We all have awful stories about inexperienced social media admins who have messed up our work or threw off the schedule. Facebook’s recent change, adding the name of the admin to their posts and comments, is a real relief. Now you can have your admins on the same page and keep them accountable.
Have you ever dealt with the owner of the business you are marketing, the one who does not know social media but is a bit controlling and micromanages your work? How about multiple admins on a Facebook page, from different generations, who understand (or not) that social media marketing does not mean throwing things online at any time of day or night? A few of my frustration stories include: the grandpa who used to post music videos on a business page at various hours in the night and ask for car rides on the same page; the business owner who was talking about life at the farm in a personal manner, without signing her name, while I was implementing the usual business plural “we” for the business’ voice; or – I “love” this one – the admin who used to save pictures from the internet and just post them. (Hello, copyrights! The client could have landed in a great load of pig poo and legal issues)
That’s why I can only bow and salute Facebook’s decision to show the name of the admins beside their posts and comments. The feature is supposed to start being visible tomorrow, only to page admins.
This identification and the Edit function on the page will make again Facebook my favorite platform to market on. And I’d like to remind the critics who forget they use a FREE tool for marketing and draw a paycheck out of it: Facebook was thought to be a social network, not a marketing network. The changes added to it were, indeed, slow, to satisfy regular users, and only then to please the marketers. Other platforms like Google+ and Pinterest arrived in the picture when social media marketing was slowly establishing, so the thought behind them was from a social and a monetary angle.
In addition to this new tool, a good way to keep your admins on the same page is to have a social media strategy with a calendar in place, and to know who posts what, and when they post. Unfortunately, we know these things are not always happening. It is the same as a small business trying to function without a business plan, until they need a loan from the bank. As much as we’d like to think that everyone plays by the rules, they often don’t, and we need to accommodate troubling admins, or see our marketing efforts blown off by inexperienced amateurs. Please don’t get me wrong: I don’t have a problem being “monitored” by my clients. I have a problem with my clients who may be experts in their fields trying to interfere with my extensive expertise in social media marketing. I never pretended that I can pluck chickens or make artisan pasta – but I know my word is backed by 25 years of knowledge and constant practice in Communication, the field where I work.
This being said, I’d like to hear your funny admin stories. Anyone had a problem with admins who ran away with the page? Anyone got in trouble for things other did on your account?
Four months after I moved to the United States, Facebook was launched in a dorm at Harvard. That was on February 4th, 2004, exactly ten years ago. We did not know each other; I was just starting to learn English, in an ESL school in New York. Little did I know that, ten years later, not only I would have Facebook open 6-8 hours a day, but also my income would be generated by marketing various businesses on Facebook and other social media websites.
You see, I came to social media after a career in traditional media with 25 years of writing and reporting, in conjunction with a degree in Communication and Public Relations. I am a communicator who understands the mechanics of the various forms and facets of media, especially why “social” is so powerful today. While traditional media was, and still is, extremely resistant to change its ways and empower the public, social media gave the public a lot of tools, to express its opinion. People are not powerless, they much less likely to be fed opinions through a newspaper or TV. They have now the freedom to comment on articles, give input, protest on social media, and express themselves. And that is somewhat disturbing for traditional media.
My transformation happened same time with Facebook’s evolution. I opened a Facebook profile in 2006, when it was still in experimental phases and at first I did not understand it well. It took me a while to fall in love, to obsess over it, and to use its tools extensively. And I understand better than the average user that, regardless of what people may say, as long as our basic psychological need for love, connections, belonging, emotional expression, and self-esteem remains, Facebook is not going anywhere. In fact, it is evolving, with younger people growing up with it the same way I grew up with Tom and Jerry.
And now, at this anniversary moment, it would be great to think how much we owe and love Facebook, instead of complaining and hating its constant changes.
Facebook is a free website that connects us with dear ones far away (and close by), allowing us to immediately stay in touch with people whom we often we forget to visit or call. Facebook helps us stay in touch and keep updated. We know who’s in love with whom, we keep up on their kids’ progress, we mourn friends who pass and rally around their families. It allows us to feel accepted by old and new friends alike. It has made us remember how much we hated high-school and poor hair choices. It made us slap our faces when we saw how miserable the jerk we were foolishly in love at 18 looks now. Some of us have had Facebook stalkers, have learned (unfortunately) how to deal with cyber-bullies, and still stayed online. Our parents and grandparents learned Facebook so they can still embarrass us and smother us with love, from a distance. Some of us have only a Facebook profile to look at, after a loved one died. None of these can be diminished or neglected.
We love to hate Facebook changes and fumble for days, threaten to leave, get upset and want to erase some of the friends if they don’t show us some love. It’s all part of a game. We quit Facebook only to come back later. We miss the sense of community Facebook brought us.
We love it. We hate it. It’s time consuming. It’s part of our lives and will still be.
A mind-boggling article I recently read in one of the major social media websites was discussing trends for 2014. The author said that in 2014 your social media numbers won’t matter, but interaction will be more important. No kidding? In my opinion, it seemed such an odd thing to state, especially on a national platform. The truth is quite the opposite, and I encounter this issue in my every day interaction with clients and prospects. So, I will keep insisting that, if you are serious about your brand or business, social media numbers DO MATTER – even more than you’d think.
Bigger numbers will make a better first impression on prospects. If you are self-employed or own a social media agency, whenever you write a proposal, present to a new client or even send an email with your entire social media presence in the signature – bigger numbers will create a solid impression. Everybody will look up your numbers! Nobody in their right mind will hire you, if you show a meager social media presence. You don’t get a chance to explain low numbers to prospective clients who will look up your online name or presence. They will have made up their mind before meeting you. They won’t care that you manage five accounts and might not have time for your brand. So, put your best work into your social media and grow these numbers!
Bigger numbers will give you authority within your field. You may be successful in a business for 25+ years and know a lot of people offline. They will look you up when they connect with you on social media, when they recommend you or contract your services. If they see increasing, serious activity on your social media pages, a good number of fans and interaction with your public, you will tend to earn more respect. These days it is not only about what you publish in specialty journals which may be accessible to very few. Your words of wisdom happen in public, on social media, and your social media outlets are a huge part of your image. The bigger numbers and better interaction – the bigger and better you.
Bigger numbers mean you are serious about your reputation. Online reputation with a bigger fan and client base is built every day through persistent posting. You want to show off your work, this applies to every field, not only if you are working in social media. If you have a jewelry online store, for example, you want to show off a lot of inventory (and not just five bracelets) and while giving advice, showing techniques, positioning yourself as an expert in your field. Social media numbers are grown every day, through interaction and through consistent posting. Your social media numbers will reflect on you, in every field you work.
Bigger numbers mean you will work hard for your client. Despite what lazy people who pat themselves on the back, sit with the bucket of popcorn and refresh Facebook 24/7 might be saying, social media numbers DO matter. One client asked my opinion about a local social media agency who was trying to get her account. The company was created in 2005 and so far had roughly 350 Facebook Likes (go figure). Brilliant graphics and web design, but five Facebook posts throughout the month – three of them within the same day, with half hour space between them (rookie mistake). The posts had no comments or showed comments from people working there. That was a graphic design company selling something they did not even use for themselves! I said to my client – “no thank you, please pass the popcorn!”
You just got a new Facebook Like, Twitter follower, or you were “circled” on Google+ and want to connect to the new friend or fan. There are many nice things you could say, yet you heard from a “coach” that you should start with a “call to action”. So, you apply a boxing kick like a retail clerk on a quota: “Hey, try this free perfume sample, and we also have 20% off men underwear today…” In other words, you jump on the new person without even thinking about them. Social media means being social, authentic, and building relationships before you sell, so here are ten things to avoid doing after you connected with a new fan:
1. “Your welcome!” A new friend or follower thanks you and you slap back one of the worst basic grammar mistake??? Using poor grammar reflects badly on you. By the way, the correct form when you thank someone is “You are welcome” – or the contracted form “You’re welcome”.
2. “Buy from me? Pretty please?” Jumping on a new fan and trying to sell them immediately sends them away – right away! You know nothing about the new person, and you can only assume they want to buy from you? How about what they need, like or want? Jumping on a new fan with a sales pitch means you care about your pocket only. People buy something when you show interest in what they need and like. (You’re welcome!)
3. “Like my other pages!” Seriously? You just got one new fan and want to suck them in all your social media without even connecting properly with them? What if they don’t want to like your other pages or if they use only one social network? You don’t own people’s attention, you have to earn it. Connecting on more platforms comes after you established a relationship. Otherwise, it is only meaningless yapping.
4. “Give me your email for freebies!” Do you really think people want yet another endless list of sales emails in their inbox? Would you give your email to just anyone?
5. “Wanna lose weight?” – This was one of the worst personal offenders. A new connection started the conversation like this, without even looking at my profile. I am so happy with my weight and I found her lack of attention quite upsetting. I unliked her page immediately.
6. “Here I have this free eBook for you, follow the steps” – and the link sends to the website where you people have to give all their personal details and go through various re-confirmation emails to download an e-book (often useless). Free means free. Period.
7. “God bless you!” Atheists, Buddhists, Muslims and all religions use social media. Please do not impose your religion on anyone. Religion is a personal thing, and you don’t know and are not allowed to assume that one is blessed and one is less blessed. Plus, you’re not the owner of the blessing “system”, to spread them. How about leaving that in the hands of the supreme power living “upstairs”, and be interested in the person you just met? Isn’t that what we do here on Earth?
8. Ask for free advice. The average consulting fee is $125 per hour.
9. Give free advice. We just connected and you start showering me with advice in MY field? Lovely! You’re an “expert”, now! If you’re working in my field, you also know how low the word “expert” ranks – it is not even a title.
10. “Hello beautiful!” – Social media is definitely not the place for picking up a new girlfriend/boyfriend. Frankly, every time I get direct mail or Facebook mail like this, I just block the person (usually a guy). Unwanted attention is quite unappealing.
It’s trendy to write about next year’s social media trends, especially this time of the year, and readers eat these articles up. Though I cannot help but notice, these trends are easily identified by almost everyone in tune with their social media marketing. The “gurus” telling you what’s what for 2014 are doing the same things as you: reading a lot of other articles, compiling data, filtering small talk out, analyzing, and then coming up with the trends. With a bit of concentration, they predict next year – and so can you! Let’s take a look together at five major social media trends predictions for 2014 and explain them in plain words.
1. Video usage will heavily increase. This is always safe to say. Video in social media started getting big in 2006 when Gary Vaynerchuck first got on camera with his wine reviews. It has continuously growing since then. In 2012-2013 social media went into a video-frenzy. It can be easily predicted that in 2014 even the shyest of the camera-shy will try to make a video about their niche or field. What nobody seems to say is that we’ll experience a lot of blurry, low light, poor-information videos, with a background of unfolded laundry and roaming pets – because decent videos, packed with content and shot in good light will still continue to cost a lot. My advice: if you get into home-made videos for your business, look up a few pro tips about video making, before spending the time to make them, and before losing every new viewer with dark and disheveled videos. You don’t have to be a TV personality to get on camera and good videos can be done on cheap, if you do a bit of research ahead.
2. Everything goes mobile. You already know that almost everyone has a smart phone. People of all ages know what apps are. They look up on their phones new restaurants, golf clubs, directions, book reviews, and just about everything. Look at how people use their smart-phones and you won’t need a “guru” to tell you that your website should work fast on mobile. You also don’t need an IT specialist to tell you that your computer is more powerful than a mobile phone – hence it handles a full-size website better than a phone would. It’s all baby-logic that all websites need to be optimized for mobile search. No more stuffy, clogged websites with lots of pages added with the same format from five years ago. Invest a bit in updating and optimizing your website. You’ll be happy that you did. I just did it, and it was worth!
3. Content is king. D’oh! I mean, really? Everyone should understand that fluff pieces, “sell-sell-sell”, and “me-me-me” articles are NOT read! Nobody told you to approach writing with a no-nonsense, provide-value angle? People are NOT interested to read a blog about the cronut you ate for lunch, if your business is about repairing cars; save that for SnapChat. Would you read anybody’s piece that talks about how amazing they are and why you should buy their services/products immediately – or would you rather read a piece that teaches you something or is taking in account YOUR needs?
4. Image-marketing will heavily increase. Let’s see – do you like good pictures? Would you rather see how my kittens look at play, rather than me telling you they play with a mouse-toy under my desk, for hours? Would that picture of them tumbling around a toy be funnier and more relevant? There you go, you already know that showing is more powerful than telling. And if you’re on Pinterest, you know how much time it sucks out of your day to brainless hunt the next, next-next, and next-next-next gorgeous picture…
5. Google Plus will continue to grow. If you only noticed that G+ became the second biggest social network this year, you would then know it will be significant next year, too. A structure of its size takes a few years to reach heights and to fall (if that happens). Plus – “papa Google” owns the biggest search engine. Does it make sense that “Google-boy” would be indexed ahead of other social networks, rivals of Google+? Would you hire and promote your own kids rather than their competition? Yep, me too, proven I have any…
One thing I should add in the end, from my own observations for the last years: the global trend in information is that information has and will continue to become available and free. If you think about how successful universities put their classes online for free (Stanford included), about Napster and share websites, and about movements like WikiLeaks, Anonymous, the NSA scandal – you will see the trend of freeing information. Information cannot be held prisoner, cannot be a privilege of the rich, and people don’t want to pay too much for it. For the last few years, the world has become a place where information is freely shared. What you do with that, and how you apply it, is a different story. People like to read, but they do not learn or easily apply the knowledge from what they have read once. Specialized skills will still be praised. You’d like to know how what your car needs, but won’t start fixing it after seeing a video for the first time. The more knowledge you are willing to share, the better are the chances that somebody will look at you as the expert, hire you or buy your products that are genuinely shaped to helps people or improve their lives.
How do famous quotes fit in your social media marketing? Are you using a lot of them, do you post sparingly, do you see any overwhelming support and tremendous sales for your business, triggered by these famous quotes posted on your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest? Yes, me neither!
I have yet to live the day when I have heard from a client about an Einstein quote selling a service, or bringing a customer in their store. Until this happens, I will consider quotes just what they are: fluff thrown on a page, because we need to fill in the space, are tired of always digging for relevant things to post, or want to keep social media pages afloat. Don’t take me wrong – I will share a quote that addresses a vital problem, makes someone laugh until their belly hurts, or stings with irony – but these are so very few. I also came across quotes that made me sit down and reflect, and were so compelling that I had to share them. That happened probably 3-4 times this year. One of them brought some engagement on my Facebook page.The others were considered what they are: fillers, testing waters, wasted online space. I am awfully bored by the amount of uninspiring quotes I see on pages, to the point where I hide these pages and stop following the accounts because of the overuse of quotes. I want to follow people who are original, give great advice, help, and are entertaining. An abundance of quotes just reminds me of the 1800s, when authors made a name for themselves quoting from other (smarter) people.
Let’s be honest: why do you post quotes? What, in the social marketing strategy you have (I assume you do have a strategy, don’t you?), told you that quotes are such a brilliant move, or a great success? I am curious because I see little originality in using a quote from a dead/alive guy for marketing purpose. Can you show real results brought by these famous quotes? As an experiment, I asked on my Simona Media Facebook page: “Should we post quotes every day, on Twitter, Facebook – or not so much?” I got a lot of answers – and most of them accentuated: do not overuse quotes. Here is what other social media managers and networkers said:
Alexandra McAllister – Alexandra S. McAllister: “I enjoy quotes…not too many though….1 or 3 per day. I do like to take a quote and post it on a beautiful pic.”
Vondie Lozano - Vondie Lozano, Ph.D, LMFT, Relationship Therapist: “I have to admit the ones I really like – as Peanuts – just post pics and quotes, and I share most of them on my timeline and page. For the others, that are less well-known, I like the more personal touch. Don’t know if that helps. Hope so.”
Brooke Ballard – B Squared Media: “NO. We have sites like brainyquote.com for this! Inspirational messages here and there… fine. A constant barrage of quotes? It just makes me think you have nothing original to say or don’t know your own biz very well (unless you’re a card or quote company, LOL). Plus, how is that solving pain points of your consumers??? If it does – GREAT. But chances are, it doesn’t.”
Danielle Holmes-Frickleton – DeMystify Marketing: “I think using quotes sparingly as part of your strategy is good when it is appropriate. Quotes can be both inspiring and motivating, however, they should not be the only thing posted. Consumers/clients follow businesses to learn more about their products/services, to get to know the ‘personality’, and to gain knowledge from their expertise. Posting only quotes does not fulfill any of these needs, and there are plenty of quote-only sources to follow, if that is all they want.”
Michelle Phillips – Codefetti, LLC: “Initially, it was fine to see brands posting inspirational quotes. But now I see brands posting the same old tired quotes over and over, in Tweets, on FB, and even LinkedIn. Now if I come across an unusually good and original quote that hasn’t been overused, I’ll post it. But I think this strategy has worn out its welcome. Just my two cents…”
Harmeet Singh – Harmeet Singh Blog: “I am getting good response with quotes and am posting once a day. I post inspirational, funny, and motivational quotes.”
Corrado Sbanno – Corrado Sbano 2.0: “I do post one quote per day, just as a good morning message. It’s getting good response overall. But I would advise not to go over two posts/day (max.) of this kind, and stay on the subject on which you base your fan page.I mean, if we do deal with media contents, tips & tricks, then it is advisable to stay on that subject, not to confuse our followers. Of course, it’s legitimate to publish also some different contents one or two times per day, just not to be boring to others. However, one of the principles of Personal Branding is to set a theme for your brand and be constant in publishing relevant contents on that theme. If I would call my brand “Corrado Sbano Media” and I start publishing contents about cooking recipes, than my results will be to confuse not only my followers, but also the ones who are thinking of joining my community.”
Patricia A. Singer – Follow Me Social Media Consulting: “I think quotes are great if they are fitting to what you do. You shouldn’t overuse them though. You need to reach your audience in other ways too. Provide good content that shows you are an expert. Quotes are nice but they can’t do that.”
Josie Mills – Open Mind Fashion: “I like writing my own “quotes” rather than using someone else’s, and I prefer that from others, too. Maybe someday someone will quote me. I also like quotes that are unexpected – a quote from someone famous when he or she said something out of character.”
In conclusion: Be original even with the “fluff” you post. Better than quotes – show off something you do or love. People like to connect with you, not to borrowed things. Post a picture from your real business life. I’d give a like to the picture of a mechanic in overalls and covered in oil who just fixed a car for a client, over one of these famous quotes. One shows off life, activity, something real about a business. The other… it’s just borrowing from the genius of people who said better the same things we can say, too.
Facebook’s constant changes and technical challenges have become social media marketing trials, lately. This year I have been asked by every single client: “What else do you recommend as primary outlet for my business, beside Facebook?” In a fluid social media world, where Facebook is still the king, there are other major players you can use to market… starting with the one you own.
Your Website = Your Voice. You do have a website, where you write frequently, preferably weekly. If you do not – get one! Your website is the easiest thing for people to find you and for you to show off your work. It is not free, it comes with yearly hosting costs (around $100-150 or even less), one-time design costs, periodically maintaining or updating costs. BUT, it is not very expensive, and very small businesses can definitely afford it. There are big name – big ticket designers, and equally talented but less expensive web designers. Find one, get your website online and add a blog on it. It is technically easy to upload an article each week. Write short pieces, 400-500 words, about the things you know the best. Having weekly fresh, original content helps you position yourself as an expert in your field, and you help your website stay in local searches. Your website and blog should be the first place to take care of, and of equal importance, if not more important than other social media. It is, in fact, your virtual business card.
Google Plus. Everyone connected with digital marketing follows the news about Google+ (G+). This year it became the second social network, after Facebook. Smart, savvy marketers eat it up for breakfast. Everything you post on G+ gets indexed by Google. If your work involves writing articles, connecting your G+ account with your website/blog and all other websites you’re writing for is highly beneficial. If your work involves pictures, you’d be amazed how beautifully, clean and big they are displayed in G+. Just make sure you add a watermark on pictures. G+ works with a Gmail email address, and it is extremely easy to sign up for one that has the name of your business. A few days ago they just made available custom URLs, so your G+ address will be the same as your business name, same as you would have it on Facebook. I use G+ as my main source of important articles regarding social media. The quality of the content shared there is fantastic.
Twitter. Twitter is not for every type of business, mainly because the life of a tweet is extremely short. If you want to grow your account, you must tweet a lot of information or articles you like, or to be very personable and be a source of information. Twitter can’t be used once a week, or once a day. One must use Twitter constantly. If you don’t “live” in your Twitter, there are services like HootSuite (free and paid accounts) that help you schedule tweets throughout the week. Twitter has just added a brand-new scheduler, too (connected with its own ads system) that still needs to be tested, until we have an idea about how well it works. So, if you can find information you love and can share new things a few good times each day, that’s a good place for you.
Pinterest. That’s one place I have been reluctant to use for myself, although Pinterest works so well for my clients who have a lot of visual material. Pinterest is a fantastic place to get sucked in. Every visit there ends up way later than planned, because it is just so easy to jump from different visually stunning pins. It is used a lot by women, since it is so appealing to the eye. Now, you do know that women are the ones making the decision about purchases. If your business involves merchandise, food, or jewelry – do yourself a favor, get a small digital camera (they are all so good these days) and display all your products on Pinterest. Make it fun, make it interesting, connect with other users and you’ll see results.
LinkedIn. This one is mainly a place for professionals, and it has stayed like this, no fluff attached. If you offer services rather than products, this is a good place for you, where you can list all your current and previous jobs and projects, for the whole world to see. I would suggest avoiding listing personal phone numbers and anything you don’t want to be public. Rather add a work email because it will be seen and used by other connections who may want to promote themselves and their services to you. Your LinkedIn profile is public and it will appear in Google searches, for recruiters, possible employees. You have the chance to post links and articles (your own, or what you consider interesting) and it is also a great source for news in your field. There is a free profile or if you are interested in serious job searching, you can buy an advanced LinkedIn option.
These are the major players all social media marketers use. There are many, many others, and many more will come, but I don’t foresee an end in sight for any of the ones mentioned above.
Return on Investment through Social Media is still a tough topic, since most clients still do not accurately value their social media, or think it can be done on a whim. Not every client has what it takes for that one viral video that will entertain or tap into the emotional side of the customers. Social media requires patience, persistence, constant communication with the fan-base, a mind-set geared toward helping, informing and answering the demands of your public – and all of this starts before selling anything. So, the big question is when should you start to see some return on investment, while you put yourselves and your heart out there, in the wild world, for everyone to see? How long should you update Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest, before you get noticed, get offers, have people mentioning a social media discount code, and grow that fan-base in a true community? Well, ROI is not an over-night success business.
According to a study done in July 2013 by Statistic Brain, 25% of the new businesses fail within a year, and 44% of them fail in three years. Almost half of the failures are caused by incompetence, mainly managerial – which includes lack of planning, no knowledge about financing or no record-keeping. If you want to succeed, you need to have a plan, set goals, and market your business – and here is where social media comes in the picture. If anyone tells you that social media replaces traditional marketing and it can be done with a smart phone, while juggling other tasks, please run away from that person, it is a scam! Social media is an addition to your marketing, an increasingly important part. It also needs to be planned, to have goals, to add to your overall marketing strategy AND to bring a return on investment. BUT, this ROI won’t be within the first month. Your numbers won’t explode with two Facebook posts a week. It takes serious strategy and persistent, meticulous work every day, on multiple social media outlets, in order to achieve results and see them. Same like agriculture: you need to plant, water constantly, clean the weeds, add compost, in order to harvest.
I started all the social media presence for my business from scratch, considering myself as one of my main clients. I had a clear strategy about branding, consistency of posting, and about the results I wanted to see. It was an important part of my overall marketing and networking, but I did not rely only on it only. A Return on Influence through social media started to show after six months of constant, daily posting and networking. First, there were offers to write for specialty websites, then collaboration proposals, questions from the media, requests for proposals, then contracts. It was not easy to put all the effort in, but I am persistent, genuine, and curious, I care, and I know how to do things. My background and 25 years of experience in Communication and Journalism helped a lot in developing my own social media, along with my client’s.
But, since it is always better to offer more than one opinion about everything, I asked my peers across the US about their expectancy in terms of ROI with social media, and here is what they said:
Alisa Meredith, Partner and Strategist at Scalable Social Media, LLC, Wilmington, North Carolina: “Our shortest retainer for social or inbound marketing is six months. That is long enough to start seeing some progress, so they’ll know they want to continue with us, but we make sure they know it takes 6-12 to start really paying off.”
Michelle Phillips, Web Designer/Social Media Consultant, Owner at Codefetti, LLC, in Rochester Hills, Michigan:“Most of my work is local business consulting, so start to finish averages 3 months once the contract is signed and the retainer is paid. Regarding ROI, I am happy to receive a referral within a month of completing a project or if the client opts for a monthly maintenance contract.”
Nancy Babcock, Social Media Strategist, Owner of Creative Arts Consulting, LLC, State College, Pennsylvania: “My clients are new to creating an online presence for ROI. We are building their online presence from the ground up including keywords, SEO, and social platform presence. During the initial consultation meeting, we discuss the average length of time that it takes a business to realize a return on their investment. The average contract length is six months. Thirty days prior to contract expiration we meet and renegotiate; adding or changing services based on the past 5 month performance period.”
Kerry Armour, Creative Director and Owner of Millipede Media Group, Santa Fe, New Mexico: “My longer term contracts are 3-6 months. Most work is a defined job that takes from a day to a month; as in write-a website, edit a whitepaper, etc. ROI, is really slow here in Santa Fe. I’ve been in the same networking group for 3 years and it is just now giving me work. So I’m not a good one to ask that question of!”
Heidi Garland, Social Media Strategist, owner of Guild West Agency, Inc., San Jose, California: “The ROI question is a tough one to answer. We work with our clients to establish quantifiable results such as 25% increase in traffic to the company website and 50 new customers in 2 months. We implement a targeted strategic design plan to deliver those results. It’s always a slippery slope when the client has vague expectations such as I want “more” fans. What exactly would you like these “fans” to do. If the client has vague expectations they will have vague results.”
– As I said – be persistent and keep “seeding” and “watering” your social media accounts. The results will definitely come!
Social Media is free to use, but using Social Media Marketing means your business will hire someone with professional expertise and pay the person or agency for their services. There is no way around it, if you want results. One won’t hire kids or in-laws who can use a computer to do real marketing. One can’t give the business’ public image to an intern paid with $8/hour or worked for free. And no professional is fond of “I’d like to pick your brains for a few hours over a coffee.” My mortgage, Internet, phone and other bills won’t be paid in coffee, and none of the service providers will wait for me to decide when I eventually compensate their services.
A lot of us, social media managers, own small or medium-size businesses or agencies; some own huge businesses and have lots of overhead costs. We’re well seasoned in giving a quote, a good price for each client, we also have the goodwill of adjusting the prices for a client who really deserves great service, but has a lower budget. We’ve been there when we started. We’ve been also burned by customers who only want to dip their toes in these social waters or had us working for free and paid months after the work was done. Most of us have very clear contracts and fees, are able to give estimates and, of course, deserve to be paid for our work. You won’t joke with PG&E bill, would you? Why, then, burn the social media professional who is marketing your products, helping you to get your bread and butter?
To give my clients and readers a bit of insight regarding what to expect, remuneration-wise, when they hire a social media professional or company, I tapped into my colleague’s experience, asking them how they charge while starting new projects, in terms of upfront payment.
Alisa Meredith, Partner and Strategist at Scalable Social Media, Wilmington, LLC North Carolina: “We usually charge for the job up front. Occasionally, we will accept 50% payment up front. Unfortunately, we’ve been burned too many times to work on the promise of payment. Online marketing tends to be a “bottom of the list” priority for a lot of businesses – both when it comes to getting started AND paying. We haven’t had any customers take issue with our policy. Of course, most of our work is retainer work and that is billed monthly, anyway.”
Michelle Phillips, Web Designer/Social Media Consultant, Owner at Codefetti, LLC, in Rochester Hills, Michigan: “I charge 50% upfront and 50% due upon completion. This model has worked well for me and seems like a fair arrangement for both parties. It keeps a project on track because the client is invested, and the partial payment helps cover costs associated with the project (such as stock photography purchases, outsourcing, graphic design, etc.). When I receive final payment, I turn the assets over to the client and provide training. I also charge for comprehensive proposals because a prospect can easily shop around for someone to implement the solution(s) in my proposal.”
Nancy Babcock, Social Media Strategist, Owner of Creative Arts Consulting LLC, State College, Pennsylvania: “I do not charge up front. Each client receives a contract with services and payment schedule. The contract clock is not started until the signed contract is in hand. Fortunately, I have not had clients not pay for services rendered; all have met the billing cycle as described in the contract.”
Kerry Armour, Creative Director and Owner of Millipede Media Group, Santa Fe, New Mexico: “I generally charge 50% up front for a defined project or monthly for an ongoing contract-type relationship. If it’s a short job and I know/trust the person, I may bill afterwards. I’m careful about doing that, though and I’ve not been burned yet!”
Heidi Garland, Social Media Strategist, owner of Guild West Agency, San Jose: “Our upfront charge for a new social media client is 50% of the launch phase estimate, and that is for two reasons, one is that it shows
that the client is committed to the project and that they respect us as business professionals. The second reason is that, unlike a car that you can take back, our work product is in the digital realm and delivered immediately and once it’s out there – it’s out there. The good news is that we have never had an issue with a client questioning our policy or our pricing structure because they see the value in the services we provide.”
Next blog will be about Return on Investment and what is a decent expectation in terms of ROI for social media.
You finally decided to take your business to a new level and add social media to your marketing, and, frankly, all these Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus websites give you a headache. You need to find a social media manager to help you, but where to start? One of my new clients told me she even asked at the Apple Store and they could not direct her anywhere. She was fortunate to sit by my husband in a crowded café, while he was waiting for me to do my social media work for a festival, they made conversation and, pure luck, she found me.
Most searches for a social media manager start two ways: ask your friends, or search on Google for services available in your area. With a bit of luck, you may find a good match for your business. You can also put up an ad on Craigslist. I’ve honestly never seen a decent ad there, simply because businesses do not know what a social media person does, or that it actually is a full-time job. There is a lot of confusion about the skills needed, and often times these ads ask for a web designer, graphic designer and social media professional, all in one – when, in reality, each of these requires a different college degree and work experience.
Professionals in social media marketing from across the US helped me bring for you valuable advice about what is important to ask for, while searching for a social media manager for your business.
“When hiring a social media manager, look for someone who can write well and has a good understanding of marketing in general. Hiring someone because they “use Facebook a lot” is like hiring a novice mechanic because he drives a lot. Knowing the tool is not enough.”
“I suggest that a client spends some time reviewing a potential social media manager’s online presence (their own and their clients, if applicable). That presence should include at least 5 platforms. (i.e.: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn Company Page, Pinterest, YouTube). This is important because not all platforms suit all businesses, and a social media manager needs to be able to determine which platforms will work best for a prospective client. Next, check out their engagement on these platforms. Is there consistent growth and adequate interaction given the number of likes, followers, etc.? Do they have strong communication skills?”
“When hiring a social media manager, I would recommend looking at several areas. First, how are they using social media across the various platforms? Are they consistently posting or tweeting to the major social channels, are they engaging with fans or followers, does their content promote social media learning, do they produce articles about social media? Secondly, social media management is a relatively new field; I would look at prior business experience using a platform like LinkedIn. Does their background include any business related experience that is relevant to understanding a business life cycle? Third, I would check if the individual has created a legal entity, like an LLC. With the increase in the field of social media managers, anyone can hang out a shingle as a social media manager. I would verify there is a legal business entity that protects all the parties in the event of disputes. Finally, I would check testimonials. What are other people saying about their experience with the individual? Is there a theme that runs through the testimonials that help describe the person’s character?”
“I think it’s overall most important to hire someone with a proper marketing background. Social media capabilities can be added to an existing knowledge of marketing but the opposite is not true. The classic joke about hiring a teenager to do your Social Media Management applies. As for experience: SMM has existed for how long – 5 years or so? NO ONE is an expert in my opinion. So hire an experienced marketer.”
Can you see the underlying thread? You need to find someone who has experience in communication, knows marketing, has a strong online presence and engages through her/his social media as seriously as she/he would do it for you. And just as a side note: I’ve seen so many “digital marketing” agencies trumpeting their services, but who fail miserably to update constantly their social media pages. So, please be cautious where you decide to spend your hard-earned money, and who takes the reigns of representing your business online.