Do You Need a Social Media Manager? How You Can Tell:
When choosing a social media manager, make sure they know not just social media, but your specific industry.
I was lucky enough to get a review copy of The Art of Social Media and devoured that book. I was already a fan of co-author Peg Fitzpatrick but wasn't as aware of Guy Kawasaki. Yeah, I know: That's probably backward.
Guy's voice is strong, witty and clear. Much of what he said in that book had me nodding in agreement as I read, occasionally shouting an "Amen, brother!" or similar as I whipped through the pages.
But one thing he said stopped me cold:
Guy Kawasaki Made Me Think
He basically said in the book not to hire someone to do your social media for you. Hmmmm. He has a point. There are a lot of people out there "doing social media" who'll set up some accounts for you, write bland crap on these accounts and wrap what they do in a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, confusing you with their confidence and spiritedness. You kinda feel like you need them, if only because you have no idea what they do.
That's a circular argument, isn't it?
A know a woman with a small business who hired a "social media manager" to handle all her accounts. This person thew up a few generic notices and that was about all. With no care for who the audience was speaking to and no care for the specialized knowledge needed for the industry, the social lagged.
Social Media - Engaging and Fun
A few months later, another social media manager was hired to take over. Like night and day, the social platforms are now hopping with excitement and color, engagement and fun.
What's the difference?
Lots of things. First of all, her first time around, she hired someone who specialized in social media. That isn't always a bad thing. In this case, though, the lesson learned was that, though this person knew social media, he did not know her industry.
The industry you're in will dictate what you need to do on social media: How often you'll post, the language you'll use, what your graphics will look like and even what social platforms you should be on.
Don't Hire a Party Crasher...
If your social media manager isn't familiar with your industry, you're better off doing nothing at all than using someone who is going to sound like a fish out of water - or, perhaps more apt, like someone who's just crashed a party. Worst case is you hire someone who just doesn't care that much. Can you hear the sound of crickets chirping? Feel the cold air in the room? Dark, isn't it?
I think that's what Guy is talking about. That super generic, one-sized-fits-all approach to social media.
...And Social Media is Like a Good Party
Remember, social media is a bit like a good party. And every industry has different kinds of socials, don't they? At some, you might be drinking a glass of wine out of a plastic cup while you laugh-till-you-cry about your kids. At others, you're sipping a cosmopolitan while talking in a low voice about stock options. At still another, it's a latte while you're all hovered over a craft table, comparing paint swatches. Virtually, of course.
Your Social Media Manager Knows Your Industry
Make sure that your social media manager knows your industry or is willing to learn. There's nothing wrong with a generalist, but make sure this is a person who's going to put in the effort to align his voice with your industry. One-size-fits-all does not work in this case.
Decide what exactly you expect from your social media manager. Read The Art of Social Media and have an understanding of what you expect from your manager. Then talk openly about what you will do versus what they will do. For example, hiring someone to schedule social media for the week can be an effective way to manage your time. The manager can then perhaps go into your accounts a few times a week to keep an eye on them, leaving you to pop in when you have the time to add your unique voice. But your accounts stay current and full, your followers know what's going on, and there is stability. Trying to do this on top of everything else required in running a business can be overwhelming.
If You Can't Afford it, DIY
If you can't afford the cost of someone carefully writing in your voice, sharing content (which means reading that content first) that your audience will enjoy, and engaging with your audience as well as or better than you would, then by all means, do it yourself. You'll learn a lot about your audience, both current clients and potential leads. You'll find that you are engaged with your target market in a way that is personal and profound. They'll tell you things if you listen. You might be able to learn a lot more than you think about products you should be creating or ways to keep clients happy that hadn't occurred to you before.
Just Like Many Other Things: Delegating is Good.
However, just like so many other areas of your business (and personal) life, delegating is a good thing. If you can afford it, and are willing to get your hands dirty in the beginning to make sure that you understand what it is you want your social media manager to do, hiring someone to do that for you is a very good idea.
A Social Media Manager is Not a Content Strategist
If you do not know what you want for social media, you need to realize that the job of helping you define your audience, what you want to say and how you want to say it is a different kettle of fish. If you expect a social media manager to also be your content strategist, you need to step back a bit and realize what you are asking. If your social media manager is expected to do the work of a strategist as well, you should be prepared to pay for that. Hub Spot has a great article on what the best social media managers should do. Reading it through might remind you of what this person actually does for you: customer service, news hound, data analyst, designer, copywriter. It's an intense job that requires a weird combination of skills to do it right. But don't expect them to also define who you are and provide you with a full strategy.
In the end, there are times when you should hire a social media manager. When you do, however, make sure you know what you need and what it takes to get the job done.