)

I am active in Social Media – ok I am very active. Obviously, that puts me on the radar of many people who want to sell things, even the consultants who want to sell me social media advice.

I get sales pitches by social media consultants all the time. And to say the least, there has not been one social media consultant who pitched me, who I would have hired, even if I were looking for help with my social media activity.

That got me thinking: What do they do wrong? And what would be criteria that would make me believe in their expertise and knowledge and maybe make me get in touch or recommend them?

After all, I “met” several social media consultants in social media, who I think do a brilliant job…

Bragging is Dangerous

A while ago, someone contacted me to suggest him taking over our Social Media activity. To proof his knowledge about Twitter he bragged with his 500 (!) Followers. And a closer look at his twitter account revealed that he was only tweeting promotional tweets about some videos to watch. Since he was German the follower-number itself should be seen in relation to Germany being a rather small country (cough), but since he was contacting someone whose Twitter account at that time was quickly approaching 100.000 Followers, that shows two things: He has no clue about Twitter and he did not look up my accounts before getting in touch. Both facts do not really serve to build trust.

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Only recently I got an even worse sales pitch. At least we have to admit they tried to make the pitch look good:

We have not really gotten to their pitch and already everything is going wrong. Do I have to explain that I am not working in the travel & tourism sector? And again a closer look at their Twitter and Facebook accounts showed no relevant activity, I would “like” or want for my own accounts.

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So what would make me trust a social media consultant? 

Let me start with a question: If social media is such a great thing for businesses – Would you trust a social media consultant who does not use social media for his business?

I wouldn’t! That is why I always have a look at their social media accounts first.

I am no necessarily looking for huge numbers of likes, followers and posts (after all, you can buy those). It’s  not the largest accounts that are the best consultants, but the ones that get it right. It is more about what they do on social media and how rather than pure numbers. If a “social media consultant” only posts sales-links on Twitter – never, ever am I going to turn over my accounts to this guy.

Since I am into content marketing for building a brand and a reputation and from my point of view social media and content only work in combination, I also look at the content these people produce: their blog, possibly guest posts or whatever else I can find. A social media agency whose last blog post was published more than half a year ago – I do not think, I would trust them…

So, who would I trust? Someone active in social media, who posts in a way that I would love to follow, with a nice blog where he/she gives advice and insights. If people cannot provide that – I think they should not call themselves social media consultants. They seem to need advice themselves.

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  • Elizabeth Hall

    There are some very good points here. I am a social media consultant & I’m always look at the social media accounts of others in my industry and often wonder why in the world would anyone hire them. You are truly right about the fact that it doesn’t matter about the “likes” or having a million followers. It is important that those so called social media professionals demonstrate that they understand the impact of having a marketing strategy in line and focused with company goals. Great article. Good for you.

  • Jesse Garboden

    First In order to properly brand you need to use a picture of your self. People listen more to real faces instead of nothing or even a brand image. But, this depends on the market you are going after as well.

    • Rebecca Harris

      I don’t have a profile picture or a regular picture because I don’t like having a Disqus account. I only made it because I wanted to comment on something that would not let me comment using my Google account. And how does me not having a picture affect my job and ability to brand my company. I am not branding myself. I commented because I got some valuable information from the article and I wanted to let the author know that I appreciated their article. I’m sorry but where to you come off telling me that I need to have a completed profile and picture to do my job properly. I think my comment is still acceptable even without a picture.

      • TheSocialMarketers

        Hi Rebecca, Your comment is not only acceptable but highly appreciated! I guess, Jesse’s remark rather applies to all the Social Media “experts” who do not even take the time to fill out their profile pic and then complain that Twitter does not work for them. Talking about branding without a profile might sound strange in some networks, although I totally agree with you that one cannot be active in all networks and there might be some reasons to create an account (to comment) without filling out a profile.
        – Susanna –

        • Rebecca Harris

          Well thank you @thesocialmarketers. My company’s profiles are very well maintained and they are very active. Thanks for the article.


            I totally agree with your point of view, Rebecca Harris. I am very similar – I’ve been working in digital marketing for years now and have always tried my best to differentiate between my personal brand and the companies/clients I work for. I focus on showcasing the brands I work for rather than myself as a brand. To be honest, I prioritize working for my clients before working on myself as my personal brand – I try to build up my personal brand organically and it takes a lot of time and effort. If I would have to share my time 50% with my own personal brand and divide the other 50% for all my marketing clients, I would NOT do a good job for them.

  • smfh

    Most of these so called consultants are annoying foolish lying arse people. Numbers don’t matter if those numbers don’t reflect said client in positive manner..100k followers saying 32 are clients you are lying..1 person or 5 couldn’t give those. Client’s the attention need a small army..I watch this bs everyday..and hear from a few. Just laugh at these people. .#socialmediaHos ..branding of kids with kid mindset.

  • Chloe West

    This is a great post! I’m in the social media marketing field, although I work for a company rather than freelancing, and when I was job searching, I was shocked to find so many social media firms that were hardly active on social media themselves! I couldn’t understand how this was a company dedicated to helping others with their social media but rarely posted to their own Twitter, Facebook, or blog. Doesn’t seem trustworthy at all.

  • Beirut to Jupiter

    One thing to add – sometimes, it’s the company that is the problem. If the company isn’t providing you with content, or if it is hesitant to be as active on SM as is necessary for successful campaigns, the SM person is going to fail. I’ve worked with a couple of orgs that just didn’t want to go all in on SM, and both failed in that area.

  • Susan Harrison

    Absolutely love your post! I ‘do’ social media, I understand IMC, and I write, blog, post,etc. And though I have paying clients that look to me for marketing insight, it is not solely based on social media. It makes me cringe when I see ‘ninja’, ‘guru’, ‘expert’… if you have to proclaim it that loudly…. who are they trying to convince. Actions, not words, speak volumes.

  • Phil Smith

    Some great points. I recently attended a event that included a number of marketing seminars. Although I admit I did not attend the social media seminar I did look up the speaker (expert) later on Twitter. They had around 5,000 followers (that’s ok) but the majority of those followers had obviously been purchased!

  • Chris

    I agree that you need to check people’s work but I have more client’s than I can handle so managing a personal blog or social media accounts is out of the question as I have zero time left over.

  • BuddyandSwifty

    Outstanding. All valid points.

    After self-publishing a children’s book we fired up a Twitter account. Mostly to help get word out about the book and support others who write for kids.

    In a relatively short time we’ve earned just over 400 followers. Even with 25% of the followers likely spam, it’s still a decent following for two young chipmunks who live in the middle of nowhere. And that doesn’t make us social media experts. Just lucky — and always adorable and cuddly.

  • Julia

    While social media consultants and gurus can be helpful, if you find the right person, I prefer to rely on myself. One key thing I like to do is simply buy followers, likes, shares, subscribers, etc.

    I don’t buy them to build my social media efforts entirely, just to kickstart everything. A brand new account, or video, won’t preform very well. But if you buy a few thousand views/likes/followers etc, then you know that when the regular Joe lands on your site he/she is more likely to follow you, like your stuff, interact with you, but from you…

    That’s just the way it is. People follow other people, and high numbers on those follow and like and view counters play a role, whether we want to admit it or not. That’s just the way it is…

  • AltFashFestDublin

    This is similar to what I was saying in my own blog last night (although I’m not an expert and you wouldn’t hire me either!) about my marketing observations, but the amount of accounts I’ve seen who dish out advice often need it most themselves, and this is coming from a lay person with merely an interest in the area. The bit about someone contacting you to take over your social media, er, what do they think you do for a living? Beggars belief!) Lorna Byrne from Alternative Fashion Fest Dublin)

  • Joe

    I would agree with the points. However, grammar and spelling would also be taken into account by me and you missed the mark on that account yourself. So in that regards, I would not hire you either, as it shows a lack of attention to detail. If you cannot spell check your own article, I surely would not want you writing mine.

    • Erin

      My thoughts exactly! Not a good plug for Grammarly either. If the focus is on reputation and branding, that does show sign of a consistently good communicator. I’ve found s lot of content here to be helpful, but perhaps is quantity coming at the expense of quality?

  • Star One Consulting

    I find this post both fascinating and disappointing for a couple reasons. I am a qualified Social Media Consultant with experience in Brand Development, Content Marketing and other related skills.

    I am as active as I can be on Social Media both personally and professionally. I have a professional following that is less than 500 followers on Twitter and considerably less on Facebook. I have over 10 ten full-time business accounts that keep me busy and I do this myself with one other person. The time it takes for me to manage these accounts is exhausting.

    I agree with some of your key points such as doing research but you do fail to mention anything about asking for referrals from current or previous relationships which I believe is one of the most important attributes to finding a competent professional and building trust. The body of work you do for the people and businesses is far more relevant than what you publish to Social Media. I am also NOT ashamed to promote related sales content on my page. Part of being a consultant is helping others find a solution to their needs, So being transparent goes a long way.


      I so agree with you on this!

      The reality is, there are two types of Social Media Consultants with little activity on social media:
      1. The scammers that claim to be experts without having the expertise (and are willing to buy follownig or just take the client’s money without ROI); and
      2. The social media consultants who are good enough at their job to be too busy to work on their personal brand 24/7.

      You said yourself, you belong to the second group like myself.
      This article is good in many ways, unfortunately it missed to emphasize that there are still professionals out there that have enough work to keep them busy WITHOUT having to advertise themselves through a personal brand.

  • Matt LaClear

    Great points Susanna. The proof, it seems, is always in the pudding. Any social media marketing consultant who spams their way to sales obviously knows little about smm. Anyone worth their salt get’s their business from referrals.

  • Ines Anić

    I wouldn’t trust people who suggest you do social media in a way that goes against the terms of service of said media. For example; social media ‘experts’ who say/think “follow-unfollow” is a good social media ‘strategy’ for building an audience on Twitter.

    And these days that’s just about any social media ‘expert’ out there, sadly.

    You’d think people would at the very least bother to read the terms of service of a website before proclaiming themselves an expert in the field.