If you’re a company that’s looking to hire for Social Media Consulting, there’s a lot to consider prior to engaging with a consultant. Understandably, without a clear understanding of how social media exactly works, hiring on outside source may seem daunting. For starters, and to facilitate proliferation, your consultant must learn how your company works… and what is is all about in terms of products, services and brands. More importantly a sound knowledge of company culture, voice and persona is integral in establishing a social media context. Only then, can one create and deliver a social media strategy to spread ‘social’ throughout your organization.

Social Media Consulting should begin with research, followed by a concise strategy, finally resulting in a transparent and easily understandable analytic report.

But in the meantime, here’s what you should be hearing from your consultant:

“What’s your goal?” Some social media gurus think the big prize is community. That’s a fine start, but for a business, it’s also a means to an end–which is whatever your company’s larger goals are, whether they be sales, brand awareness, or traffic. Your social strategy should not end with the creation of an online conversation.

“Here’s the ROI.” Consultants may tell you that social investments can’t be justified in a quantifiable way. Wrong. The data is out there. If they want you to spend $75,000 on a Foursquare badge, they should explain how that investment will help you reach your goals.

“I don’t care about follower counts.” Companies obsess over how many followers they have, and consultants play to that. But Facebook ads and “Like this page” contests often don’t boost consumer engagement. Rather, you should be courting influencers–trusted insiders with engaged followers (such as bloggers, niche celebrities, or active tweeters), who can help spread your message.

“Facebook and Twitter are only a start.” Consultants should know which platforms are best for your businesses. For example, if you are a fashion designer and your consultant isn’t talking about collage platform Polyvore, they’re doing something wrong.

“Let’s look at data.” Your consultant should find smart ways to interpret data that platforms provide, and track down new data sources as well. They should also identify the best social measurement, management, and listening tools for your company’s needs, so you can look up those data yourself after they’re gone.

“Your website should be social.” Don’t just rely on other platforms. Your consultant should optimize your own site for sharing and data collection. To start, connect to Facebook’s Open Graph and measure social activity–including “likes”–within your domain, in addition to measuring that activity within Facebook itself.

(Information from: Fast Company)

What are some of the success/horror stories of when you’ve worked with social media consulting companies?