We’ve entered an era where business relevance is in major part measured by social media presence. Social media has officially become a significant part of business strategy, yet the social industry is a continually changing scene that can be hard to fully capitalize on. This presents a challenge to business owners who know they need to have a presence, but just don’t have the time to educate themselves or to execute what their companies need.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that a slew of industrious folks have seen the demand and decided to get in on the game, crowning themselves social media “experts” with a quick change of their LinkedIn profile—experienced or not.
The lack of industry barriers provides a challenge for customers because it’s easy to be sweet-talked by someone who has got the jargon down, only to pour money into poorly managed accounts, ineffective campaigns—or worst of all, “bought” followers.
Effective social media execution is much more than simply starting up accounts and composing tweets. Even if someone knows the etiquette and lingo like a native speaker, if they don’t understand how to create messaging that pushes prospects further along the sales pipeline or how to respond to analytics, they won’t get results. These people might be a good addition to your team, but they are not capable of running a campaign. Effective social media campaigns have layers of depth, strategy, research, interaction, and evaluation.
For these reasons, it’s critical to vet any social media expert who is trying to earn your business. They should be able to provide you with a list of satisfied customers and examples of successful campaigns that garnered proven results. And most importantly, they should be able to create an effective strategy that is unique to your business.
Your social media team should understand these three concepts:
Your social media pro needs to be familiar with business basics: the mechanisms you build to create value and trade that value for money. When companies use social media as an end in and of itself, that money is just gone. Social should be an investment with returns to the bottom line. If your social media consultant can’t articulate how your business works and what metrics they will monitor to evaluate the role social will play in the big picture, it’s time to move on.
You are the expert when it comes to your customers. Your industry is a complex world that takes a career to master. If your social media expert heads out to increase your followers without having first interrogated you like a terrorist-cell mole to learn everything about your customers—their motivations, where they live, what they read, their names—you’re paying out the nose for a bunch of assumptions. How can someone connect with your customers if they don’t know who they are?
Persuasive and engaging content is at the heart of every successful social media campaign. If you can’t capture hearts and minds, and then compel your fans to action, you’re just whispering in the wind. Though your social media team should understand business strategy, they should also be held to a higher standard of creativity than your attorney or your accountant. It’s a bonus if your social media team regularly participates in extracurricular artistic endeavors such as fiction, comedy, or filmmaking. These skills will translate into content that works overtime.
There are only a few teams in the game with the diversity of creative talent, business acumen, and refined mathematical insight that the most ambitious brands will require, but every organization deserves to avoid the disappointment of hiring an agency that sets you back instead of moving you forward. Ask probing questions early in the process and don’t give up until you find the right partner.
Ivy Le is principal of 9Terrains, a marketing agency that specializes in social media, online events and identity design. Her team creates sophisticated content campaigns for companies and causes with complex stories and offerings. Ivy is also a speaker and freelance writer. Follow Ivy on LinkedIn.