One of the trickiest challenges for a company seeking out third-party social media help is determining which consultants or agencies are jumping on the social media bandwagon (aka pushing snake oil) versus those that have a strong pedigree in the practice. With social media being a fluid, sometimes hard to quantify business endeavor, a lot of senior management leaders who are far removed from the industry may not know exactly what to look for in their social media programs or might have a hard time translating buzz words into real-world metrics. To try and help companies combat these issues, Social Media Group, a long-standing consulting firm, has made available a Social Media RFP Template that should help companies separate the strong from the weak.
The RFP is an eight-page document that asks a series of tough questions of those consultants or agencies who are considering participating in a company's RFP. The RFP includes pretty heavy sections on strategy, reputation management and social media monitoring, metrics and measurement, education, social media channels, community and influencer outreach, client services and project management. Not all sections of the template need be used, and as a matter of fact, Social Media Group urges downloaders to make edits and customize the RFP to their specific business goals and objectives.
Maggie Fox, founder and CEO of Social Media Group, said that her firm created this template because they'd seen a number of RFPs that were asking all of the wrong questions.
"Because this is a relatively new space, expecting a client or a company engaging in social media for the first time to be able to come up with nuanced questions that are really intended to tease out expertise is probably a bit of a stretch," Fox said. "We wanted to provide a tool that would, essentially, help them ask the right questions to find the right partners. We also wanted to set the bar in terms of what client expectations should be around the expertise of their vendors. "
Social Media Group is making this download freely available to everyone -- not just its prospects or clients -- in an effort to more broadly educate companies of the social media pitfalls to be avoided, as well as those benefits that need to be measured in order to determine a quality agency or consultant.
"This template is intended to help clients or partners separate the carpetbaggers from the real deal. That benefits all of us," Fox said.
Even companies who aren't actively seeking a new agency or consultant should consider downloading and reviewing the RFP. Some of the sections in the template would be fantastic fuel for a social media skills gap analysis (i.e. strategy and brand management and education and social media channels). Every company should be continually evaluating their third-party resources against the results that were promised, and this RFP template is a solid tool to help with that process.
"Companies should take what they need from it and customize it to their specific requirements," Fox said. "The metrics section, however, should *always* be included. Encouraging discipline around asking tough questions about measurement was one of the purposes of the RFP as well."