By Mari Peterson and Kasha Abdelfattah
Are you considering outsourcing your social media management or are you doing it yourself and not sure about the value of outsourcing? Do you wonder why anyone would outsource their social media accounts? I mean, really, don't they just post nice photos and use hashtags? Wait a minute, what's a #hashtag?
There is a difference between personal social media and professional. Sometimes these two get blurred especially when you are your brand or strongly recognized as your brand. Examples of this are authors, speakers, chefs, entertainers.
Don't worry. This confusion or misunderstanding is normal. Think about it, Facebook launched in 2004. The year before, MySpace launched and quickly tanked. It wasn't until 2007 that Facebook officially launched Facebook Pages - the business platform for users. With that being said, it's been barely a decade that businesses and marketers have had the opportunity to learn how to use it to promote their business and it has since taken off with 2017 data reflecting 65 million Facebook business accounts. On top of that, Facebook for businesses has undergone many changes during that time. 2007 was the same year that hashtags (#) also were created (on Twitter) as a way of organizing online content to make it easier to find. With that being said, it's okay if you're still catching up.
SOCIAL MEDIA PRINCIPLES
Before you hire anyone to handle your social media and even before you decide to let your college intern manage it, understand these basic principles about social media first:
Social media carries the same weight as traditional advertising (v ads, billboards, magazine ads, etc.) and should be taken as seriously. Do not hire a relative, teenager or someone who doesn’t know you and your brand well to manage your business brand. Everything that is posted can impact your brand so be careful.
A professional social media manager does not interject their own personal feelings, emotions or judgments into YOUR business brand. A business is held to different standards and expectations and whoever handles your accounts should know this.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS A SUPPLEMENT, NOT A REPLACEMENT
Social media is a supplement to your advertising - not a replacement. Do not expect miracles. Many businesses have launched business accounts on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter only to realize that it takes waaaaay more time and resources than they expected. Many eventually quit posting on a regular basis while others stop completely.
When working with your social media manager, the most important part of the conversation is about EXPECTATIONS - make sure both of you are on the same page about the following:
Be clear about what it takes (people, resources, time)
Be clear about timeframe (see below) to see results
Be clear about budget, including the cost of advertising or special campaigns, the cost of graphics.
Be clear about messaging (see below)
TIMEFRAME - BUT IT'S FREE!
No, the cost to post is free but your time is not. Time in any business is an opportunity cost. For every hour you spend developing content to post or posting, is an hour you could spend doing something else. That is opportunity cost.
Social media, without paid advertising, takes time in many situations to grow. In most cases, you must first develop a fan base and that takes repetitive and consistent posting, promoting the account to your customers (signs in your store, email signatures, etc.) which you can speed up by advertising with that objective. Generally, it will take 4 to 6 months to start seeing progress. Remember, Facebook really took off in 2008. There are many companies and brands that started back then. If you’re just starting, then you will have some catching up to do.
WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA?
Social media is about CONTENT first. To marketers, we call that "MESSAGING" and messaging is what we say to our customers, why we say it, how we say it and when we say it.
How you plan your content (messaging) is determined by your marketing goals and strategy. What is the goal of your content?
Awareness? Are you wanting people to know about you?
Consideration? Are you wanting people to know about the benefits and features of your product or service compared to your competitors?
Sales? Are you informing your customers about the pricing for your product or services? Are you answering and engaging with customers about their questions?
Is your goal engagement to keep your customers coming back for more?
Are you sharing your company story?
Sharing company updates?
Wanting to engage with your customers or fan base by getting feedback?
Are you trying to educate or inform or are you just providing humor?
Once you've determined your content, then the text, photos, videos, blogs, product or service information needs to be available, accessible and useable to your social media manager. As the owner of the business, you will save yourself time and money if you are able to provide photos, videos and content (website, blogs, text) and especially if you are able to offer deals or discounts of your products or services. Otherwise, your social media manager will have to employ the resources to develop the content for you and this will take more time and of course, more budget.
SOCIAL MEDIA FOUNDATIONAL TOOLS
What else do you need other than content, isn't that enough?
Before starting any social media campaign, you and your business should have the following foundational items. If not, then your social media manager can work with you to develop them:
Have a brand profile.
Have a social media content strategy.
Have a social media planning calendar - your social media manager will assist you with this but here are some tips:
Essentially, take out your calendar and plan for posts to acknowledge holidays, “today is X”.
Note on the calendar seasonal things that impact your business - you can build posts around these
Understand the customer journey - what conditions cause customers to consider purchasing products or services like yours? Understand before you start where things can go wrong. Ensure you have the tools and resources necessary to address any questions, issues or the increase in calls and emails. Nothing is worse than launching a campaign on social media, getting an increase in emails and then not responding to them.
SOCIAL MEDIA PROCESS
When you start with a new social media manager, here are the basic things they should do (starting from the beginning and then ramping up as time moves on):
Interview you and develop the brand profile, social media content strategy, social media planning calendar.
Audit current activities - what’s working and what isn’t. Adjust accordingly.
Assign permissions to your social media person -never give them your login. Every social media channel allows you to assign someone else to help you manage their account (except for Instagram).
Cleanup and Complete social media profiles - I see many businesses start social media profiles but never complete them. Many of these have profile descriptions and information that helps them direct viewers to you so complete the information as much as you can or let your social media manager do it.
Get access to your stock photos, videos, content with descriptions.
IMPORTANT WARNING ABOUT PHOTOS:
Make sure photos that are taken at specific locations, especially residence, have had their geolocation metadata removed before sharing on certain social media channels. These photos can be downloaded and that information tracked. This is especially important if you in any type of home improvement business (construction, electrician, plumbing, landscaping, etc.) where it is common to share photos of project work.
Make sure any photos that you did not take are royalty free or that you have permissions to use. I have seen where businesses have been sued for violating photo rights. Just because you found it on Google does not mean it’s free.
Monitor posts. Provide feedback. It will take some time for the social media manager to get into the groove with your brand and positioning.
SOCIAL MEDIA PROCESS
Stages of Posting - Beginning with a new account requires getting to know the users on that channel and that takes time. It means posting for a bit until you get the feel for the users - how and when is the best time, what content do they like?
Beginning - 1st stage
Most social media management begins with posting for general awareness and to gain fans and followers. Don’t expect sales, just new people to start following you. Your social media person will be posting frequently and will use that data to determine the best time of day and week to post and what kind of content engages people or doesn’t. They will also study and research your business more and study and research appropriate hashtags to use.
Education - 2nd stage
Once you gain followers, you will begin to change the content by focusing on education - providing information to followers about you, your business, announcements, what makes you different and unique, your work product examples, advice, etc. This allows fans to get to know you. They may use your blogs and website content. Here they will get to know your products and services more in order to share this information and will do some research on their own.
Engagement - 3rd stage
Here the social media manager starts to get fans to engage by creating videos and photos that are likely to be shared or commented on. The power of social media is sharing - making things go viral. At this stage they may also start using deals and specials to get fans to “click through” to your website. You may create special landing pages to monitor the effectiveness of these posts. If you do not have videos, your social media manager may employ resources and tools to create them.
Campaigns - 4th stage
Here is the stage where your social media manager will work with you to develop campaigns.
What’s a campaign?
It serves a specific marketing objective. If you don't know this, don't proceed.
It is directed to a specific segment (targeted group/audience/client).
It is delivered using strategic content - a combination of posts over a specific period of time.
It is measurable meaning you should be able to see and measure results.
If things go well, you rinse and repeat.
These stages will be repeated and utilized over the course of your business.
A popular example of a campaign is a contest where you fans will do certain things such as "like" or share" or "tag" in order to be part of the contest to win something.
Advertising - 5th stage
Campaigns can be combined with advertising. Many businesses want to "boost" their presence on social media through advertising. There are many ways this discussion can go so we will save that for a different blog post. Keep in mind, Facebook does have it's own ad network that reaches beyond the scope of Facebook users.
SOCIAL MEDIA PROCESS
Choosing your Channel Platforms
There are several social media channels to choose from. You do not need to be on all of them. Your social media manager will help you determine the appropriate channel based on your objective and target market (audience, customer, segment). If they do not do this then question it. The targeted audience demographic is quite different between Instagram vs. Snapchat vs. Linkedin vs. Facebook vs. Twitter. A lot can be said here so we'll save that for another post.
SOCIAL MEDIA WRAP-UP
We hope this blog post has been helpful as you consider outsourcing your social media. Questions? Comments? Please do contact us about your social media management needs.