Whether you’re a marketing director, a CMO, or a small business owner, you probably look at the consistent work and intention that goes into an effective social media plan and think, “I can’t do this myself.”
And you shouldn’t.
Between building out a strategy, creating a content calendar, keeping up with posting each day, getting conversational, monitoring for problems, and running targeted boosts and ads, effective social media engagement — that actually works toward measurable results — requires sustained, daily intention.
But if you’re going to hire someone to help you, figuring out if they have the chops to actually make it worth paying for isn’t always easy. A good talker (or a person with 100,000 Twitter followers) isn’t necessarily a proficient community manager. And just about every agency out there — PR, branding, digital — claims to offer social media management. But that doesn’t mean they’re good at it.
So here are six questions you should ask before making your decision.
1. How will you decide what and where to post for my company?
A competent practitioner doesn’t start the conversation with answers, but with questions. The “post five times per week on Facebook” approach doesn’t work for every business (it barely works for anyone). So if your person is prescriptive from the start, that’s a red flag.
At WideFoc.us, we always ask plenty of questions at the outset:
Who are your target audiences?
What are your business goals?
What are you hoping social media will do for your company?
When you ask this question, expect the person to respond by asking for more details about your organization and your goals before responding. And then look for a thoughtful answer that includes high level details about using curated and owned content, consistent posting on a daily basis, and choosing social platforms that will reach your audiences.
2. How often do you recommend posting on social media channels?
Again — there’s no blanket answer, though we know that 1-3 posts per day on Facebook and Instagram, 7-15 on Twitter, and at least 5-7 per week on LinkedIn are the minimum for effectiveness and audience-building. Engagement comes from consistency, and someone who offers to post a few times per week isn’t building audiences for you or helping enhance your online presence.
You’ll also want to find out how they manage your social communities. Many agencies run on the set-it-and-forget it model, where they post everything in advance, without concern for daily monitoring or real-time interaction.
So much can change in a few hours — a relevant topic can start trending, meaning your community manager should sub in new content at the last minute; a tragic national event may require your team to suspend all posts out of respect; a conversation could be taking place on Twitter that just begs for your brand’s expertise; or someone posts a negative comment or a customer service issue on one of your channels, needing a quick response.
All of these require daily, real-time monitoring and engagement. Tweets that were written the week before have their place, but nothing is better than retweeting or replying to something current on the fly. You need a team that understands your brand and can engage on your behalf within a short time.
3. Do I need an advertising budget? If so, how will you use it?
Daily organic reach on social platforms is low, but on Facebook it’s less than 2%. It’s all pay-to-play there (and to some extent on Instagram, as well). That means you do need to put money behind your efforts for anyone to see what you’re doing.
We allocate social ad spends to meet the needs of our clients: building an audience through fan campaigns, increasing visibility and interactions via targeted boosts and post promotion, driving website traffic with clicks campaigns. Your social media strategist should have a similar approach.
Make sure you ask about targeting. How will the agency or community manager find and get you in front of your target audiences? What methods will they use to identify audiences and measure success? What are some examples of campaigns they’ve run in the past?
If your practitioner doesn’t have deep knowledge in using social ad spends to drive results through strong messaging, strategic targeting, and testing effectiveness, you’re just throwing money away.
4. What if something goes wrong?
Whether it’s an angry tweet or an online smear campaign, your social media team should have experience in dealing with negative outcomes. Look for a crisis response process that catches the problem and provides a recommended plan-of-action. Ask for examples of times the practitioner dealt with problems. How did he or she work to diffuse the situation and provide ongoing support? What is the process the agency uses to assess and engage when negative sentiment occurs?
5. How will I know if it’s working?
Reporting on social media effectiveness should be a given. Look for monthly meetings, where you go through metrics, talk strategy, and make a plan for the coming month and quarter. And a good strategist walks you through successes and the challenges — what performed well and what didn’t, with thoughts on why and a plan for improvement. Sometimes, social media KPIs drop or flatten out, depending on a slew of variables from time of year to content choices to user error. Testing, learning, and reporting are essential elements of effective social media.
6. How much is this going to cost?
Your strategist probably won’t have a figure to present off-hand, unless you’ve already gone through the proposal process. Costs should depend on how much help you need, what platforms should be addressed, who is providing content, budget for ad spends, etc. But a rough idea of how you’ll be billed and what the range of costs will be helpful.
And social media is one place where pricing comparisons aren’t the only thing that matters. Ask what you get for that budget — owned and curated posts across how many platforms, how often? How does strategy work? What is the discovery and planning process, and is that included? What about reporting and meetings? And real-time communications and course corrections? What if your community manager goes on vacation or gets sick?
Often, the low-budget approach means a cookie cutter effort, which isn’t going to drive the results that a competent team of professionals can provide. What is the financial value for you of a new client or customer? And how many new customers per month will you need to pay for the social media work? Consider quality and what it means to your bottom line.
Of course, we would be happy to answer all of these questions for you, if you’re looking for social media support. We’d love to chat with you.
Eric Elkins is CEO and Chief Strategist at WideFoc.us. Eric brings nearly two decades of experience to our clients. In his other life, he’s a single dad, an avid eater, and a bourbon aficionado.