There are few topics that really make my blood boil, but social media is one of them. To be more specific: “small business social media managers”. Inexperienced people offering their small business social media services for bargain-basement prices without the skills and knowledge to back up their claims.
It’s not that I get annoyed about social media agencies charging a fortune, or freelancers charging very little, but I get annoyed that small businesses waste so much time and money because they think social media is the be-all and end-all. That means they are easy targets for companies or freelancers saying they can ‘do’ their social media for them.
A little background
“Well, how do you know?” I hear you asking. So, a little background on me. I’ve been working in the digital field for nearly 10 years on both a freelance and full-time-employed sense. I’ve worked on a voluntary basis for tiny companies. I’ve worked with a HUGE conservation charity that most people have heard of. I’ve worked and advised little tiny charities and start-ups. I’ve worked on business to business accounts, business to consumer accounts, family-owned businesses, and all sorts including big corporate accounts. I’ve been a one-woman-band. I’ve been part of a big team, and I’ve been the “I am the marketing department” for a place you’d assume had a lot more resource.
I also spent about 3 weeks doing a bit of work for a business claiming to be a small business solutions company. Full of “experts” run by someone obsessed with being a “boss babe”. It was this one that worried me most. They targeted small businesses without having half a clue what they were doing. When I brought it up that “doing” social media “cheaply” involved a lot more knowledge and experience than they collectively had, and how this new idea was going to risk the reputation of the small businesses who trusted them, I was swiftly fired!
It’s safe to say, I know what I’m talking about. I know exactly how much work is involved at each level. Spoiler alert: it’s more than you’d think.
Small business social media: what’s involved
If you’re considering hiring someone to do your small business social media, you need to ask them exactly what experience and knowledge they have. There are some real bargain-basement people (I call them crooks) out there who will claim to be able to do it for a really cheap price. Some even claim to be able to ‘do’ content creation in with their low-fee. At that point you have to ask yourself, what am I actually getting for this?
At the very minimum, you should have a plan for:
- A social triage process written into the contract – how you’re going to deal with all types of engagement both good and bad. You may want to involve your legal/PR department with this or at least get some advice.
- Full KPIs to benchmark the social media strategy against your entire marketing strategy – even small businesses need a marketing strategy and cannot rely on social alone.
- A full understanding of how each piece of content fits in with the plan – you could spend hundreds creating a video, but why?
- A full approvals process – this is deeper than a proofing process.
- Ability to follow (and in some cases create) brand guidelines including brand voice – they need to look and sound just like your business at all times.
- Knowledge of social ads – there’s no point “doing” social media without an advertising plan.
- The ability to create and curate content of all different types – including scheduling and if needs be, using other tools to improve content.
- The knowledge and full understanding of how social media and SEO go hand in hand – they should be advising you on this one.
- The ability to diversify content – this is, to make more content out of one big piece. Check out Gary Vaynerchuk’s Content Strategy.
- The full knowledge of each platform and exactly what they should be used for – this includes other social networks that you don’t realise are social networks which are different for each industry.
- Impeccable English written language and grammar – they are representing your business. Mistakes happen but there should be a proofing failsafe here.
A few agencies and freelancers offer to just do community management. This is a fairly safe alternative to full social media management as long as it’s within some agreed guidelines.
Your community manager should have an agreed-upon social triage process. Sometimes called an issues management chart, crisis management, or response tree. These are actually really simple to make. A triage process involves deciding what you’re going to do with each kind of engagement. There are some great flow charts out there (like this one from envisionitmedia.com).
It may be worth running any “standard response” posts past your legal team or PR team if you have one. Or at least getting some legal advice to make sure you’re not making things worse in your responses to negative comments. Your Community Manager should help you with this one, if they can’t it’s a red flag.
Content Creation and Curation
When we social media folks speak about “content creation” we mean the uploaded posts to your social channels. Usually, this is in the form of photos and videos accompanied by the copy (your written message). Whoever you hire to do your social media will need to be familiar with at least the process of curation, but the ability to create is a big bonus.
Content creation can be a big task, but a good social media manager or agency will be able to make lots of content from one bigger piece. One long 2-hour video can be drilled down into 30+ individual pieces of content to share across your channels.
Content curation refers to collecting 3rd party content related to your field and sharing it with your audience. If your small business is in maths tutoring, for example, you may share articles on education, infographics on new methods of learning, or maybe a video showing a novel way to work out fractions. None of it is “your” content but it will be valuable to your audience (without driving them to the competition!).
It’s a sad fact today that social media isn’t going to give you the return it once was. In fact, small businesses have been the worst hit by constant algorithm changes that have taken business pages out of the feeds of people who may even be their followers.
Social advertising, however, is an incredible tool. Facebook’s advertising platform is over 97% accurate, meaning it’s possible to reach exactly the right people. Are you a puppy trainer? You can reach people interested in dogs and puppies (even breed-specific) within a 20+km radius of a postcode. It won’t even cost a lot of money!
I used to work for a recruitment channel and we’d spend around £50 per ad for a week and get around 2-300+ clicks with around 10,000+ reach. Those clicks and reach were people who were specifically chosen to be the sort of people we were looking for for the particular roles, within the right commuting distance.
Make sure the person you hire to do your social media for your small business understands when and how to use social ads. It’s vital they’re on board!
It’s definitely worth mentioning security here. I see so many small businesses who decide to have social media, but don’t separate their own personal pages from their business. The company I mentioned above had a habit of asking for personal Facebook logins because some of the people working there didn’t even know Facebook Business Manager existed. That’s a scary level of incompetence that could land you and your business in VERY hot water.
Some things to consider:
- Never give out your personal social account passwords to anyone. Ever.
- Keep your personal and business profiles separate. That means having LinkedIn and Facebook pages for your business, and separate Twitter and Instagram accounts for your business.
- Use a service like Facebook Business Manager and the Pages Manager app. This allows you to monitor who has access and to what level. They also allow you to revoke access to users quickly if needed.
- Keep hold of your Instagram and Twitter passwords. Do NOT let your social media manager change them without your consent. If they do change them make sure you have a copy.
- Only allow people you fully trust to have access to your business accounts and work on your behalf. Thoroughly check their skills and expertise beforehand.
What could go wrong?
Social media is the gateway to your brand, but it could destroy your hard-earned credibility within hours if you haven’t got a plan in place. This may all sound a bit drastic, but this is really the minimum any small business should have. Any company or person not offering solutions for the above should really be avoided at all costs. At best they will end up wasting your money. At worse they could cause detriment to your business and your brand.
Wondering how much trouble your business could really be in with badly-done social media? Check out this post from SocialProgress.co.uk. The article is old, but it includes some real-world disasters not having adequate processes in place. Sadly this is still happening. A year or so ago I watched an account I’d been following for a few years get hammered by trolls. It escalated quickly. There was no response from the account and it ended up with celebrities publicly backing parliamentary action against them. All because the original wording of their mission statement misunderstood by a troll.
So, should you go for it?
There are so many people and some ‘companies’ offering to “do” social media for bargain basement prices because they’ve read a few Pinterest boards and think they’re an expert. Don’t be afraid to grill your chosen professional or company and really make sure you are getting a good service for your money, and they actually know what they’re doing rather than making it up as they go along.
There’s a reason big companies either outsource to agencies or have teams in-house that are well paid. The average UK salary for a social media exec (just handling community management and minimal content creation not including video or ads) is usually around £22-30k p/a. It’s a big task. I’m certainly not saying you need to pay anyone that much, but it does put it into perspective when someone offers to ‘do’ your social media for very low prices.
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