Social Media Consultant… Therapist… same thing.

I’ve been quietly rolling an interesting comparison around in my head for a few months now, and lately it’s been dribbling out onto my work and my conversations. I take this to mean it’s probably time to blog about it, and to ask you to help me dissect it. Wanna have a go at it? Here’s my theory:

Social media consultants are a lot like therapists. Or at least, they should be. Or they are if they’re doing their jobs well.

Or, put differently: when someone is looking for a social media consultant, what they really need is a social media therapist.

Here’s what I’m looking at so far…

1) Since having a social media presence is about reputation and relationships, it needs to be personal to the individual.  A consultant can’t just prescribe an approach and walk away.  The approach needs to be custom-tailored to fit the client’s personality and worldview, and the client needs to have a lot of say in the development of this fit.  Thus, one of the consultant’s biggest jobs is to ask the right questions, shut up and listen, and let the client find their own answers.

2) Having an effective social media presence is different from traditional marketing, and it’s also different from the ways we’ve been using the internet in the past.  So clients need to adjust to a new way of approaching things, and this adjustment takes time.  One of the most effective things a social media consultant can do is be available for regular, hour-long, therapy-like sessions in which the client talks about what they’re experiencing (feelings and all), and the consultant helps them separate out the useful thinking from the off-base stuff…. over and over again, until the client gets it.

3) Developing a social media presence has to be done gradually.  A client has to pay attention to what’s working and what’s not, listen to feedback from the community, and constantly refine their approach with little changes.  If a consultant plans on being around for regular sessions, the client has a regular schedule for examining the feedback they’re receiving and incrementally improving their approach.

4) The social media consulting model is in contrast to the web development consulting model, where you just build something and walk away until it needs to be updated.  It’s also in contrast to the idea that social media consultants exist to give expert advice — if clients think of them that way, they’ll only go to them with the big questions, and try to answer the little questions on their own.  But social media success is in the details, and it’s the little questions that will make or break an online presence. 

Working conclusion: Get over yourselves, consultants. You’re therapists. Deal with it. And do it right.

I’ll be speaking at Mountain Social, a gathering in the mountains of Georgia next fall where we’ll be discussing better uses of internet technologies (you should come!), and I’ve already proposed this as a topic I want to dig into further while I’m there. So I figure that gives me 5 months to figure out just how deep this rabbit hole goes.

What does it bring up for you?

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5 Responses to “Social Media Consultant… Therapist… same thing.”

  1. Deb on the Rocks Says:

    I’m liking your approach. A and social media consultant also teaches and models how to listen in order to communicate more effectively, and how to undo old programming or thought loops that cause you to undermine yourself. Hmm.

  2. Alan Bostick Says:

    Not just any sort of therapy, but group therapy, because the consultant has to work with many of the stakeholders in an enterprise at the same time.

  3. Su Su Maung Says:

    As a therapist, and married to a media technology/marketing guy (which I think is similar to what social media consultants do for individuals/groups but for corporations), I have to put my two cent in this. Basically, I agree, especially with how you break it down and describe it.

    This puts out an interesting question of ethics. A friend of mine is taking a course in ethics and he's in computer world (which though I'm married to one, I've to say still remains a mystery to me). What is the social media consulting ethical guidelines? I know engineers and programmers got their own code of ethics. And therapists have strict code of ethics to follow. What about social media consultants?

  4. Sarah Dopp re social media expertise | Strategic Messaging Says:

    […] because they want to get paid for their “social media expertise.”  Sarah Dopp offers an interesting take on social media expertise, which I shall herewith quote at length.  My comments are in italics. 1) Since having a social […]

  5. Bill Bartmann Says:

    Excellent site, keep up the good work