For many companies, end of the year brings with it both the joy of the holiday bonuses and the dread of yearly reviews. Along with the dash of Christmas potlucks, you’ve got generous dose of inevitably end-of-year evaluations. The topic usually sparks sympathy for employees, most of who are at the end of a firing squad equipped with retorts and red ink pens. Too often we gloss over the position of the company, or in our case here the small business owner who doesn’t have the advantage of consulting with a team of HR consultants. You, the overworked business owner, need a set of carefully reviewed guidelines that can help you best assess whether it’s worth it to keep on your team of consultants in the New Year.

It’s even more important to frame the capacity and merit of your social campaign if you have an outside contractor or a consultant to you go to. Often, small business owners will look to outside contractors because it saves them the hassle of payroll tax. It also allows them to gain a knowledgeable talent to perform a service that they also don’t need to train them for (and don’t have the means to train themselves were they to have hired on just anyone). That said, consider the following key points when determining the value of your social media consultant.

Looking at the year in review, take a moment to revisit some of your key goals and campaigns. Were those goals met? How were those campaigns managed in terms of results? If you’re left with flimsy answers, then chances are you don’t have the right social media consultant for the job. The problem, however, could also rest with who set these goals and who the campaign results were measured.

Having worked with small business owners in the past, I know that sometimes they have their own ideas of what results are – and these ideas that don’t stack up well against the reality of either their budget, their demographic, or the market. In this case, ask yourself if you’ve really listened to the advice your consultant may have tried to offer. When in doubt, have an honest conversation with your consultant. If you’re still in doubt, have a 15 minute chat with several other local consultants. Most will be more than happy to give you 15 minutes of their time if they think you’re thinking about jumping ship. If you end up courting other consultants, then really listen to not only the advice they give you but how they end up assessing your campaign. A great consultant will also focus on your business rather than the failures of their predecessors.

Across the board, the biggest pitfall of small business owners looking to entertain a social campaign is just that they have little to no understanding of (a) how social media works, (b) how their market factors into the equation, (c) how they should determine success, and (d) how to gauge performance. Simply having a presence or reaching 500 to a 1000 followers, for example, is meaningless unless you’re engaging your audience – and they’re engaging you. The best analogy I can offer is to think of your social media as a party you’d host. It’s not about having a party or getting the right number of guests to show up; it’s about what happened while they were there and how much they talked about it the next day. Of course, to get them there and to get them talking depends heavily on what you’re saying.