A bit of a debate has kicked off on Quora prompted by the question “How much should a digital coach be paid to help develop and implement a social networking strategy?” Answers ┬ávaried from “impossible to answer” to “zip, nada, squat”. As I read through the difference in opinion it became obvious to me that the root cause of the disagreement is the fact that the term Digital Coach is not really understood. Or at least, there isn’t a definition that we can all agree on.

So, what do we mean by a digital coach? For a start, a coach, digital or otherwise, is not a consultant. To be clear, a consultant is someone who advises someone else directly using knowledge transfer. Coaching purists would say that a coach NEVER gives advice. Rather they help the client to find the right solution for them based on insightful and probing questions. The benefit of sector experience for a coach means that they know WHAT questions to ask. But they don’t do the DOING bit. Nor do they advise.

Digital coach is a recent term that I think applies more to assisting individuals than to business teams. Sure, the individual may own a business, but the business requirements themselves are met by social media/digital consultants. In the current climate where more and more of our lives are conducted online and through social networks, understanding the landscape is critical for one’s success in whatever endeavour we may be pursuing. However, for many people this landscape is foreign and very scary. Believe it or not there are people out there who have only just got onto facebook, they haven’t heard of Linked In and think that Twitter is something to do with Stephen Fry. For these people, learning to go digital is something that they need support with. They need someone to hold their hand and help them to make the right decisions (not TELL them). And it is for these people that digital coaches will be useful. These people will need to get their head around what they want to be saying about themselves in the digital space, how they present themselves and what networks they should be a part of. And then, the big bit – get comfortable using it all and adopting the digital/social mindset. All this is why coaching is a critical part of the process. Nobody else can tell you what you should be saying about yourself, or indeed what’s right you, other than you. Hence a coaching approach is more appropriate than a consultative one.

So, back to the question! If you can find someone who uses a coaching-led approach with a blend of gentle guidance and credible knowledge of the digital landscape with an ability to help you get started, then surely that is worth paying for. Especially for someone who hasn’t set foot online properly.