I still remember the day I found out that social media marketing was an actual, grown-up job. I was working in a corporate job I hated and running a blog on the side. A huge part of running the blog was being active on social media. I was on all the platforms, because, back then, that’s what you did. Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. I was there and I loved it.
So, when I found out that I could make an actual career out of it, I was happier than a dog in snow. I dabbled in freelance social media management, which involved a lot of learning – and a lot of diving into deep ends. I was very green. Social media management wasn’t the huge thing that it is now, so I had no idea what to charge, what to offer and what to do. Winning new clients was as easy as sliding into their DMs and arranging a coffee catch up. Fast forward a few years and it’s a vastly different space. Low barriers to entry have meant that every Tom, Dick and Harriet is a social media marketer.
With so many people hustling for your business, how can you ensure that the person you’re working with is legit? How can you tell if they know their stuff or they’re just another fly-by-night operator? Here are 9 things to look for in a social media manager:
1. They tailor a strategy to your brand
I have a gripe with people who offer social media management without doing any strategy work beforehand. Whilst I’m sure it’s a great business model with super low barriers to entry, it doesn’t necessarily mean the best results for the business you’re working with.
Strategy? Oh yeah, that old thing. Marketing without a strategy is akin to navigating Brisbane CBD without Google Maps. You’re destined to land up facing the wrong way on a bus-only bridge. I haven’t done this myself, but I’ve seen some poor souls who have. It doesn’t look fun.
A decent social media marketer will do their research and tailor a strategy specifically to your brand. It might cost a little more, but it’s worth it. By the way – the Instagram follow/unfollow is not a strategy.
Your social media strategy should fit your brand and your budget like a snug little glove. If you only have a few hundred shmackos to spend on social media each month, you’re usually better off focussing 100% on one platform than spreading yourself thinly across five.
2. They set goals, not guarantees
Clearly defined goals are not an optional part of social media marketing. Your social media goals should be so SMART that they wear a black turtleneck and code apps in their sleep.
There is, however, a huge difference between aiming for 100 new followers a week and guaranteeing 100 new followers a week. I hate to generalise, but, if a digital marketer guarantees results, run for The Hills (and join Heidi sipping cocktails poolside).
A marketer who guarantees results has a perverse incentive of sorts. They have no choice but to achieve the outcome, so they’ll do anything to achieve it. Their thought patterns go something like this: Hmmm, Betty’s Instagram hasn’t received its guaranteed 100 new followers this week – should I lose face and tell her the strategy isn’t working, or should I just buy 100 fake followers?
So, whilst the marketer who guarantees big results might sound more appealing, you’re better off choosing someone who aims for the moon and delivers the stars.
3. They focus on more than growing your following
Followers are cool. They’re a good little tickle for your ego. But hey, at the end of the day, they’re a vanity metric. Yes, they do tie in with brand awareness to an extent, but they’re not the be-all-and-end-all. Followers are worth a whole lot of nothing if they never interact with your brand.
A good social media manager should look at fitting your social media strategy into your marketing strategy. How can social media platforms drive traffic to your website and capture leads for your business? How will it nurture these leads and convince them to buy? And, how will it make your existing customers love you so much that they shout it from the digital rooftops?
Your social media goals should cascade from your marketing goals, which in turn should cascade from your business goals. For example, say your business goal is to increase revenue by 50% this quarter. To achieve this increase, your marketing goal might be to double your leads this quarter. How are you going to double your leads? You could try setting a goal to double the social media traffic to your landing page.
Pro tip: Give your social media manager access to your Google Analytics account so they can check traffic stats without asking you each time. If they’re not checking these stats, ask them why not.
4. They report to you monthly
As business owners, it’s our dream to delegate tasks and never have to deal with them again. But social media isn’t one of those tasks. A key thing to look for when hiring a social media manager is that they keep you in the loop at least once per month. It doesn’t need to be a 50-page report – a simple email does the job. As long as it tells you the stuff you need to know. Like, what’s working, what isn’t and what it means for your business.
If the only time you hear from your social media manager is when they send you their monthly invoice, you need to ask them to start reporting to you. If they refuse, this is a red flag. Reporting shouldn’t take long, especially not if they’re already checking the metrics and results regularly (hint: they should be).
5. They do things the “white hat” way
There are plenty of nasty tactics and dodgy shortcuts out there in the social media world. From buying followers to paying for bots to automatically follow and unfollow on Instagram. I know that many “experts” tell you to automate these things, but your social media manager shouldn’t be doing that. For starters, it’s against the Terms of Service of a lot of platforms and could get your account barred. It’s also anti-social and has potential to damage your brand.
Damage my brand, you say? But how?
Let’s say you have a bot set up to comment “Too funny!” on all Instagram posts with #dog. Someone’s going to be unimpressed when you comment this on a post of their sick dog.
It also looks tacky. People are wise enough these days to know when you’re using a bot. Don’t do it. Please. #rantover.
There’s also another seemingly legit trick that people are trying in an attempt to beat Instagram’s algorithm: Comment pods. I’ve seen a few social media marketers using them on behalf of their clients too. Sorry to break it to you, but there is no way to “beat” the algorithm – Instagram is smarter than all of us combined. Comment pods also artificially inflate your social media metrics. This makes the marketer look good – but doesn’t do much for your brand.
If you’re paying someone to do this stuff, there are better things they can spend their time (and your money) on. Like posting more engaging content or engaging directly with your target audience.
6. They understand your brand
“Omg, hun, that post is like so totally on-brand! That salmon pink is SO totally you, babe!”
The term on-brand gets misused and abused a bit these days. A lot of people with no knowledge of branding assume that branding is how their brand looks. Which is half-true. I’m by no means a branding expert, but even I know that it runs a lot deeper than the superficial stuff.
Your brand is also everything to do with your business’ values, how you want people to feel when they interact with your business, how you want to talk to people… And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
If your accountant started referring to people as “babe” on Instagram, you’d think something was a little off, right?
Your social media profiles are a crucial touchpoint for your potential clients. Whoever you’re hiring to represent your brand on social media needs to be well-versed in your values, your story and your tone of voice.
Sure, the look and feel of your brand is important too (especially on Instagram), but writing something that doesn’t fit your brand values can cause a helluva lot more brand damage than an off-colour image.
7. They understand the importance of two-way conversations on social media
Scheduling and posting content is one half of the conversation. It’s like walking into a party, shouting something random to nobody in particular and walking straight back out before you can answer any questions.
A good social media manager understands that social media is about conversations. That it’s not a one-sided “look at how awesome my brand is” competition. If you don’t have the time to monitor social media and reply to your followers, you need to hire someone to do it.
Social media is also a huge part of your customer service. So, if you’re hiring a social media manager to reply to followers, make sure they know where to find your shipping and returns policies, as well as any other common questions that pop up. This will save a truckload of time going back-and-forth.
8. They don’t claim to be an expert
Social media is still a new topic and it’s always changing. There are no benchmarks you’re required to hit to be an expert, so almost anyone can claim to be one. I’d run a mile before working with a self-proclaimed social media expert (if other people call them a social media expert, then that’s a much better sign).
I’d rather work with someone who stays up to date with the social media world and the marketing world more generally. They should have a sound knowledge of marketing and understand the role social media plays in the bigger picture.
It’s also a red flag if they haven’t done any further training in marketing or social media. It doesn’t have to be a formal qualification – there are plenty of decent courses online. I, personally, decided to formalise my knowledge by doing a Masters degree majoring in strategic advertising, so I could learn the theory behind why I do what I do. That said, there are easier (and cheaper) ways to learn this stuff, but I’m a nerd who will probably end up with the shiniest collection of degrees in the retirement village.
9. They aren’t the cheapest option
You know what they say about price… You pay sea-nuts, you get sea-monkeys.
If you’ve found someone that’s a great fit and they happen to be the cheapest one out there, that’s awesome and you should hire them. This is rarely the case though. Many businesses make the mistake of hiring a social media manager because they’re the cheapest, without any regard for how much it may cost the business long term. Don’t be one of those businesses.
If you want someone to post for your business, with no regard for strategy, your cheapest option is to hire a virtual assistant who does social media management.
But, if you want to strategically grow your business using social media, now you know what to look for when hiring a social media manager.