Social Media Engagement – A Small Business Conundrum

Social Media Engagment

Today’s post is by Samantha Gluck, Owner and Executive Dream WeaverAll Media Freelance, LLC and Editor in Chief, Freelance Writing Dreams and Medtopicwriter .

In response to the proliferation of social media platforms and profile management tools, small business owners jumped at the chance to utilize these sites to market and promote their goods as well as build brand awareness.

Between Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and the many free blogging platforms, entrepreneurs have the opportunity to create an authoritative Internet presence without spending any money up front.  But nothing in this life truly comes to us free of charge; the time people must spend to gain a material benefit from these powerful tools has increased, creating a hidden cost.

social media engagement

Social Media Engagement by Proxy

With increasing frequency, overburdened business owners choose to hire outside help to engage with their followers on their blogs and various social media profiles. By outsourcing the social media engagement duties to another person, these bootstrapping entrepreneurs hope to gain more time for tending to tasks that they cannot delegate to others.

Typically, those hired for this purpose handle the social media engagement and profile maintenance of several companies simultaneously. As business owners themselves, they have a true stake in managing client social media engagement and the associated ancillary tasks with professionalism and excellence.

Prepare – Like a Boy Scout

Anyone thinking about outsourcing his company’s social media engagement duties shouldn’t do so without careful preparation and properly vetting the candidates. Hiring an inexperienced social media assistant can result in devastating consequences for a business; just one errant tweet or off-color status update could ruin the entire career of certain business owners, such as physicians and attorneys.

Interview a number of independent social media assistants before settling on one. Ask for client references and follow through on checking them out. Take a look at the tweet streams, Google Plus and Facebook posts they run for clients to see how they handle direct engagement and if their posts stay within the scope of that particular industry. It’s ok if you see a few posts and tweets about topics outside of the topical range of the business. In fact, it’s preferred to add variety and humanize the engagement.

Once you’ve narrowed down to two equally qualified candidates, pick the one whose personality and style best matches your own. Don’t just choose the guy or gal with the lowest rate. The person with the personality that compliments your style the best will end up costing you less in the long run even if he or she charges a slightly higher rate.

Cliff notes:take the time to check references and social media posts for clients; personality matters; industry specific experience matters; rates matter, but far less than the other factors. Do these things – like a Boy Scout – and you’ll likely feel great about your choice.
The Thin Green Line – Rates

Most social media assistants charge by the hour.  Rates can range from $25 per hour all the way up to $75 per hour depending on experience, references, and certain certifications.  This may seem steep at first to a bootstrapping entrepreneur who’s frontin’ (temporarily, of course) while he wheels and deals, but keep the intangible savings in mind – time and freedom to tend to executive duties.

You’ll still need to check out your social media profiles on a regular basis and it’s wise to log on yourself and do a little face-to-face engagement with fans and followers for a short time each day. But, the social media assistant takes care of all the time consuming day to day tasks: curating appropriate content from vertical and horizontal industry sources, hashtag research, loading up automated posting systems (i.e. BundlePost), thanking followers for mentions, participating in #FollowFriday and other important Twitter traditions.

Don’t even think about adding these duties to those of an existing employee.  Not only will this eat into the time your employee needs to properly complete existing duties, he or she may not know how to properly brand and market a business in the realm of social media.

Bootstrapper: “But Petra has a beautifully designed Facebook page and tons of Twitter followers with lots of activity on both platforms. John Stamos even follows her! Why can’t I just get her to do the social media in addition to the other things she does for me?”

Samantha: “Having a popular and slick looking personal Facebook profile, or thousands of Twitter followers, does not translate into knowledge of marketing strategies.  Bite the bullet and hire a qualified, experienced assistant, or do it yourself. John Stamos really follows her?”

Beware the Gurus, Rock Stars, and Sherpas

Don’t take the process of hiring a social media engagement assistant lightly.  The proliferation of social media platforms has given rise to a proliferation of self-proclaimed ‘experts’. A good rule of thumb: if a person has to explicitly state their “expert” or “guru” status as a social media rock star, they’re probably posers. Those who truly know how to properly handle the social media engagement and associated tasks for various businesses let their success speak for itself. They have humble profiles that clearly state their expertise without pomp or fanfare – like a boss.

Only authentic engagement and a decided team effort, on the part of the business owner and the social media assistant, can harness the full benefit of this powerful and increasingly important marketing and branding tool for your social media engagement.

You may also follow Samantha over on Twitter.

Samantha Gluck

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Samantha Gluck is obsessed with reading, writing, and words (rather than arithmetic!). Always needing to stand out, she didn’t go into medicine like the cool brothers and sisters did. But, Gluck did obtain a microbiology degree, BSN, and finance degree (career student) until Daddy cut off the cash. Now she uses her knowledge and experience as a health care journalist and to write accurate, cutting edge medical stories and content and to grow her business, All Media Freelance, LLC.

20 comments On Social Media Engagement – A Small Business Conundrum

  • Thanks for sharing, I really need this info 🙂

  • Charlotte Rains Dixon

    Great post, Samantha and an important topic. I do all my own social media because as a writer, it seems part and parcel of what I do. However, I do know several social media consultants who are amazing. What makes them amazing is their absolute love of what they do. If I were looking for someone to do social media for me, I’d hire someone with that kind of passion.
    Charlotte Rains Dixon recently posted..Book Review: The First HusbandMy Profile

    • Hi Charlotte,

      My Inspire to Thrive guest blogging experience just got way cooler, since you dropped by. I agree with you about writers and doing their social media for reals. I’m on everyday and do not outsource either (I use a content curation software solution for tweet scheduling) and I LOVE to engage. It’s not a chore for me. But for many businesses, it becomes just too much to do it all themselves and outsourcing offers a viable solution, provided it’s done right.

      Samantha recently posted..How to Create More Space in Your Small Home OfficeMy Profile

  • Hi Samantha,

    It is a really interesting post. I often think about how does hiring a social media expert work. Is it really beneficial? Does it add any value to blog/audience interaction. I prefer to do socializing myself but yes if time is a problem, I might need to hire someone to take care of it. I would however keep a very tight check on the quality of messages.
    All these tips are definitely very handy to get the right people for this highly important job. Thanks for sharing this 🙂
    Ashvini recently posted..How to get a stuck project moving again ?My Profile

    • Ashvini,

      Thanks for stopping by. I recommend that you DO keep a tight rein on what you allow the contractor to post/tweet on your company’s behalf. It’s important to develop a specific social media policy and require that the contractor sign the policy with the understanding that any violation (even “accidental”) will result in immediate termination – no second chances.

      Time will become an issue as your business grows and it’s critical that you STILL give face to face engagement time on all your sm platforms even if you outsource for content curation and other things.
      Samantha recently posted..Social Media – What Is It Good For?My Profile

  • Rebecca shares some outstanding views on ‘outsourcing’ your product of services ‘networking’ needs. But – depending on your business – it’s important to *not* overlook one thing, Are your clients following ‘the PERSON’ or ‘the BRAND’. Some people are hard mimicked, you know…
    Nowadays the whole internet seems to be riddled with people who are self proclaimed experts. Everybody is a Social Network Expert, or a SEO Guru. It’s important to gain control over the number of Social Networking Sites you want to cover. Go for quality, not quantity.
    To be honest, I would have a hard time letting go of the control I have over my business (If I had one, that is).

    // Jan
    Jan Bierens recently posted..Where the Hell am I?My Profile

    • Yes, excellent point Jan! I try to focus on the top ones. I may try some to test out but in the end I do stay with what works best. It’s hard to be everywhere all the time.

    • You make valid points, Jan. And, as a business owner myself, I totally understand about letting go of some of the control. I felt the same way, but as my business grew, my responsibilities grew and I just couldn’t manage it all myself. I don’t outsource my own business social media (at least not to a human), but i do use BundlePost to help me with content curation, hashtag placement, and other important items. I do, however, give face time several times a day to my social media platforms (automation will only hurt if you don’t engage with followers face-to-face every single day).

      I do have many clients that outsource their sm to us. I have a team that takes care of the BundlePost and #FF activities for these clients.

      Samantha recently posted..Seven Boss Ways to Improve Your New Writing WebsiteMy Profile

  • Thanks for the insight!
    Rebecca recently posted..The Ultimate List of New Summer TV Shows 2012My Profile

  • Hi Samantha. Thanks for writing such a precious post. Having an active engaging presence on multiple social media platforms puts your practice in a better position than a competing practice who is just on Facebook. Conversely, if your practice just has a presence on Facebook, a competing practice may gain a better online reputation. Since maintaining social media engagement on multiple platforms can be time consuming, you may want to use a social media dashboard.

    Great post, very informative.
    Claudia recently posted..RedXMy Profile

  • I think you touch on a very important point, Mayura. Many businesses do hire a relative or close friend to manage their social media. This is usually a huge mistake — unless of course, the friend or relative happens to actually be a professional social media strategist/manager by profession. Even then, it’s usually better to hire outside your family and circle of close friends.

    Mayura, yes, it’s an interesting and compelling topic. Many business owners certainly are confused about how to gain fans and followers as well as how to properly engage with these people. They should think about it, if they aren’t already. My company not only provides copy, content, and organic SEO strategies for clients, we offer social media engagement, campaign positioning, and brand strategies for them. After they outsource their social media to our team of specialists, they immediately learn the critical value of this vital aspect of brand building and awareness.

    Thanks for your comment!
    Samantha recently posted..Social Media Engagement for Small BusinessMy Profile

  • A single person for everything could be less effective as he get loads of work to do. And increase hidden cost but less profitable. Absolutely outsourcing is a wise option to focus on their critical social aspects and let them do their job as best as possible. Time saving and effective, actually.

    And next best point is hiring process. From the business point of view, they think “Would this payoff worth or not?” or “Can they handle it well?”. But when it comes to hiring process I see some owners just go and hire someone who knows very closely or someone that recommended to him. The person was successful in one industry but never had experience in another. So he applies same social media strategies but may not work out for different businesses. I’ve experienced such a scenario of a my friend and that’s a waste of time and money. Preparation is a MUST and CRITICAL.

    I’ve come across different kind of gurus 😀 If we just go and search Twitter, most of them are gurus of some kind. All are self-called best marketers and social media strategies in the world 😉 But the question is do they really? I mean as you’ve said can they “Properly handle” it?

    Interesting post Samantha 🙂 Who wanna pay off without expecting anything in business? This is a topic to think about 🙂 But I fail to see how many small businesses care of these even they know.

    Thanks Samantha & Lisa 😉 Have a great weekend for both of you.

    Mayura recently posted..How to Translate Your Website with Google TranslateMy Profile

    • I think it’s best not to go through someone you know – If it doesn’t work well then the relationship will be broken. Definitely thorough research for who you would hire for the job. Have a good weekend too Mayura!

  • Lisa, thank you SO much for allowing me to guest post on your thriving Inspire to Thrive site. You’ve definitely inspired me to thrive. Since it’s National Small Business week, I think this post comes at an important time. Businesses, both large and tiny, must have a presence across the primary social media platforms in order to remain relevant.

    With the time constraints put on us as Americans in our busy lifestyles, most business owners just don’t have time to address this issues themselves. They must outsource, but they must outsource wisely.
    Samantha recently posted..How to Create More Space in Your Small Home OfficeMy Profile

    • No, thank you Samantha for taking the time to write about this one. Great topic for this week too. I really appreciate it.

      • Thank you, Lisa. It really bothers me how many entrepreneurs and business owners neglect this part of their businesses. If I did that same thing (especially back when I didn’t really have a clue as to the benefit of Twitter and other platforms), I wouldn’t have the amazing, thriving business I have now. I’m truly blessed to have friends like you and others who saw me through the bad patches and have patience with me when I’m in one of my spirals of anxiety and stress. XO

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