The purists will contend that everybody should do their own social media because of the “authenticity” value. Certainly that is an ideal, but I’m also a realist. If people want to out-source their social media and there is a buck to made, it will certainly happen somewhere. I also think there is some value to a consultant or agency helping people along for some period of time. When you first got your driver’s license somebody still had to sit beside you and teach you how to drive, right?
In my job as a consultant, I see many approaches to social media management. In general, here are some broad trends in social media management:
Mega brands – I have had a chance to witness some AMAZING and sophisticated social media marketing programs. These companies are beginning to make correlations between “share of voice” and true marketshare, using listening platforms to track micro-trends and the “cool kids,” and taking location-based marketing to a whole new level.
These companies have the resources to hire the biggest agencies and best minds in the world to help them navigate social media labyrinths and determine a strategy, but generally, they are organizing and resourcing to respond to the new opportunities. One brand has renamed part of their marketing department “Customer Connections.”
Medium-sized companies. In my opinion, unless you are an elite brand, I believe at least 95 percent of the companies I see are desperately confused about what to do about social media. I think they would just like for it to go away so they can return to having a trade booth and shop front.
They probably don’t have a corporate culture that can easily adapt to the transformation needed to “listen” instead of “broadcast” and they simply want to check a box to do SOMETHING. You, know … I actually think there is some value in that. A company that is at least thinking through the platforms, attempting to listen on the new channels and dipping their toe into content marketing is taking a step in the right direction. Most of these companies at least have the vision and budget to hire an agency to get them started on social media marketing.
Small businesses. I think social media can provide an advantage to most small businesses, but that doesn’t mean it actually does unless they are working on it! Why isn’t it happening?
- They’re overwhelmed by the concept and don’t know where to start.
- They started a Facebook page and nobody “liked” them so they quit.
- They understand the concept but don’t have the time or resources to do anything consistent and meaningful.
- Their marketing budget is tied up in local newspaper, Yellow Pages, Google and TV ads and they don’t have anything left for something new.
- When you bring it up, they stare you down and tell you they “Don’t need the Facebox or the Tweeter."
Local support. The new category of social media gurus are trying to teach best practices and perhaps do some hands-on social media management. My take is that most of these efforts eventually fail because you are communicating for somebody else, which is probably not sustainable, and the labor cost to actually do this stuff is so high –and the results so undefinable in the short-term — that customers lose interest. People with a limited budget need this to work NOW.
Cookie cutter. I am seeing a ton of people and small agencies offering social media packages — “our gold package features two tweets per day, a Facebook update, and one blog post per week!” This is handing your social media campaign to someone who has no idea about your business. This is fine to get you started but the company acting on your behalf needs to get to know your business as if they actually work with you each week. You should insist on weekly meetings (phone meetings are fine) where you get a chance to coach the person managing your campaign on what changing in your industry and guide them to the style of speak you want to see within your campaign. If you don't take a hands-on role in your social media campaign I feel that it will fail because at some point, you are going to wonder when all the new sales are going to start coming in from these two tweets per day you are paying for.
Overseas. Kind of a hybrid. Let’s solve the labor cost problem by hiring low-cost virtual assistants in Vietnam or The Philippines to do the tweets and blogs for you. There are a multitude of problems associated with this approach but it at least addresses the labor issue.
Coaching. I think the only viable long-term solution for most small businesses is to get some coaching. start out with the cookie cutter method but stay actively involved with the campaigns. Each week while you are coaching the Campaign manager on your business, take the time to better understand how the campaign is working, the objective of the campaign and the reasons for some of the posts. Buy additional time for further education and coaching each week. Methodically work on a step-by-step plan to eventually create a culture, an organization, and an actionable strategy appropriate for the company resources and budget.
It is not fast (and a lot of people hate that! ) but it does slowly integrate these practices into the fabric of the company, get real employees involved, and become a natural extension of their sales and marketing strategy.