More than just talking heads: How to pick a Community Consultant

By Dawn Lacallade, Community Manager at SolarWinds

Like picking a Doctor, Lawyer or Tax Professional, picking the right Consultant can make or break your effort to build a great Community for your company or organization. I have chatted with many of you who have chosen poorly and several who have chosen well and tried to put your lessons learned into print here for others.

In my opinion, this is a lot like a good hiring process:

1. Understand who you are looking for and why

2. Find candidates that match

3. Ensure you do a good background check

1. The first thing you must do is to decide what kind of consultant you are looking for. Do you want an agency to run a campaign or someone to build a comprehensive, goals based, long term plan? Are you looking for someone to just build a plan or someone who will continue on and share best practices as you implement?

One big caution: Do not hire someone who has a focus on a single tool for an overarching strategy. It would be like going to a surgeon for diagnosis.

2. To find the best Consultants, rely on Word of Mouth. What companies do you want to emulate? Who did they use? Many of those of us in the trenches of this industry will gladly point you to a few that we respect.

Unfortunately, this space seems to attract people who manufacture credibility. Look carefully. Credibility DOES NOT equal the number of blog posts or the size of the twitter following. Look for actual experience.

3. Now that you have a couple of companies to “interview”, be sure to take a complete look into their backgrounds. Do the Consultants you would be working with have solid backgrounds in delivering communities? Can they show the goals that were set and the ROI they achieved? Can they customize a plan to fit you or do they use a one size fits all model? Do they have experience with a range of community tools? Can they give you contacts at the companies they have worked with as references? Are they willing and able to transfer their expertise and knowledge to you within the working relationship?

One of the most challenging things to evaluate is their ethics. A good starting point is to ensure they agree with and practice within the WOMMA code of ethics.


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