The term social media consultant can mean two different things with the first definition being a person or business that helps other businesses to develop and implement their social media marketing strategy.
The second definition is for a third party figure who holds no direct ties to an organization but is hired by an individual, usually as an independent contractor, to help them generate interest in a product. The social media consultant may not necessarily have an extensive background in social media marketing, but must be able to present research and analysis to the individual they are working with.
Hiring a social media consultant is often seen as an inexpensive alternative to hiring full-time employees for marketing roles and can save businesses money by outsourcing work that would be performed internally anyway. However, if the consultant is hired by an individual as opposed to a company, they have no legal obligation to make sure their advice or information is correct or up-to-date.
Social media consultants normally receive payment through the use of a retainer fee or an hourly rate. The retainer fee is usually paid in advance and allows the consultant to perform work on behalf of the individual at any time without further compensation being required, whereas an hourly rate would only be billed if work is performed.
Some social media consultants offer a hybrid service that combines both traditional consulting with social media services such as blogging, managing a Facebook page or YouTube channel and running paid search campaigns using Google Adwords.