On July 1, 2012 on this very site, Matthew Bellows talked about the importance of e-mail as a tool for converting warm sales leads. He noted that while social media is important, it is ultimately e-mail that will drive sales.
It’s a good point, and thus a worthwhile read for any marketer or salesperson operating in the world of business today. It does not, however, change the fact that social media is a vitally important piece of your strategy.
For sales, e-mail may remain the most critical wrench in your business toolbox, but your specialized tools for social media can reach a different crowd entirely. Many of your customers lean heavily on their mobile devices and their electronics to keep them connected to the world, and are increasingly savvy about sales messaging. They don’t want to be sold to so much as they want to be talked to, to have someone carry on a conversation that just so happens to be about your business philosophy and products.
Because this requires a different worldview than your usual sales or marketing team member has been trained to have, your company should have a dedicated social media expert.
The Ideal Expert
It’s becoming increasingly trendy to staff your social media guru spot with someone young. That’s wise to a point — the younger generations have grown up with social media and are very comfortable navigating it — but it should not be a mortal lock.
Instead, look for a deep understanding. Your expert-to-be should know the major platforms in and out, have at least a working knowledge of writing, video and webinars/podcasts and be able to grasp how SEO works. If they’re 22 or 40, every candidate and especially every hire should exhibit an active mastery of at least the basics of social media.
They also need to have one heck of a work ethic. Social media management is relatively easy to get started with and requires little time per post or update, but that time adds up fast. I would estimate that I spend about 30 hours a week on theBizEngine blog, Twitter feed, Facebookand various other platforms in order to promote our content and have conversations around small business.
It’s critically important to do it and I thoroughly enjoy doing so, but it’s not a gig for a part-time employee.
Above all, though, you need someone who knows their stuff. The only question is, what if you can’t find someone?
Should You Outsource?
If you can’t find a candidate who satisfies your requirements, you can outsource the work to a dedicated SEO company.
There are so many great companies out there who can really take your social media marketing efforts to the next level. In essence, all you will need to do is consult with these companies, keep abreast of the work they are doing on your behalf and be sure that everything is up to brand standards.
The question here is cost. Chances are good that you will pay at least as much per year for a quality social media firm as you would for an employee, and those who enjoy being in total control of what comes out of their company might not find that to be a palatable option.
If you don’t want to have someone in-house and you have the revenue to make it a reality, though, outsourcing can be an excellent choice.
Either way, I believe a social media expert can make an enormous difference for your business. With their ability to reach wide swaths of people quickly and easily and a chance to make a lasting impact on customers past, present and future, they are essential. Just make sure you hire a great one.
Does your business have a dedicated social media expert?
Social Media Photo via Shutterstock
Nancy E. Wigal
Good point made. What I’ve come to realize in the past year or so is that marketing has changed so much, and has so many components, that enterprise SEO and enterprise marketing has to be seriously considered even at the small business level.
I’ve had business owners ask me in great frustration, do I work my business or do I do marketing and social media all the time? The truth is, marketing a business online is taking up more and more time daily, and if you want to grow your business and provide the core products/services, you have to have resources to help you.
Just doing SEO alone won’t cut it anymore. This is why an enterprise approach, even for very small businesses, has to be planned and executed. Obviously, it won’t be to the extent of medium to large businesses, but advertising and marketing a business is so damned complicated anymore, it really takes a team to gain depth and breadth to the target audience.
Nancy, that’s an excellent comment. Effective online marketing is enormously time consuming and, especially for your average small business, downright daunting.
The enterprise approach is one that I think is gaining steam, and businesses should benefit from that.
What would you consider to be the differences between Enterprise SEO and small business? I feel the strategies are almost exactly the same, but on an enterprise level there is typically tougher competition.
For anyone outsourcing their social media effort, remember that no matter how much you’re paying they still won’t know your company as well as an employee and won’t have quite the same personal touch. It just feels different getting a response from someone who is officially at the company, not just speaking on behalf of the company.
Great point, Robert. That disconnect is something that needs to be factored in for any small business looking to outsource. It’s certainly not right for everyone.
While I agree wholeheartedly that every small business should be investing in social media, I don’t think most small businesses needs to make it a full-time pursuit – particularly during the beginning phases. Small businesses should create profiles and start to jump into conversations on the most important social channels: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, with B2B businesses leaning more toward LinkedIn and B2C businesses spending relatively more time on Facebook.
I think it also depends a lot on the kind of business we’re talking about. A consultant is likely to spend more time in social media than a roofing contractor or a dentist. That’s in part because consultants are likely to be more comfortable writing and interacting online (a generalization, I realize).
But it’s also because consultants get hired based on their personal experience, expertise, ideas and methodology, and clients need to know a lot about, and feel comfortable with, all those things before they decide that the consultant is indeed the right person to solve the client’s problem. Roofing, dentistry, plumbing, pet care, Botox – these services are somewhat more standardized. Don’t get me wrong: I think every small business can benefit from building stronger relationships and communication channels with customers, and every small business should want to inspire the social sharing that constitutes today’s best word of mouth recommendations. But roofers and dentists don’t need a full-time employee to do that.
To Robert’s comment above: I certainly think no one knows a small business or can represent that business online as well as the small business owner. But most of the small business owners I’ve met just can’t spend enough time on social media to do it well on a consistent basis. Again, it’s a generalization, and there are bound to be exceptions – but on the whole, with the small business owners I’ve talked to, social media tends to fall to the bottom of the day-to-day priority list.
I don’t think there’s a difference between an employee and an outside resource, assuming it’s the RIGHT outside resource. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll admit my bias here, as Deluxe Corporation (my employer) does provide affordable social media management services for small businesses as part of our suite of online marketing services. Our DeluxeSocial clients consistently tell us that our social media specialists “get” their businesses and function smoothly as part of their team, so I’m hoping we’re filling that role as well as any outside resource could.
Bravo! The more small businesses hear this the more likely they are to understand that hiring the neighbors college aged son or daughter to social media “because they get it” is not the best path for small businesses that need to get the best return from every dollar invested.
Social media is an important factor in search (Google, Yahoo, Bing) so any implementation of social media without a firm grasp on best practices and how to leverage the relationship between social and search will fail to reach its full potential.
I often present at conferences and provide corporate training and find that the value expert implementation eludes many small business owners and marketers. Social and Search (SEO) should always be part of strategic planning for the marketing plan and the website (not an afterthought).
Nice post. I guess it depends on what kind of business you have on whether email or social media (or something else) is the key tool, but agreed: you need them all.
I had to fight recently to get a client to keep up his social media efforts. He wasn’t seeing “results” like he wanted to, and I explained that he had to at the minimum have a presence there just because customers expected it. It’s sort of like having social media running in the background rather than having it be an efficient conversion tool.
I’m really glad I found this article. Right when I started focusing on social media for our company, the first thing I said was “Wow, this could be a full-time job”. Glad I wasn’t wrong!
In my mind, the most overlooked attribute required in a person being delegated to become the Community Manager of a social media campaign is – the ability to write. The person should not only have a proper command of language, they should more importantly love to write. A writer can learn what to write about and how to use online tools, but finding the writer is a critical ingredient.
Absolutely Gary. We’ll do you one better. If it were up to us we’d bag the whole nonsensical “community manager” title and call SMM content producers what they are, which is writers.
We don’t hire “community managers” because the phrase doesn’t mean anything. We hire writers because that’s exactly what is crucial to successful SMM, whether campaigns or day-to-day interaction.
The amount of simple spelling and grammar mistakes we catch on major company Facebook and other social media networks is stunning. And as we said before, these SMM companies are being paid OUTRAGEOUS sums of money to do a shoddy job, only because the management there has no idea what the service is actually worth.
Not a bad article.
However, this statement isn’t even remotely based in reality:
“Chances are good that you will pay at least as much per year for a quality social media firm as you would for an employee.”
The issue is one of knowledge. Small business owners (and large business owners for that matter) have yet to truly figure out how much a quality social media marketing and management firm SHOULD cost, so they throw money out the door and down the drain for no reason.
We’ve heard outrageous sums like tens of thousands of dollars a month and have to chuckle to ourselves at the incredibly shoddy output and customer service on the networks these firms manage for businesses.
Under proper circumstances, the way we do it, there is absolutely no way on Earth that an outsource company would cost anywhere NEAR what an in-house employee would cost, and that’s with or without factoring in benefits and ancillary employee costs. You’re talking HALF the cost at the most.
We haven’t found a single rational reason for keeping business SMM in-house and we doubt we ever will.
But again, nice article.
The problem I always have is that everyone consideres themselves a social media expert
Great points! What you write about is beginning to sink-in as a must have for small businesses. It’s real work that requires attention to details. Create meaningful, branded content on a consistent basis. Thanks! –BR
Another great reason to hire a professional – experience and advice. Clients simply do not know how important it is to add quality content that delivers to both the customer AND the search engines, which is equally important these days. And besides, our clients should be doing what they do best, in most cases, selling.