Social media consultants are lifesavers for small businesses all over the country. But sometimes it makes more sense to pay one of your own employees to be your social media manager.
Joy Gendusa has strong opinions about a lot of things, including social media. In 2009, she was burned by a social media consultant.
“I was approached by a handsome young entrepreneur who wanted to help me with my social media efforts,” says Gendusa, founder and CEO of PostcardMania, a Florida mail-advertising company. “He sat in my office and explained what he would do with about 40 different social media sites. The problem was that I could hardly decipher anything he was talking about.”
Wanting to build up her company’s social media presence, Gendusa “drank the Kool-Aid.” She signed a $15,000 contract for the service.
A few months and no results later, a disgruntled Gendusa fired him and brought the position in-house. Today, she employs a social media manager who brings in 40 to 50 leads per week.
But this is just one story. In truth, such consultants have helped many small businesses. Obviously, Gendusa would have been better to start off with an in-house position, while other business owners may do better to hire contractors.
How do you know which category your business fits into?
Businesses that need consultants
“The smaller the shop, the more you should hire someone outside,” says Lynne McNamee, president and founder of Always Visible Signs, a Connecticut marketing agency. “If you own a business with five people or less, for example, you probably don’t have time for social media.”
When you're interviewing someone for this position, watch out for confusing messages, warns Barbara Rozgonyi, a social media expert and founder of CoryWest Media, a strategic marketing firm in Chicago.
“That is a real red flag,” she says. “The consultant needs to explain things in your language and involve you in the process.”
What qualities should you look for?
Look for someone who is already a social media influencer, Rozgonyi advises. They may have a wide net of Twitter and Facebook followers or write a popular blog. If you aren’t sure of their influence, Google them and see what comes up. The bigger the influence, the more they can pipe you and your brand into their already-established network.
Make sure to ask about their personal activities on social media. The more involved they are, the better.
Social media consultants should be open to working with business owners on understanding overall business goals and how social media can reinforce other products, notes McNamee.
“Talk about how you define a successful program,” she suggests. “You need to have measurements and targets. Make sure they understand not only the technical side of the agreement, but also your bigger marketing principles and objectives with clients.”
Make sure to ask for references and quiz them about successful campaigns they’ve spearheaded.
Businesses that need in-house social media managers
Larger companies with social media as a core focus are good candidates for needing an in-house social media manager, according to Rozgonyi. “The company should have a serious commitment to social media and see it as a driver,” she says.
What should you expect those managers to do?
Duties should not be limited to posting updates, Rozgonyi says. Instead, a social media manager needs to be focused on the larger marketing strategy of the company and tailor responsibilities accordingly.
Crafting blog posts can be part of their job description. Producing weekly video shows highlighting new products, soliciting client testimonials and doing interviews with influencers can also be part of it.
“An in-house social media manager needs to be comfortable building a community, which means finding the right people to follow and making connections,” says Rozgonyi.
What’s been your experience with a social media consultant or an in-house manager?
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