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The Design Train blogs are a series of articles researched and written by Andrew Knapp for submission to various publications and sites. The articles cover a wide range of topics and can be adapted and edited for use in various styles of media application.

  • Writer's pictureAndrew Knapp

Outsourcing your Social Media Management - Is it a viable option?

Some readers of my blog posts have commented that although they recognise the value of the information and realise the importance of having a good social media presence, they just don’t have the time to develop their online marketing properly. This is fully understandable for the small business owner who is trying to cover as many bases as possible to keep costs down and their business running smoothly.

So what to do? The first question to ask is how valuable your time is to you. Do you have an hourly rate? If not, how do you charge your clients for your time? Once you have worked this out, consider how much time you need to spend on social media to run an effective and consistent campaign.

Consistency is crucial to keeping your brand / business in the public eye. If your audience doesn’t see your name regularly, you won’t be remembered. Sad, but true. With the amount of advertising, features, offers and options that the average social media user is confronted with daily, it is essential to post valuable content to them regularly. I am not suggesting bombarding prospective clients daily, but rather a structured approach and a balance of direct offers, valuable information about your industry, new developments and background stories. The sporadic straightforward business punt doesn’t make the grade in today’s marketplace. Prospective clients now expect to be nurtured, coaxed and led through the decision making process before making a buying choice. Businesses need to develop a rapport with their audience to establish themselves as trustworthy and authoritative, and this isn’t done overnight or with the occasional post.

How much time will it take you to develop and write engaging content, find and edit images, source shareable links, post to not only your page, but also to the various groups you are targeting. Then consider how many different social platforms you have a presence on (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumbl.r etc) and take into account if the structure of the content must be altered for the specific platform. Although this can be streamlined with the use of media scheduling software, most businesses agree that it takes a minimum of 2 – 4 hours a week to manage social media marketing dependent on the size of the business.

Based on these figures, if you cost your time at ZAR 150.00 per hour (for example), you will be ‘spending’ between ZAR 1,200.00 to ZAR 2,400.00 per month to run your social media marketing yourself. That is when you know what you are doing.

With the realization of how long the process takes and the skills required to develop the right content to be posted at the right time on the correct platform, an increasing number of small businesses are choosing to outsource their social media marketing. Now that you have a figure of how much it is costing you to handle this task personally, you have a solid basis on which to compare the costs of outsourcing.

A plus side to outsourcing is that you are not limited geographically. If you find a contractor that you like but they are situated in a different area of the country (or the world for that matter), as long as you maintain regular contact, it doesn't make a difference as everything is done online from your contractor’s office.

What should you expect of a contractor?

A contractor should offer the following as a basic service:

  • Identify your buyer persona: Through demographics such as age, location, gender, behavior, aspirations, the contractor can establish your ideal target market. This is essential to social media marketing and will save a lot of effort and time in the long run.

  • Source social media target groups: With over 2 billion users on Facebook alone, whatever your service or product, there are interest groups and pages dedicated to it. They just have to be found, assessed and joined. Along with the buyer persona, this forms the core of your initial marketing efforts.

  • Tailor your social media advertising / branding strategy to your business goals: The contractor has to understand the goals of your business to develop a social media strategy and valuable content. Make sure they are asking the correct questions such as: “How do you want to be perceived in the public eye?” “What is your company mission statement?” “Where do you see yourself in three, five, ten years?” “Does your company have a community presence (sponsorships, charity support, or youth development)?” This shows that the contractor has your interests at heart.

  • Develop client-valuable content: Social media marketing doesn’t only consist of posting information about what you offer. It is a delicate process of balancing posts containing interesting information about your industry, new products or services, links to interesting industry specific blogs and articles amongst others. This has to be balanced with your company information, what services you offer, promotions, and specials or competitions. Then there is the human element. These are posts that show who you are; the human face of your brand. This might be a photo and post of your team or a particular staff member, or the office cat or dog, or you at a local community event, or enjoying a day with your family. People need to know who they are dealing with. Creating this sort of content takes time, skill and consideration.

  • Compile and undertake your social media posting schedule: Establish which social media platforms you will be using and schedule the number of posts to be published per week on each to achieve maximum reach and engagement without being considered spam.

  • Supply monthly analytics, social audit and feed back: All social media platforms offer insights and analytics that are helpful but can be confusing for the uninitiated to understand. Your contractor should offer a monthly analytics breakdown of the most salient points to guide and plan future marketing efforts.

  • Handle both organic (free) and budgeted (paid) campaigns: It has become increasingly difficult to reach your market with organic (free) advertising, particularly Facebook. This is because the algorithm now gives preference to personal over business posts in a bid to make the platform ‘social’ again. This is why the correct content is so essential. Should a post be considered blatant advertising, the chances of it being seen is minimal. Your contractor should be able to explain this to you in detail. Organic advertising still plays a role in marketing as a, but paid advertising allows you to target a more refined audience with a higher chance of response. Organic used with paid advertising is the best option, but depends on your budget. Your contractor must be confident to handle both, either as free-standing or combined strategies.

During the initial meetings you should establish:

  • Business scope: What exactly does your business do? What service or product does it supply? Who does it supply? Who are possible new markets? How big can your business effectively grow?

  • Business goals: As mentioned, it is essential for both parties to understand the goals of the business and where it will be in three, five and ten years.

  • Campaign goals: What area are you going to focus your initial campaigns on? Remember that very few actual sales are done directly from social media. Posts should rather have a call to action (CTA) which can prompt your audience to contact you, visit your website, visit your showroom, request a quote or get more information.

  • An understanding of your businesses brand ethics: Ensure that the contractor knows your business ethic. What principles does your business embody? What do you care about? How do you want to be perceived and remembered in the public eye?

  • Unique selling points and customer pain points: All businesses should have a unique selling point (USP). What do you do differently from others in your industry? What is your specialty? What do your existing clients really like about your service? Also discuss the pain points (problems that are either real or perceived) that a prospective customer may have. Maybe delivery charges, order process, or payment options are an issue in your industry. Make sure that these are known and discussed so that the contractor can use your solution to them in future content topics.

  • Specials and promotions: How often do you plan on running specials or promotions? Is a competition a feasible option to drive engagement? Are you planning seasonal or holiday marketing campaigns? Again, this is crucial in future content planning

  • Organic and budgeted advertising: Your contractor should be able to explain the complexities of organic in relation to paid advertising and suggest the best options for your business.

  • Expectations: Although it would be very nice to get an immediate huge response from social media marketing, it doesn’t happen. I suggest an initial six month trail with a contractor. By this time you should be able to assess what level of reach and engagement you have had with your campaigns and start to establish the ROI (return on investment) on your marketing costs. From here you will be able to establish if your campaigns have been viable or not, and if you want to continue the relationship with your contractor.

What your contractor will need from you:

The contractor cannot operate in a vacuum and will you will need to schedule regular sessions with each other to discuss upcoming strategies, content, developments or promotions. In addition you will need to supply the contractor with any company artwork, logos and photos you want published. You will also need to make the contractor a part of the admin team on your social media pages. This enables them to post from your company page under your name instead of the contractor’s name.

Insist on a written service contract between the you and the contractor that sets out exactly what the contractors duties are. This way, should the contractor not meet your expectations, you have a document to refer to if you decide to cancel the agreement. Remember that if you want the contractor to undertake tasks over and above the scope of the contract,such as developing or managing your website, search engine optimization or logo or package design, you will be expected to pay extra.

In conclusion:

There are many benefits to outsourcing your social media management and I hope this article helps you in your decision. The bottom line is cost. What is more valuable, your time or the cost of outsourcing? Whichever you decide, make sure that you, or your contractor, are up to doing the task properly. The future success of your business could depend on it.

The Design Train offers social media management services to small and medium size businesses and will happily asses your business needs free of charge wherever you are situated. Contact us and help keep your marketing on track.

As always, we ask you to leave us a comment, drop us an email or give us a call to discuss your marketing, or suggest any topics you would like to see covered in this blog series.

Cheers for now - The Train Driver

Additional reading from The Design Train blog series aimed at helping small business owners understand social media marketing.

Online Reputation Management

Finding your Buyer Persona

Content Creation

Posting Schedules

Organic vs. Paid Marketing

Finding Time for Social Media Marketing

User Generated Content

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