We’re talking about folks who before the internet would have been trying to sell you a studio apartment as a “micro-loft” or maybe even a bridge. The web changes so much from month-to-month it’s easy for people with even a small amount of knowledge to take advantage of those who know nothing. Here’s an example:
I worked with a client who had/has everything going for them. Great business model, awesome product and smart people working at the company. Unfortunately, they were using a design company who was squeezing every last dollar out of their purses without any regard for the quality of work they were producing (we’ll go into why design driven strategies are the death of digital media campaigns in a later chapter.) While the design team definitely did awesome design work, they felt they should be in charge of all things digital for the company.
Long story short, we recommended they build a flexible and easy to use blog that could highlight all the things the company was doing and to capitalize on all the traffic coming their way. The design company took the idea and to put it nicely, did a horrible job of building a blog. Yes, it looked pretty, but in terms of functionality it was a total mess. To this day the blog sits mostly unused, hidden behind a website that primarily runs off of dreamy flash sequences… the humanity.
So what happened? The design company was more concerned about continuing to get paid that they failed to identify what our mutual client actually needed in order to be successful on the web. The design firm even brought me in for a “meeting” to discuss social media and the web. That “meeting” was just free consultation for them. This happens a lot. It’s easy to get burned out there, but if you pay attention to these key things you’ll be better off:
1) Previous Work
This sounds fairly obvious but you’d be surprised how many “social media and web gurus” are out there who have never handled an real live project. Make sure you ask who they’ve worked with and what they were in charge of for previous clients. If they’re new, make sure they have a plan that they can lay out for you. There’s nothing wrong with a newbie (we all had to start somewhere.
2) Can They Explain to You Why You Need This?
It’s easy to pitch people things they don’t need if those people have no idea what you’re talking about. Make sure if you’re hiring someone to do web work they can clearly and succinctly explain to you why you need whatever it is they’re trying to provide. Take a few notes and then use Google, because it’s your friend. Do a little bit of research and see if the things that you just heard match reality. It rarely takes more than 20 minutes to figure out if someone is just selling something for the sake of selling it.
3) Can They Explain Their Web Philosophy?
This may sound hokey, but it’s important that any company doing web work have a philosophy about how the web works. The web is constantly evolving so it’s a good to identify people and companies who have some clear perspective on what the web is evolving into. Does the company or person you’re hiring think big data is going to drive most online decisions going forward? What are their thoughts on mobile web browsing? Try and get a feel for why this company or person is involved with the web. Some people are in it because it might seem like a great way to make money, others have a philosophy about the web that they can use to help your business grow and prosper.
It’s important to vet any company before hiring them. Find out if they really know their stuff. Also, be sure that your current web people (if you have them) are on top of all the changes that are going on from month-to-month. Don’t be afraid to shop around and see if the company you’re interested in really is what it claims to be. Make sure the company you use is actually looking out for your best interests instead of looking to just line their pockets.