Managing social media for business is a challenging and time consuming task. You might be doing this yourself right now and planning to hire an external social media expert to help you leverage this new medium to increase sales, manage your brand identity online, or provide your customers an additional channel to reach you. Unfortunately, there is no formal education that you can look for in the right candidate – marketing management comes closest, I guess. As for experience, we all have some experience in using these networks, but exploiting them for a specific purpose needs more than familiarity with the social media networks. Carl Natale makes some interesting observations about skills a social media consultant should have.
Hiring someone to help you get set up on the networks and get started can save you a lot of time. You can then choose to continue using the consultant or get your full-time staff trained – they can also learn by simply observing what is being done. But as a very thoughtful reader observed in a comment to my earlier post, offloading social media activity to an outsider is a bit difficult as the conversation with followers, connections, friends etc. must be formal and personal at the same time. Can the social media consultant capture the essence and philosophy of your business? Neal Schaffer provides some excellent questions that can help you hire a social media consultant.
So Let us say you have found a great consultant who can help you achieve your goals through social media. But this is definitely not the end of the road. This is your entry into the exciting world of micro tweets, entertaining posts, and valuable comments. Now is when you have to put on your captain’s hat and sail the boat.
There is a crucial handshake that needs to happen between you, the business owner and the expert you hired. Unless you’re clear about what your philosophy is and share important historical stats and data, you might be throwing money down the drain.
We bring you six ways to make the most of the social media consultant you hired.
1) Discuss and Define the Objectives
Various organizations have jumped on the social media bandwagon for many different reasons. Some with hopes to generate leads, others to engage existing customers, while some to recruit people.
Whatever your reason, you need to discuss this with your consultant so that she can come up with a strategy and plan the road map.
The discussion will also help you quantify the results that you expect to see out of this investment.
2) Outline the Level of Service
What will you do and what will the consultant do? Social media management is a complex job. Depending on your objectives, the exact mix of tasks will change. For example, if your objective is customer support, an external social media consultant will have fewer tasks and your product support person – need not be a dedicated resource – will need to invest more time.
It is also desirable to have some control over the content that will be posted online.
Would you want to manage each comment and post, or does your consultant have the skills to make those decisions? You can keep the help you get restricted to just posting content, or go all the way and hire someone to manage the entire thing top-down to achieve your business objectives.
3) Assign a Point of Contact
It could be you or the sales and marketing guy – the key here is assigning the person whose abilities you trust. Even when you have a skilled consultant, you need to be in the loop. The dynamism of social media requires that you respond fast, and even if your consultant is skilled, she might need some critical business information to respond to a specific comment.
Assigning someone as a point of contact frees you from the task and keeps information accessible to the consultant.
4) Create a Buffer
No. I am not talking about the application. Give some time to review the material planned for the week. All publication houses follow a calendar; there is no reason to not have a plan for the week or more. Accidents Happen.
Just as you take some additional time into account while estimating a project, it is helpful to have posts for 2-3 weeks reviewed in advance.
5) Discuss and create a Guideline
This is the most important thing. There are numerous examples of people shooting off their mouths online on micro blogging platforms. You want to avoid this at all costs.
Define what you want the consultant to reply to.
For example, keep specific questions related to business philosophy and future plans for yourself and let the consultant respond to routine Thank Yous and His.
Do you want them to respond to any accusations or complaints? Maybe not. Specify who will address such questions. This could be the assigned point of contact or you.
6) Meet/talk once a week
Talk about what’s happening in the office. Talk about interesting things you thought about your products and other related subjects. This will help the consultant look at the company from the inside.
Social media engagement is a process.
It is not something like an advertisement in a Newspaper that you get designed and published. The better the person gets to understand your business and views, the lower you will need to assign resources to the consultant.
Have you been through this already? Tell us about your experiences. What was the best and the worst of hiring an external consultant to manage your social media activities?