Jennifer Laycock will be speaking about "Social Strategy" at SearchFest 2010, which will take place on March 9th at the Governor Hotel in Portland, Oregon.

Jennifer was also the first person to publish my blog posts...whether that be praiseworthy or blameworthy, I'll leave up to the readership to decide :.)

1)      Please give me your background and tell us what you do for a living.

Like any social media marketer, I'm usually going in a million directions at once, but mostly I split my time between three ventures. I work as an independent social media strategist ( helping small to mid size businesses learn how to create an integrated online marketing strategy. I also serve as Editor-in-Chief of Search Engine Guide, ( and the social media faculty chair at Market Motive. ( In between all that, I coordinate panels and run training sessions for most of the major search related conferences.

2)      At what point in time should a business consider outsourcing all or part of its Social Media initiatives?

In my opinion, a business should NEVER outsource all of it's social media initiatives. I feel pretty strongly that the best time to hire a social media consultant is when you have the time and the willingness to create the content and take part in the community, but when you lack the experience and understanding of how to best leverage it.That's when bringing someone in to help with strategy and teach you the ropes can be extraordinarily effective.

3)      Small businesses get screwed over frequently by consultants that promise a lot and dont deliver.  How can a small business make sure they engage with a consultant that will generate ROI instead of headaches?

Excellent question! Especially today when the market is being flooded with "consultants" who have no experience. As always, your best bet is to research and to ask for references. Follow someone online, read their writings, hear them teach and find out if they communicate in a way you understand. Then ask for references and call them.

4)      When should a business engage in a conversation about itself online?

When there's a conversation to engage with. At bare minimum, they need to be monitoring conversations so they can step in and respond to existing conversation, but if they want to be proactive, there are plenty of creative ways to spark that conversation.

5)      How can a business make sure they converse with purpose in social media instead of just making idle chatter?

There's no reason to start conversing unless you have a goal. Before you even make that first Twitter post or start building your Facebook page, you've got to ask yourself what you want to get out of it. Do you want to increase buzz about your brand? Do you want to get customer feedback so you can adapt your company? Do you want to generate links and traffic? Decide on your goal first and then work out a strategy designed to help you meet it.

6)      How should a social media consultant set and manage expectations with their clients?

The best and most effective social media consultants make it clear to clients that this is a process that takes time. They explain the need to research the target audience, define the campaign goals and THEN they start working out a plan of action. They also make it clear that different types of companies will need different combination of strategies. Twitter doesn't work for every client, neither does Facebook or YouTube. It's about getting the client to understand the need to look beyond what's popular to discover what's going to work.

7)      Please offer your thoughts on the various ways of marketing a business on Facebook.

It offers some serious benefits in that so many people are already using it as their "home base" on the web for conversation and they're using it to maintain their relationships. Thanks to apps, it's also pretty easy to integrate the content you're posting to other social media sites. That makes it easy for people to digest and share your content with their networks. That said, I'll be honest with you and say I'm still not enamored with Facebook as a marketing channel simply because you're building traffic and conversation on a third party site.

8)      I was invisible in the search marketing community before I started publishing articles at SearchEngineGuide.  What are the benefits of blogging in this industry?

So glad we could help you out with that! Blogging is a great way to get out there and share your voice, your thoughts and your experience. It offers an opportunity to build your credibility and to demonstrate your knowledge. Beyond simply increasing your exposure as you create content people begin to talk also gives potential clients a chance to familiarize themselves with your communication style, so there's clearer expectations in the working relationship.

Jennifer Laycock will be speaking about "Social Strategy" at SearchFest 2010, which will take place on March 9th at the Governor Hotel in Portland, Oregon. Tickets are available now. To purchase, please click the following link.