There’s lots of debate about whether or not you should keep your social media efforts in-house or outsource. And if you decide to outsource, just how much should you outsource? I’m not here to debate that point. Instead I want to help those who have decided to outsource or work with an outside social media expert. Right and wrong has a lot of grey area in social media management and if you are going to work with a social media consultant you need to be clear on what your definition of right and wrong is. Here are some tricky questions that can help you find the right consultant.
1. How much should we budget for buying followers?
The proper answer is “None”. Buying followers only inflates your numbers it doesn’t help you reach your ideal customers. And most of the accounts you buy are fake anyhow.
2. Do we really need to use an app for a Facebook contest?
The right answer is “Yes”, if you don’t want to run the risk of having your page shut down. Using an app also gives you many more options and much easier tracking mechanisms to administer your contest. Since there are free and paid versions, everyone can find one that fits their budget and it really makes your Facebook life much easier.
3. What’s the best way to use an automated DM on Twitter?
The best way is to not use them. People are tired of getting automated “Thanks for following” messages. It’s treated as spam by most people. DMs on Twitter should be done authentically if ever used.
4. You don’t ever talk to people on Twitter… so that means we don’t have to either, right?
Clearly you’re going to check out your soon-to-be-expert’s Twitter and Facebook accounts before you meet with them, right? So you’ll notice when an expert is really just broadcasting messages and not really talking and responding to followers. I’m of the camp that believes you must use it to be able to show clients how to use it, or run it for them. If your expert can’t find ways to engage for him/herself how are they going to figure out how to do it for you? How can you be confident they are keeping up with all of the changes to the platforms if they’re not there daily?
5. If you only have 100 followers, how can I be sure you can help us build our brand?
Acceptable reasons for having a small Twitter following: just opened a new account because I just went out on my own; or that’s my personal account, but I’ve mostly tweeted on the company account. I can’t think of another good excuse for a social media expert to have under a few hundred followers. And of course, that number should be commensurate with the level of expert you’re talking to. I don’t expect every social media consultant to have 100,000 followers (I certainly don’t). You’ll have to judge for yourself whether or not they have an appropriate following for the level of social media work you’re asking them to do and in some cases it may be more appropriate to judge based on what they’ve done for a past client (See next question).
6. Can you give me some references?
I can’t tell you how many people consider hiring me without talking to my existing clients! Not all of my clients want me to shout from the rooftops that I work for them, but they are all willing to be called as a reference. This is especially important if your potential expert doesn’t have a robust social media presence of their own yet.
7. How did you become a social media expert?
There are probably lots of good answers here, but every one should include experience running accounts for themselves and/or clients. Sure there are some universities, colleges and other training institutions out there doing social media training, but it’s really the experience that tells you what a person is capable of. You also want to think about what kind of background would be good for this type of work… a former astrophysicist may not be the best choice for your boutique dress shoppe, but a former personal shopper might be.
8. Social media is free. Why should I pay you to do it?
I was recently asked a version of this question as I participated in a panel discussion, in a room of over 100 entrepreneurs. My answer? Well, I can do my bookkeeping and taxes for free, too, but my accountant is much more knowledgeable, will save me time, money and sanity. Doing social media yourself is great, if it’s something you enjoy doing and are willing to learn how to do properly, but it’s not free. You have to spend your time doing it and that’s time you’re not billing out to clients.
9. We have customers that don’t pay their bills on time. How can we use Twitter to get them to pay?
Clearly this isn’t really about outing your customers. What you’re looking for here is some understanding that calling out customers on your corporate account isn’t acceptable behavior. This question was inspired by a local company I follow who has done just that.
10. How long will it take before we see some ROI?
This is a tough question. It depends on how you’re measuring your ROI and whether or not you’re measuring your current efforts. If you’re not already measuring your own efforts with yellow pages or billboards, then it will be hard to compare your social media efforts. I ask my clients to give me six months before they decide if the relationship should continue and I tell them that in many instances it can take nine months to a year to build a true community for their brand. This isn’t something you can rush and if they guarantee major progress within days be skeptical about how they’re going to do that.
11. Our Facebook page has no search bar and when we visit other pages we can’t comment on them. What’s wrong?
I’ve had about a dozen businesses come to me with this question since Christmas. Some have had other “experts” tell them to start a new page, that they’d “broken Facebook”, or there was nothing to be done. If your expert doesn’t know immediately how to fix this problem DO. NOT. HIRE. THEM. This is really a very simple problem. Your page was set up without being connected to a personal account. Connect it to your personal Facebook account and you’re good to go. It is NOT necessary to have two separate log-ins for your personal and business account. There are some good reasons to do so, but it’s not necessary for most small businesses.
12. How would you handle a customer complaint on Facebook?
If they say they would delete it, you may have a problem. Legit complaints should be dealt with in a courteous, professional manner. Trolls can be deleted. A good community manager should be able to tell the difference.
If you ask all of these questions your expert is going to either think you’re a complete wingnut or be totally devastated when you hire someone else. I’d rather you devastate one expert’s ego than have them devastate your brand reputation by doing things wrong. Any other tricky questions you’ve asked or been asked?