Post updated February 12, 2018
It’s 2018. By now you know that social media is something you should be doing to grow your business and your brand. You also know that you can’t approach social media in a disorganized way, haphazardly or as an afterthought. Gone are the days when you could just tap the youngest member of your team on the shoulder and ask him/her to take care of it in their spare time.
Social media management needs to be somebody’s job. It might be your job or a full-time job of somebody you hire in-house. Or (and increasingly) it can be the job of an outside social media consulting or service firm. Let’s look at the what, why, how and how much of this option so you can make an informed decision about your business.
What do social media managers do?
The obvious answer is “Manage Social Media,” and the fact that many small business owners and entrepreneurs don’t really know what that means is part of the problem. Social media management requires a solid understanding of a variety of concepts:
- The culture, trends and more of the industry your business is a part of
- How to build a message in line with brand identity
- Core audience and core customer identification
- KPIs and ROI objectives in social media
- Current trends, tools and apps used in social media strategy
- SEO strategy
- Building community and strategic alliances
- Tactical social engagement
- Handling brand reputation crises
- Image sourcing and copyright
- General business management practices as applied to social media
…and that’s why you need somebody to manage your social media strategy. The field has developed too much, and become too integral to business success, for amateurs to just “wing it.” Strong social media management can be vital to your company’s success and has become specialized enough that it’s very difficult for somebody who isn’t a specialist to be strong.
Where to get a social media manager (and how much it might cost)
It’s accurate to look at social media management options as a spectrum that ranges from “Full-Service Corporation” on one end and “Your Nephew the Digital Marketing Major” on the other and every possible iteration in between. That said, it’s more useful to divide that spectrum into several buckets or tiers of service, each with their own price point, advantages, disadvantages and best ways to find a good provider.
Social Media Contractor
This is one person, usually not a social media pro so much as somebody who knows about social media. You hire them to do a few hours a week so you don’t have to. It’s not the best arrangement, but a good start for companies on a budget.
- Pros: Inexpensive, often hungry enough to go the extra mile
- Cons: Low in experience, won’t know the details of your business
- Price: Hourly, you’ll spend typically $100 to $1,000 per month
- Sources: Upwork.com, Craigslist, local universities and community colleges
- Tip: Some people report getting great results from outsourcing this to India or the Philippines. Most report hassles, communication issues and cost overages.
Social Media Consultant
A social media professional who runs a micro or small business (often out of the home), who you hire to not just do your social media but also advise you on how it’s done. A strong choice for small or startup companies with a little extra in the marketing budget.
- Pros: Very knowledgeable of social media trends and practices, knows how to easily interface with your existing teams
- Cons: Not strong on industry details, generally weak on basic business practices
- Price: $250 to $3,000 a month
- Sources: Mediabistro.com, Flexjobs.com, asking your neighbor who he uses
- Tip: This is where most of the social media snake oil comes from. Separate the wheat from the chaff by reading the blogs and social media presence of social media consultants you’re considering. If you’re not impressed, your potential clients won’t be either.
Social Media Management
Somebody – or a small team of somebodies – who take on nearly all of your social media tasks and check in with you regularly for direction, specific content ideas and KPI analyses. This group serves businesses who need somebody part-time to handle social media, but don’t have enough social media need to justify a full-time, dedicated worker.
- Pros: Full-service operations, generally strong on metrics and accountability
- Cons: Often try to juggle too many clients to fully address the “soul” of one given company
- Price: $500 to $3,000 a month
- Sources: Ask small businesses in your community, scan the social media feeds of local social media managers
- Tip: If possible, use a local company you can have face-to-face meetings with once in a while. The threat of you showing up at the door can keep them in line and on task, especially in a crisis.
Social Management Corporation
A full-service company specializing in social media management, who will assign a team to be your outsourced social media marketing staff. Usually, a team will have three to six clients. If you’re tempted to start your own social media team, it’s worth running the cost analysis for a few of these while you’re at it.
- Pros: Specialists within the company means you have expert insight where you need it
- Cons: Cost is sometimes prohibitive for some small businesses, often sell packages where you only need 60 to 70 percent of what you have to buy
- Price: $1,000 to $5,000 a month
- Sources: Spend a month reading blog posts about social media strategy and identify the authors or websites that impress you most
- Tip: Analyze the price tag in terms of projected additional income per month. Look for a 3x to 5x ROI.
Digital Marketing Corporation
This company is just like a social management corporation, but also includes online content, ebooks, metric analysis, video production and as many other aspects of your online marketing as you want them to take on. It’s expensive, and for the big boys, but usually worth the investment if your business can scale to that level.
- Pros: Largely fire-and-forget, can greatly improve the efficiency of your marketing spend
- Cons: Very expensive, often sells products you can’t understand well enough to make decisions about
- Price: Four and five figures. Really only an option at the enterprise and multistate levels.
- Sources: Same as the social management corporations, only bigger
- Tip: Insist on a package with marketing and sales funnel automation. Once they’re in place, you can cut down on your spend by leaning on the automated services more and the live services less.
All of the above isn’t meant to suggest that charlatans and well-meaning incompetents aren’t thick on the ground in the social media management consulting sphere. Definitely, use every tool at your disposal to check on any potential person or service you bring on board to handle your social media. Subject them to the same scrutiny you would for any other major position in your company.
This is the flip side of the problem with handling it in-house and in your spare time. That approach comes from not taking social media seriously.
Don’t make that mistake.
As with so many things when it comes to managing a business, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Instead, we hope we’ve given you enough information so you can ask any other questions you need to decide which solution best fits your needs.
If those needs require cash outlay that you don’t have on hand, apply for a Kabbage loan or line of credit. The money usually hits a client’s account within 24 hours of approval. That means you can execute your new social media decision as soon as it makes sense, instead of moving forward based on the timing of your finances.