Let me preface this article by stressing that a business might not need an outsourced social media manager. If you have someone on your team who has been trained on using social media for business and is happy to keep an eye on your accounts 24/7 without sacrificing attention to other business-critical tasks, then great.
Many businesses do run their social media in-house but unfortunately end up doing a half job. They post weak content, they post irregularly, they don’t use Facebook Advertising and they don’t grow the right audience… all of which adds up to little activity and engagement and no enquiries.
That’s essentially wasted time, which is costing you money. In fact, the most prudent course of action for you may be to skip social media completely. There’s a lot of pressure these days for businesses to be on social media but that doesn’t mean they have to. All we’re saying is that if you are going to be there, be there 100%. Driving people to a Facebook Page where the last post is three months’ old is not going to win you any new fans or customers.
There is a massive difference between using social media personally and for business, which this blog should demonstrate. If Bob from Human Resources says he can manage your business’s Twitter account because he tweets about his kayaking exploits all the time, it’s worth bearing this in mind. Alternatively, you could hire a social media manager. But then you have to remember that there are bad ones around. People who have jumped on the bandwagon and done a one-day course. When you choose a professional social media management team, you should be getting a lot more than somebody who just posts for you.
Below are the services that a properly trained business-savvy employee or a good social media manager should provide. It’s what we recommend you should look for if you truly want to take advantage of its huge audience:
A reliable service
Again, it might be tempting to opt for an employee to take care of your social media. However, even if they are an online marketing expert, this work will not be their first priority. They have other stuff to do, i.e. their main job role. But if this person is indeed employed specifically for Marketing, what social media training have they had and what ongoing training are they signed up for to keep your business ahead of the game? Social media is developing on a weekly basis and what worked on Instagram a couple of months ago might be as effective now.
What’s going to happen when your employee is off sick? Or sunning themselves in Corfu for two weeks? This is why outsourcing can be popular for a range of business tasks, not just social media. It means you wouldn’t have to worry about absenteeism. A professional social media manager should have a team around them, so there is no ‘off time’. (I’m aware I’m plugging here, but I’m also being honest. Pay to continually train an employed marketer or outsource – that’s the bottom line.)
Social media doesn’t have opening and closing hours. Customers now expect you to be available at all times, any day of the week and that’s what a social media manager should offer. What happens if someone submits a business enquiry through Facebook at 10pm on a Friday night? There’s no point getting back to them on Monday; they’ll have taken their business elsewhere. Key 3 Media dealt with five new enquiries for one client on Christmas Day alone!
Whether it’s sad or not, some people’s preferred method of contacting a company is through social media. They prefer to type than talk. They want to post a question on your Facebook Page, send you a Facebook Message or a Direct Message over Twitter. Will an employee monitor that for you 24/7? Will they be willing to have a lengthy to-and-fro conversation online on a Saturday night when everyone else is watching The X-Factor?
Some businesses need social media accounts set up from scratch, and this does require specialist knowledge. As well as strong imagery, calls-to-action and the right contact information, a social media manager will know how to keyword business bios for Search Engine Optimization, and understand how Google indexes social media.
We are amazed at how many accounts we’ll take over and see that some fields have been left empty. Even the email address! Potential customers will want to get hold of you easily! No email, less enquiries.
It is always worth checking these foundations. They make everything easier and more effective. You might be surprised what you find….
Always be polite
No matter what the situation or kind of mood they’re in, a good social media manager will always be polite when liaising with customers or potential customers. It should be taken for granted but some people never get the memo. Many confrontations can actually be diffused by politeness or even turned around.
Rising to someone on social media never ends well. Often, the person is being obtuse to deliberately bate you anyhow. They’re trolls – keyboard tough guys, we call them. Be polite, no matter what, then – if they persist – consider blocking them.
An employee of a client of ours, who was an admin of the company Facebook Page, once took it upon himself to reply to someone who had posted a harsh (but fair) criticism of a deal they were offering. He bit, basically. And it ended with him saying he was an idiot and that he should “stick to eBay with the other cheapskates”. That occurred at midnight and I think drink was involved….
You have to ask who you can trust.
Posting regularly and strategically
Knowing when and how to post in order to reach enough of the right audience is a learned skill. There’s no point posting at times of the day when your customer avatar is not online or has other priorities. Equally, posting three times in a row and then nothing for the rest of the week is a waste of time. We see this a lot and it is a giveaway that a business has thought, “Ooh, I’ve got five minutes – I’ll do some Facebooking.” As with any successful marketing, you test, observe then act for the future accordingly. Some businesses are finding that posting late at night is working well for them, for example, which flies in the face of much social media research. Yes, there’ll be fewer people on social media at that time, but there will also be fewer businesses competing for their attention. Keeping track of trends such as this is key.
This is why we believe a social media manager shouldn’t be working on a ‘price per post’ basis. Backed up by Facebook Advertising, a Facebook Page might only need four or five posts a week to do the job. It is researched quality over quantity. So if someone tells you your money will get you seven posts / tweets a week, the alarm bells should be ringing. Seven times a week, five times a week, ten times a week… it should all be mixed up and monitored on a client-by-client basis.
Finding, designing and sharing strong and relevant content
A good social media manager will research, create and post strong, interesting content. This will be content related to the business but also to the sector and other news their followers might be interested in. It doesn’t have to be solely about your business. Saying the same thing all the time will see people switching off. Buy my stuff! Buy my stuff! Yawn Central. Sadly, we have found that most business owners or employees are so busy with their day job, they haven’t got time to hunt for cool things to post about.
Do they share content from contemporaries, industry bodies, celebrities, experts, etc? Is your target audience likely to be into football or rugby? Great – you can use that. Post about the World Cup and Six Nations. Even an accountancy firm is allowed to be interested in sport! Music, humour, motivational quotes…. You should be revealing your business’s personality and culture as well as your benefits; in fact, this is crucial if you’re a local business.
Also, spelling and grammar in your posts are important. It’s not the end of the world but your next biggest customer could be the one who does know where an apostrophe should go. So if you have someone posting on your behalf, make sure they can spell and structure sentences properly! They are representing your business after all. There’s no point looking cool and “on-brand” if people are sniggering at the details. Or, worse still, pulling you up in public about them.
Hashtags (clickable links about subjects) can help grow your audience on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If used correctly. If used incorrectly, they can make you look out of touch, desperate or can even lower the reach of your post.
A social media expert will know the fundamentals of hashtagging on different platforms. For Instagram and Twitter, a moderate number of relevant hashtags will increase your visibility by acting as an indexing system for anyone searching for that subject. They should find strong but niche hashtags; a dog walker, for example, shouldn’t use a hashtag that millions of other people are using such as #labrador. They’d be better off with #labradorable, which is still being used but not by the world and, er, their dog.
On Facebook, posts with one or maybe two hashtags is likely to perform better than posts with three or more. Sometimes, you shouldn’t use any hashtags in a Facebook post. If you see a business with ten hashtags at the end of their Facebook post, they don’t know what they’re doing. #fitness #vegan #lifestyle #gym #whatever … people’s eyes will glaze over, as will Facebook’s indexing algorithm.
LinkedIn of course hasn’t used hashtags for years. If you see someone hashtagging on LinkedIn… oh dear. That is not good.
Facebook Advertising is essential to growing a Facebook page but, unbelievably, some social media managers still don’t use it! With the average organic reach of a Facebook Business Page being just 5% – 6% (source: Social@Ogilvy), you need it! Without it, your content won’t get seen by enough people. Only big firms that are posting super viral, trending subjects multiple times a day can get away without advertising.
About half of Key 3 Media’s time is spent designing and monitoring Facebook Ads for clients. In addition to growing your audience, Facebook Ads are hugely beneficial for driving targeted groups of people to a specific call-to-action. This is where you do the selling, not via your organic posts. There are different types of Facebook Ad, and your social media person should know which ones to choose for different goals and how to split test their performance to maximize your budget. You can also link certain Facebook Ads with Instagram, whether you have an Instagram account or not…. Another great advantage of Facebook as a cost effective advertising platform.
You can easily spot a marketer who puts style above substance; a Facebook Ad gives you accountability, which fluffy marketers hate. Facebook’s analytics in general make for excellent reporting, which you need to see that your expenditure is resulting in a growing audience, strong engagement and enquiries.
There are lots of good social media management teams out there of course; we’re not just plugging Key 3 Media!! Yes, we provide an experienced, responsive service but so do other marketers. A big agency may be the best of the bunch, but will charge accordingly and we’d question what out-of-hours services you’d get. You may find a one-man band who can manage your social media for £50 a month… but what level of service can you expect for that? Can all of the above expectations realistically be met for that price? We come back to the original point – social media is not just about posting a couple of times a week.
At the end of the day, it is about making social media work for you, because it can be a beautiful thing.