If you’re working your way down the “must-have” list of digital marketing needs for 2016, organizing a coherent presence across social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter would get slotted in right under “Setting up my website.” At least it should.
Social media fosters brand loyalty and community, increases sales, and helps strengthen SEO, and it accomplishes all of that while simultaneously helping you drive awareness of your brand by communicating directly with your customers. But creating a comprehensive social media plan takes time and resources. And, sometimes, carving out time and resources just isn’t possible.
Hiring an intern to organize your social media efforts may seem like a great solution. But you’ll realize – quickly – that a social media specialist needs to understand business communication and strategy, and that’s just not something that most interns bring to the table. So, instead, you might consider hiring an agency or a freelancer for support. But outsourcing comes with its own unique challenges. It’s usually more expensive. It requires strong communication between you and the partner you bring in. And, perhaps most importantly, it means you have to trust someone else to be as excited as you are to grow your online presence.
Determining which route to take for outsourcing your social media efforts is difficult. There are many factors to consider as you make this decision and, frankly, it’s challenging to weigh all the possible criteria, as well as setting your partner up to meet and exceed your expectations.
Luckily, we’ve laid out a 10-step checklist that should help you get your ducks in a row when it comes to outsourcing your social media efforts:
1. Set clear goals for your social media channels
Social media is a flexible and versatile tool, which means it can be easy to get overwhelmed and lose sight of organizational priorities. To combat this, determine clear, channel-specific and macro business goals from the onset of the project and stick with them. For example, you can set a specific goal such as increasing your Facebook likes by 25% by the end of Q4 in addition to a broader goal like improving your company’s reputation.
Perhaps you don’t know what your goals are yet. If that’s the case, ideally figure them out before you hire anyone. Without goals, whomever you hire won’t have direction, making it difficult to properly measure their success. Your agency team may be able to help coach you through this critical goal-setting stage, but the stronger the guidance you can give them about your overall goals and how you believe social media efforts fit in, the more they’ll be able to build that guidance into the right strategy and tactics.
2. Consider which channels to focus on
From YouTube to Pinterest, there are many social media channels your brand can call home. Each has different benefits, which can make it tempting to sign up for every platform. As a rule, we recommend focusing on three to start; it’s better to have a few strong social channels backed by strategy than several low-performing channels operating without coordination and a plan. The best way to figure out which channels to focus on is to determine where your customers spend the most time. Doing so will allow you to reach more qualified prospective customers and drive higher ROI on both your time and any ad spends. Start small, move slow, and build from there.
3. Prioritize your tasks
Paid advertising. Content creation. Page optimization. There’s a lot you can sink your time into with social media, so it’s important to prioritize. For example, if you’re under pressure to increase sales, you may be inclined to dive into conversion-centered paid advertising. However, you need brand awareness and user-friendly content before you can successfully engage and ultimately go on to sell. To figure out which aspects of your social media efforts to prioritize, you’ll need to do a deep-dive assessment.
4. Audit your social platforms
Don’t hesitate to make an initial investment in hiring an expert to conduct a social media assessment, even if you don’t end up fully outsourcing the work. Think of it as taking your social media efforts to the doctor. An expert will do an overall health examination by checking your channels against best practices, user needs, and competitors. Then they’ll ask questions such as:
- Are there active communities on your social platforms you can strengthen to expand customer loyalty?
- Snapchat is popular right now, but does it make sense for your business?
- Are you properly leveraging images on Twitter so you can maximize your engagement rate?
If particular areas need work, the expert will determine a way to fix it. And once you have a possible solution, you can determine whether your internal team is capable of handling the work themselves.
5. Determine your budget
Hiring someone may seem like an excellent solution, but you need to know if your budget can realistically support it. For example, if your budget is modest and your time is limited, it may be best to hire a community manager instead of a strategist.
On the one hand, the in-depth approaches and advertising plans that a strategist will deliver typically cost more money because of the level of expertise required to execute, although these larger campaigns usually have a higher potential ROI.
If you have a smaller budget, but still need help creating content and managing customer service, a community manager might be the right choice for you. If you’re not sure how much money to allocate, refer to your goals so you can determine where you need the most help.
6. Identify your audience
Who are you trying to reach on social media? If you don’t know your audience, you can’t determine your voice and tone, which guides the type of content you’re going to publish and how you’re going to position that content for your audience. Defining your audience will also give your internal or external team clear direction – and ultimately set them up for greater success.
Social media is also an excellent way to learn about your audience. Through both organic and paid social media efforts, you can determine information such as what types of images and copy resonate with certain fans, as well as their location and when they are most active online. Not only will you improve your effectiveness on social, you can and should use these insights to strengthen your other digital channels. For example, content that leans into copy or themes that prove effective on social media can be repurposed as blog posts or evergreen content.
7. Decide which parts of your social media efforts to outsource
Outsourcing your entire social media effort could make sense, but it’s likely you’ll be handing off certain aspects such as community management or advertising. Mapping your business and staff needs against your budget will help you decide.
Try asking yourself the following questions and discussing your answers with your team to come to a conclusion:
- What is the most time-consuming aspect of our social media efforts? And should it be consuming that much time?
- Which social platforms need more attention and what is the main priority of each?
- Are we ready to launch social advertising? If so, do we have the internal resources and budget to be successful?
- How rapidly are we able to respond to customer comments on our social platforms?
- Are there any social platforms where we don’t currently have a presence but should? Do we understand how to set up and optimize these platforms?
- What opportunities do we have on social that we’re not currently capitalizing on?
Good news: you’re already taking the first step by reading posts like this one.
8. Ask yourself if you really need to outsource
Given the right resources, it’s entirely possible to manage your social media efforts by yourself. Learning how to create basic posts and respond to incoming messages is easy. However, from new ad formats to entirely new platforms, keeping up with the continual changes and specific trends on social media can be a job in itself. Outsourcing, which begins with the initial audit, can help you identify where your opportunities are and allow you to focus on building your business. Outsourcing may be a higher cost up front, but could ultimately save you money in salary and sanity.
9. Make sure all the layers of the marketing stack are in place
Businesses and marketers often think social media is a quick win, especially when it comes to advertising. It makes sense – everyone wants to achieve an immediate ROI. But it will be difficult to see an ROI on social if you don’t have the other pieces of the marketing stack, like content and analytics, in place.
For example, let’s say you create compelling ads, but your website content isn’t well-organized or well-written. If your ads are successful, your click-through rate from social media will be high, but your conversion rate and time on page will be low. And if you haven’t correctly set up your analytics and tagging, or aren’t consistently watching the results, you won’t be able to diagnose the problem or identify your successes.
Digital marketing is an ecosystem. Act accordingly, and you’ll be more successful in the long run.
10. Choose between freelancers and agencies
As someone who has done both the freelancer and agency thing, I’ve seen the pros and cons of both. Agencies typically have larger and more flexible teams, allowing them to meet challenging deadlines and give you a broader range of experience across various specialties. However, agency prices are typically higher than freelance. This is justified when you have a large budget, need in-depth strategies and ongoing expertise, but less so when you have a small budget and mostly need community management.
Because social media is a series of platforms, each with a known, yet rapidly changing set of rules, many times your decision will come down to choosing someone who is dependable, experienced, and provides a quality service. Do your research both online and through your personal network to find someone you can trust and will enjoy working with.
Whether you choose to hire someone outside your company to help you with your social media efforts or keep it in house, creating a successful social media program is an investment. Just like the other aspects of your business, it requires care, attention, and patience to be successful. We hope after reading this checklist you feel armed with the knowledge you need to find the right partner or people, and give your business’ social media efforts enough attention to thrive.