Social Media Do You Need a Professional?
Do you really need to pay someone thousands of dollars for a social media strategy? Should you hand over the social media reigns to your PR person or marketing firm? Why should I pay for something I can do for myself?
I’ve been thinking about this on several fronts lately as I visit local businesses without a social media presence. My first thought is why pay someone money to do something that is free and requires very little technical expertise? Not to mention the vast amount of free information and training available. I mean really, some of these folks charge $50 – $100 per hour. If you’re so ready to throw that kind of money at it, I’ll crown myself an expert and let you pay me. I’ve been in the corporate world long enough to create a pretty damn fancy and impressive resume.
Seriously, it is an interesting question. I was recently talking to a friend and I said it only takes four things to be successful at developing a brand through social media:
To me, this seems simple. I’m passionate about my topic, I’m pretty disciplined to get in and learn the tools and be consistent with my product. I care about interacting with people, I respond to comments, I engage people in conversation. I don’t have the time, I make the time. So far, I’ve been pleased with the results. I’m making money, I’m building a brand, I’m networking with local people, and ideas are coming together.
Anyone can do it! Right?
What if you’re passionate about your product, you just don’t have the time to dedicate to something new? What if you care about interacting with people, you just don’t have the discipline to develop a strategy and learn the tools? I could change the oil in my car myself if I had the time and if I knew how. There are books to teach me, but…See the rub?
Hiring a consultant may be beneficial for folks that are in this situation. Many wineries are 1-3 man/woman operations. Finding even 20 minutes a day to tweet and Facebook may be a challenge. Sometimes the fact that I pay for my gym membership gets me going to the gym. Maybe paying a consultant is the jump start that is needed for some companies.
Here are a few things to consider before hiring someone.
- Don’t let them dazzle you with corporate jargon (buzz word crap). We’re going to analyze this, set baseline that, set up ROI measurement systems, engage, assess, evaluate, monitor, blah blah blah.
a) Determine what you want to accomplish b) find the tools to accomplish it c) repeat the best ways to accomplish it and d) measure your results.
- It’s not rocket science. There is nothing wrong with getting involved and making a few mistakes along the way. The tools are there, the tools are free, no software engineering degree is needed to understand Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, WordPress, or Linkdin.
- DO NOT hand over the management of your content or customer interaction (unless you’re actually hiring someone to do it full time). A PR firm / marketing team will not be as passionate or as transparent as you can be with your customers. Social Media is connection with your customers. Hiring someone to pretent to be you for a few hours a month is a failure (in my opinion).
- Do your homework. You’re hiring someone as a Social Media Guru / Expert, doesn’t it make sense that you should see if they are using it sucessfully themselves? Visit their blog. Is their content current? What makes you think they’ll keep yours current? Go to their Facebook page. Was their last status update more than a week ago? Are all of their tweets self serving links and ads? If you don’t see any conversation, RUN.
I know you’re reading this and have an opinion. I would love to hear it. Am I way off base? What else can you contribute to the conversation?
P.S. If you want any Social Media help from me, just ask – I’ll probably collect in wine, coffee or guitars!
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Tags: Social Media
27 comments on “Social Media Do You Need a Professional?”
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Interesting post Josh. I agree with most of what you say here. I do think that some people are intimidated by the web and/or by social media, and can benefit from at least some basic consultation. It doesn’t have to be on the level that they would receive from a PR firm, but sometimes spending a little money to get a few hours of instruction and help with strategy can be worthwhile.
BTW, I’m with you. The best strategy might be to offer a wine blogger some free wine if they will help you with getting started.
Oh, I agree, Ben. I’m just posing the question. I think there is a real need for a consultant to help people get the jump start, overcome fears, and give basic instruction on the tools.
Yep, I think that most wineries could get that level of instruction in a few hours, instead of spending thousands of dollars on something more involved.
I saw the comment from @CoffeeSocial on Twitter about this post, and I think they were right on the money. If someone is just concerned that they don’t know how to do it right, I think that they can get some consulting to help them come up with a plan and get started. If you have more money than time, by all means, hire someone to manage this portion of your business. A lot depends on the size of your business. What works for Robert Mondavi isn’t going to be the best thing for the winery that is producing 2,000 cases a year.
Great post. I look forward to seeing what other thoughts people have on this subject.
Josh, haven’t really been to your blog; seen you everywhere (and on Twitter, of course). Really nice writing. Clean and on target.
I totally agree that social media needs to be handled in-house. It IS all about connecting with customers (and it’s the closest thing to doing so in person since we can’t be available that way). I’m wary of the fact that everyone these days is a self-proclaimed “social media” expert. Like any other marketing effort, it needs to be planned out, focuses, kept current, and measured.
Once again, nice post.
Honestly, I’m surprised to see how few small businesses are embracing social media for stretching their marketing efforts. I know that we are still in the early stages of using these new tools for connecting businesses to their customers, but a lot of management / owners must think this is a fad and will pass. I’m sure radio station owners felt the same way when TV made the first ripples in the pond.
I think small business owners should take the time to become educated on the topic and if they still need help, spend a little money to have someone educate them. After all, if you just look at Twitter.com, you’ll wonder how the hell this is going to help you connect with existing and find new customers. Show the same person a tool like HootSuite, TweetDeck or Seesmic and then they’ll have a better idea of how they can get a leg up on what will someday be as normal a process as any other.
I think it means so much less if they hire someone to take it over. The appeal of social media is to connect with your customers and potential customers. I think a lot of that is lost if someone else is doing it. Having said that, if they want to hire someone full time to take it over, it could work.
As usual, great article and insight!
Putting time into figuring out social media is a good idea. If articles and free tutorials work for you, great. (Check out Biznik.com for some good ones, and if there are active Bizniks in your city, there might be free social media seminars and events too.) If having a real live person help you is more your style, then do that! Either way, it’s going to take some investment of time, and possibly some investment of money, but I think investing too much money is waaay overcomplicating something that is really not that complicated.
But paying someone to actually DO your social media is a bad idea, in my opinion. I mean, would you pay someone to represent you at a business function? To customers? Ok, maybe. We can’t all be everywhere at once. But the person representing you wouldn’t claim to be you. Yet, that’s what happens with many businesses who are having someone else do their social media. They’re saying “hi, I’m @ThisAwesomeBusiness”, but it’s really not This Awesome Business, it’s Joe the paid tweeter.
Whatever you do, be transparent! I always feel sorta cheated when I find out that I’m not actually talking to the person I thought I was talking to. It wouldn’t be nearly as bad if the business or individual was clear about who is actually behind the social media account. And it would be even BETTER if the business or individual actually took the time to interact. That’s what social media is all about; being social! I don’t want to socialize with an employee at a PR firm, I want to socialize with a person or business that I’m interested in developing a relationship with.
I think people get too worried about being perfect at social media. Just do it. Effort matters much more than perfection. If you really care and you develop a following you will eventually reach the point that you can’t respond to every email or @reply or comment. It’s ok. They will understand.
I think you summed it up very nicely, if you do not have the time to take part in the social media, then hiring someone to do it for you can be a neccesary course of action.
It’s infinitely better to have someone else running your pr/social media than not having any exposure in the area at all.
Very nice blog, we should do a collaborative show one day (ustream/podcast whatever)
That’s a good point… I guess I’d rather have someone running a company’s social media than nothing at all.. but I also think that it defeats the purpose if it’s not the actual person.
For instance, Anthony Bordain is on twitter… tweets about his shows, but never responds, engages, or anything. In fact, if you read “his” tweets, it’s obvious that it’s not even him! Now, that’s just stupid to me!
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I think for Social Media we Need a Professional,i will stuck on to it.
Or you could get lucky and some crazed fan who really likes your product will go off and twitter and facebook for you. The old fashioned word of mouth sort of thing. This offers much less control and can turn on you should the crazed fan walk in on a bad day and have a bad experience.
This question keeps getting asked and the opinions keep coming… OK mine again… or ours I should say. Something that has been going around here in fact is if your a winery and you have 3 products now (Chard, Cab and Merlot) and that totals a 1,000 bottles (very common actually)… How much can you Tweet or Facebook about??
So many people are using Social Media and don’t have enough to write about and if that is the case don’t bother…(just because something is popular does not mean you have to incorporate that into your business). And if you really want to use social media you can do it in house when it comes down to it. It’s called hard work !!!!
One last comment.. So many scammers in the social media world saying they can do it for you…omg !!! Like roofers after a hurricane… they come in and take your money. DO IT YOURSELF !!!! Or like Josh says to background checks !!!!!
But if you don’t have a lot to talk about, other people do! Social media should be 10 times more listening and responding than pushing your own stuff. If you are a small production winemaker, certainly you know things about wine (I hope). Get out there and engage with all the people who are asking questions about wine! No talking about yourself required.
I have a small organizing (decluttering) business in Bellingham, WA. I don’t tweet a lot about my business. Who needs more organizing tips, or another link to another blog post about getting organized? It’s hard to be original in 140 characters. But I DO engage with my community and answer people’s questions. So what I often find when I go to tweetups is that people know who I am, but not what I do. Then, I have the wonderful experience of telling a “friend” about my business. How fun!
Be nice, be helpful. The rest will follow.
-Naomi @whatcomwines, @harmonymatters
Hey – love this post – very well articulated. As the CEO of Women & Wine http://womenwine.com and someone who makes a living from consulting on social media strategy as well as helping companies create content that appeals to lovers of wine, food and travel I have this conversation at least once a day.
Here’s what I always say – if it’s not your core competency than you need to hire an expert to either help you kick start your social media strategy or help you design and define your social media business plan.
Thanks for the great insight.
follow me on twitter @womenwine
Thank you so much for the compliment. I love what you have to say. It is an excellent approach. Thanks for commenting.
That is what I did, hired a professional, Starr Hall. I am not too surprised to learn how much I did not know and am getting pretty excited about what I do know now. A competent professional who can lead with knowledge and understanding cannot be measured in mere dollars. nancy fiske
Nancy – very insightful. What is your business? I would love to follow your journey.
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Excellent advice – and I’m one of those $100 an hour folks (cash or wine!) Do I hog all my tricks of the trade? No way. I teach my clients how it works, what it means, and give them the means to eventually ‘do it themselves’. Teach a man to fish…
Lara – thanks for the comment. $100 per hour is fine as long as people get what they pay for. Sounds like you’ve got the right idea, teach them the tools. They’ll be more effective at them if they use them themselves anyway.
I’d add a fifth point to your requirements and that is “understanding”. Meaning understanding what social media is all about. So many don’t and they then do it wrong.
Lara pointed me to this article. I do much of the same work as she does and I have to say that from my point of view you should hire someone who knows the ropes and how to do basic things the set you straight from the beginning. Perhaps once the training wheels are off, then you can handle it from there on out with perhaps an hour or two consulting per month to be kept abreast of new trends, tools, and happenings.
Consider two potential clients I’m observing right now.
One is a restaurant. They started their Twitter account about 14 months ago. Then they let it die for 13 and a half months. Now they’ve started it up again. Every day, they simply say what the lunch special is. The people behind it don’t really know whom to follow – so you’ll see that they follow the New York Times, the Onion, etc. They don’t understand about engagement. They don’t understand about interaction. They haven’t been following or at least looking at who follows them. It won’t work.
The other is a music and independent film festival. Again, Twitter. This one has apparently conducted a few searches on Twitter on whom to follow. One word they used is “indie”. Now they’re following anyone who MENTIONED he word “indie”. Same for “Gaga” and for some reason “Pink Floyd”. And they soon filled up their 2000 allotment – they can’t follow anyone else. Most of the people they follow are in any way related to independent films or music.
There are tons of stories like this. Lack of engagement. All promotional messaging. On and off again participation. Not good. Not gonna work.
Jonathan – it is important to hire someone only if you don’t have the time and if you don’t have the know how. For me, I’m not a professional, but I have the drive and I have the passion to learn. Understanding is important but even if someone doesn’t understand everything about social media, they can see success if they develop good Content, they Care, they do Customer Service and they connect with the coommunity.
Thanks for stopping by. You makes some valid points about the two client examples you mention.
** Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat ** Sun Tzu
Hmmm – Interesting post. I like your writing, and you have some valid points. I would like to give you a view from the $100/hr consultant.
What can a qualified consultant offer you?
–Helps define your target audience–
What are the best Social Media sites to participate in
How do you participate?
What do you say that won’t look like the common ‘Buy Me’ message?
How do you know what people really want on these sites?
What are the best secondary sites you should be on that may have more relevance than the top three or four?
What should you know about following and followers?
What is the optimum follower list your followers should have to provide you with the maximum value (i.e. retweets)?
Why 97% of all businesses jumping in social media because someone said it was free are failing, and how can they do it without making the same mistakes?
–Develops targeted and measurable objectives–
What are the important objectives do you want to uses Social Media for and what are the priorities?
Brand or product awareness
Brand or product reputation
Increase website traffic
Improve public relations
Improve search engine rankings
Improve customer support quality
Increase lead generation
Reduce customer acquisition costs
Reduce support costs
Increase sales revenue
–Marketing strategy and tactical plan–
Roles, policies and procedures – who will tweet, how do you respond to critics and complaints, what procedures do you follow, when do you respond – daily weekly monthly, do you respond to everything,
How can you integrate Social media with other marketing strategies?
What are the priorities for setting timetables, managing deadlines?
How do you connect to your audience?
How do you funnel your audience to a landing page, and eventually convert them into customers?
Why do customers leave your funnel, what do you change to keep them in it?
How do you determine what is effective and what is not?
If something is not effective, do you figure out why or just give up say it doesn’t work?
What is ROI and why is that even important?
Why do you need to track customer lifetime value?
So if a business thinks that these are dazzle words, that’s fine. Successful businesses don’t. They use them quite frequently in their business; that is why they are successful.
Yes – you can purchase a library of $20 books to get information and how-tos to figure these out, spend hundreds of hours studying the material, you can jump online and setup a profile, make tweets and blogs, blast your message out there with a fail yourself to success approach, or you find and pay a consultant that has this knowledge at his/her disposal and pay for his expertise/mentoring to assist you in fine tuning your strategies and tactics.
As far as background checking – absolutely – but comparing his/her tweets to the service a consultant offers is not always relevant or practical.
For example, I offer customized social media marketing strategies and copywriting to businesses, I don’t sell products (i.e. wine) to consumers. The phone and email is my most effective use of social media to reach my targeted audience, whereas my clients differ greatly and may use one or many Medias such as twitter, facebook, blogging, content syndication, email campaigns, video/podcasting, webinars, teleseminars and so forth. I don’t tweet for other businesses either, nor do I recommend services that do.
I do, however, provide limited content for blogs, suggestions for tweets, scripts and material for webinars, and craft quality profiles that will get a business started in the right direction, but it is the business that must develop their own social media personality that will ultimately help them become successful with their endeavors. They can either do it by trial and error, or find a qualified mentor.
Taking the attitude that there is nothing wrong with making mistakes along the way in social media can have the same impact as making mistakes with your taxes. If you think the IRS will be forgiving because it is just simple mistake, I wish you the best. In the same respect, once you make your mistakes with your audience, they will quickly go a different direction. Maybe they won’t scrutinize your mistakes like the IRS will, but once they are gone from your message funnel, they are gone. Lost revenues. Are you willing to take that chance?
Keep up the good writings – I have been passing around your blog to my clients.
My point in saying understanding is that I think most who will start utilizing that know how on several levels. And by that I’m talking about those who look to delve in the way you do…in some sort of way for business and/or commercial purposes.
This can be vital, but it doesn’t mean that people have to hand over hours and hours and thousands or even hundreds of dollars. It could mean helping someone pick the appropriate blog platform. It could mean showing them online monitoring services such as SocialMention or higher end ones such as Radian6. It could mean helping a client with keyword analysis.
Most won’t know how to do these things or they will not have heard of different services that they can use. Many won’t even understand that they have to have some sort of strategic basis behind it all. And that strategy could be as simple as “being themselves”.
I guess I’ve seen too many try to wing it on their own and either crash and burn or flop around for a while.
I understand where you’re coming from. Those services you provide can prove to be valuable to people as they get started and employing someone who has the know how can certainly help you toward your end game more efficiently or effectively.