Here’s a dream for you:
You’re driving home from work when suddenly you remember the Twitter profile you meant to set up today for your small business. The task has nagged at you for weeks, but you’ve always found something else to do instead. A miserable realization creeps over you: social media is doomed to be put off to the side, neglected.
Suddenly, a bespectacled angel appears in the passenger seat beside you, equipped with a laptop and smart phone and a gallon of Red Bull at his side.
“Hi!” says the passenger, “I’m your social media saviour, here to take care of your presence across platforms, including Reddit, Pinterest, and whatever else I deem valuable to increasing site traffic and attracting customers to your website. You don’t have to worry about another tweet as long as you live! And best of all, my services are free!”
And then you wake up, overcome with the beauty of possibility. What if you could find someone like the social media saviour in the real world?
Well, before you go hunting, consider this: yes, outsourcing social media marketing is an option. But those “angels” don’t exist. There are “gurus” and consultants, and there are a few things you need to know before you hire anyone.
Social media marketing is a young industry, too riled up on pubescent hormones to be tied down by a standardized rulebook. For now, it helps to know how to assess the good from the bad in outsourced social media marketing. Your savvy could save you from scammers (they’re out there), and get your social presence on track without wasting time or money.
Here’s what to look out for:
The good: social media consultants
Don’t know much about social media marketing? An experienced social media consultant can expedite the process of determining where your prospects and customers are on social platforms, and help you create a strategy for connecting with them.
A consultant asks lots of questions about your business, provides advice and resources, and after creating your content plan, steps aside to let your company run the show.
Let’s talk about content plans later. They’re important.
The bad: social media “gurus” or “mavens”
Remember when I said social media marketing is a young industry? That’s because the “gurus” and “mavens” keep it from growing up and gaining legitimacy. Quirky titles only raise questions about professional quality and experience.
So before you agree to that second coffee with a social media “guru”, ask to see examples of past work. Any “maven” in the industry should be able to show experience implementing social strategies and solving challenges (customer backlash, niche targeting, audience engagement).
Would you trust a financial “wizard” or business “sage”? The social media “guru” is just as “magical”.
The good: focusing on end goals
Do you know why you want your business on social media platforms?
It’s okay if you don’t (for now). A good social media consultant will help you determine your goals for social, whether it’s more sales, traffic to your website, or brand presence.
Clear goals provide structure for content plans. Without goals, how will you measure the return on investment for your efforts?
The bad: focusing on followers and “Likes”
Be suspicious of any social media “expert” who attempts to tantalize you with big numbers for followers and “Likes”. Fan/follower growth is just one metric amongst others, not the looming verdict of social media success.
And as web developer Luke Thomas notes, many of those “experts” employ shady third-party dealers to load up profile pages with thousands of fans/followers with no regard for geographic or industry affiliation with your company. So your social media expert can build a big audience, but is it your audience?
The good: content plans
“If social media consultants are doing their jobs, they should put themselves out of business,” says Fast Company contributor and social media consultant Anjali Mullany.
That’s because a good social media consultant will devise a content plan for your business; a plan so sturdy it can stand without the consultant close by. A plan you and your employees put to action because ultimately, your company knows your company best.
Even if your content plan involves outsource blog creation or infographic design, the bulk of the social activity should be assigned internally.
As Hubspot contributor Ellie Mirman says, “social media is a way for you to communicate with your audience, which means it not only needs to be your voice, but the content of the conversations you’re having need to also be based on your expertise in the industry.”
Your expertise is the gasoline for social activity. A good social media consultant plans for it.
The bad: just tweetin’ and stuff
When you get right down to “doing” social media for a small business, it doesn’t take much time.
We’re talking half an hour per day for profile updates, tops. Add another half an hour for responding to tweets and comments throughout the day, and you’ve got social covered in less time than it takes to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones.
So when a social media “guru” wants to come in and “manage” your social activity, feel free to raise a suspicious eyebrow or two. “Managing” social is the easy part, and you know it.
Recruit help with social media management only when you feel a serious strain on your schedule, and choose someone from within your company. As your company grows, perhaps the role will grow, too.
But for right now, there are better ways to stretch your online marketing dollar than to outsource somebody to tweet for you.
Raise your social media strategy right
Social media marketing is young, and making the most of its strategies requires some guidance. When you can recognize the good from the bad in social outsourcing, it’s easy to grow a social media presence for your business without wasting time and money.
What’s a good move for your small business? Email us with your web marketing questions. We’re here to help!