My company recently conducted a survey and there was one stat that really stood out. A whopping 94% of businesses surveyed felt that adding social media to the marketing mix would help meet overall business objectives. That was expected since social media has become THE marketing buzz word over the last few years. The shocking part was that 68% of those businesses neglected to allocate resources to social media. So many businesses completely get the value of social media, but haven’t made the move to put their money where their mouths are.
This article is for those who recognize the value of social media but due to lack of time, knowledge or fear have refused to step-up and commit to implementing a social media campaign.
If you consider yourself to be a social media ‘expert,’ then stop reading immediately. This article ISN’T for you. I’ll be covering topics including: defining social media needs, allocating resources, researching possible solutions, and what to ask once a solution has been sourced. Experts may want to scroll down and take a look at my list of questions to ask potential social media service providers. It certainly couldn’t hurt to start working on a good answer. ;-)
What do you REALLY need?
The first step is take a moment to reflect on what it is you feel you want from social media. Carefully outline the business objectives you are hoping to meet by implementing a social media campaign and be prepared to share these insights with any social media professionals you contact.
Once you feel satisfied with your campaign goals, it’s time to examine what part of the social media campaign you’ll need some help with. Based upon your own knowledge and availability and any other internal resources, decide what role you would like to play in your company’s social media. I would suggest that the most successful campaigns involve a close collaboration with the primary stakeholders and any outside consultant or agency. Below are some typical social media campaign components. Pinpointing which areas you’ll need help with can help you source the best solution.
Overall strategy and messaging – This would entail exploring which message would be most effective and via which platform. It could include consultations covering how to provide value to your on-line community and research to find where your on-line community spends it’s time. If your strength includes researching and implementing compelling promotions, then you may not need as much help in this area. On the other hand, if you’re a small business who hasn’t committed any resources to an on-line presence or other marketing initiatives, you may need quite a bit of help in this category.
Implementation and development – Once you know how to effectively reach and influence your community, it’s time to implement. This would include the actual development of a social media property such as a Facebook page, a company blog, Twitter account, etc. If you already have a team of web designer and development rock stars, they may be able to take care of some of the basics on this one – like installing a WordPress blog and creating a custom background for Twitter. You’ll also need a great copywriter to provide written information about your business within each of these properties. If you’re just not technically savvy and really don’t spend much time on social media outlets, then I would highly recommend getting some help with this one.
Ongoing content creation and management – After the social media channels have been built, someone will need to create content and dialogue with your community. Blog posts will need to be written, Facebook updates will need to be made and conversations will require ongoing nurturing. In my opinion, this is one of THE MOST neglected areas of social media development. If you build a blog, they will NOT come. It will take hours of work to initiate a valuable conversation with your potential audience. It’s very important to allocate enough resources to this, whether it be internal or outsourced.
Tracking campaign results and demonstrating ROI – So how do you know if all this hard work is paying off? By setting up and tracking measureable goals that mesh with your overall business objectives. Remember those goals you set up at the start of this journey? This is where a few hours invested in a consultant can REALLY pay dividends. There are many great tracking solutions out there, several for under $100 bucks (http://socialfresh.com/social-media-monitoring-big-brand-bang-for-under-100-bucks/). If you feel overwhelmed with all the data that will be available to you, a good consultant can help you focus on the juicy, actionable stuff that will help inform future campaign decisions.
As you can see, there’s quite a bit of work that goes into properly planning for and implementing social media campaigns. So it’s time to get real with yourself and commit, commit, commit! If you recognize you need help with all the areas above, you’ll also need to acknowledge it will require some funding.
If you’re thinking “Yeah, that’s why I haven’t moved forward with social media. I can’t afford it,” I would argue that you can’t afford to wait. Examine where you are currently allocating marketing dollars and do a bit of juggling. If you’ve already invested in print media, TV, Radio, or directory listings, ask yourself ‘What have they done for me lately?’ If you can PROVE they are meeting your marketing goals with hard data; great. More likely you have no real idea if they are helping to meet those objectives or not.
If you’re a smaller business that doesn’t have a marketing budget, then you’ll need to be ready to take on this work internally. You can’t expect to get help in all the areas above on a shoe-string budget. You CAN invest in a few hours of consultation to get you pointed in the right direction and then utilize on-line resources and your own staff power to begin the conversation. Remember your goals need to be aligned with your available resources.
Now that I’ve delivered the lecture on aligning goals with budget, it’s time to source a solution. There are a few different options when considering paying for help.
Full-service agency – There are several types of agencies that can help a business with social media. Public Relations agencies, Advertising firms, Search Engine Optimization agencies, Interactive Media agencies and agencies completely devoted to social media.
Consultant – There’s no shortage of social media ‘experts’ willing to have you pay them for their advice. Their services can range from a few hours of initial consulting to working with you as a member of your marketing team.
Full-time hire – There’s also no shortage of social media professionals looking for a full-time job. Considering the ailing job market and if you currently have the funds to consider bringing someone on full-time to handle the job, it might prove a good value.
Training programs – There are many social media programs, certificates, and workshops available both online and off. Investing in this type of training for yourself or an employee may be a solution to consider.
Free online resources – There’s a bevy of free online resources out there . If you don’t have ANY budget to speak of, you can always invest your time. A great start is creating your own personal profiles as a way to learn about the medium and slowly incorporating your business objectives.
So now that we’ve explored what you may need and the solutions out there available to you, here’s how I would conduct the search.
Start with your immediate connections and ask for a referral. Chance are someone within your circle has worked with someone in social media in the past and can offer up a recommendation. If no referrals are forthcoming, expand your search to your social media networks. Twitter is an amazing tool for getting connected with talented professionals.
2) Expanding Your Search
There are quite a few online directories filled with social media professionals, including the recent launch of investinsocial.com (http://www.investinsocial.com). They can be a great resource for getting a broad look at many service providers in one place and categorized into user-friendly buckets.
Online publications and blogs can also be a great resource for finding help. Most social media pros publish their own blog or write for publications such as Socialfresh.com. If you’re interested in some local help, then search for local, online publications that feature local talent.
Only as a last resort would I recommend good old Google. Using Google alone to make your social media service provider decisions could prove lethal. There are quite a few companies out there that pretend to do social media but don’t really deliver. There’s a great article by Tom Martin outlining this issue: Is your social media agency faking it? (http://socialfresh.com/is-your-social-media-agency-faking-it/). I DO recommend ‘googling’ any referrals in order to check-out their online presence. Visit their blog, Facebook page, and Twitter profile to get an idea of how they deal with marketing their own brand. I wouldn’t necessarily be looking for daily updates: many great shops are SO busy managing their clients campaigns that they don’t have the resources to spend tons of time on their own social media stuff.
3) Ask, Ask, Ask
Once you have sourced a few options, you need to ask questions. Here are some good ones to get you started. Not all of these may be appropriate for your situation, but you can adjust as needed.
- Who will be managing my account?
- Will you be implementing recommendations or will I?
- What tracking tools do you use?
- Which metrics do you actively track and report on?
- Once the engagement has ended how will the transition process work?
- Which accounts will I have access to and which will I own upon contract completion?
- Can you provide writing samples from any content creators working on my account?
- How will I be updated regarding my campaigns progress? Weekly call? Email? Monthly report?
- How will you recruit new followers and fans?
4) Be Patient
Growing an online community takes time. I wouldn’t trust anyone that promises to grow your fan base significantly in just a few short weeks. Chances are they’re using questionable techniques that may or MAY NOT yield fans interested in you or your product.
The complete results of the Bonfire Social Media study can be found here:
Key Summary of results:
- 94% Surveyed felt adding social media to their marketing mix would help
their company meet overall business objectives
- 80% of participants currently use social media to market their service or
- 70% of responders do NOT actively measure their social media efforts
- 91% indicated Facebook was their current social media marketing platform
- 70% Chose Facebook as the most successful platform for meeting their
- 34% Chose Twitter as the LEAST successful platform for meeting business
needs, followed by Facebook (32%), and LinkedIn (32%)
- 53% Indicated TIME was the biggest challenge when implementing a social
- 68% of businesses surveyed allocate LESS than 10% of their marketing
budget to social media