What do you look for when you hire a social media company?
Or should you be Buddhist about it and look within? Don’t ask me, the answer will come from within — from within this blog article! An interesting fact that I just learned is that more people are using social media for their business than ever before, yet the man-count at social media companies has shrunk a bit. More people are doing social media for their own companies which makes sense because you need to understand your industry in order to create quality content for your social networks.
It is impossible in business to know how to do everything yourself, nor should you even try. However, it is very difficult to hire others to do tasks for you if you don’t know anything about the task at hand. If you are uninformed, you will get substandard results from outsourced companies, and even get ripped off regularly. The good news is that you won’t feel a thing, because you won’t even know you are being ripped off. If you hire social media companies, you need to know something about content creation and analytics to survive the ordeal.
Unfortunately, even seasoned professionals often cannot create the best quality content without some guidance. They tend to go off on tangents and explore crazy ideas that won’t sell well with your loyal clientele. As someone who hires bloggers, Twitterers, and Facebookers, you need to know how to identify quality content. Most social media companies can’t create content on their own. They make you do the hard stuff, and they just do the minimum wage type tasks and post your content.
If someone is handling your Twitter account, you need to be very aware of the technical process of how to operate a Twitter account. You might be managing someone who hasn’t a clue, and whose boss is not watching them. You need to know how to follow, follow back, interact, and write good tweets. You need to know if your outsourced social media company is getting you results for your money. Here are some metrics which might translate into results.
(1) New followers. If you get new followers, but they are not relevant, or don’t retweet anything, their value is limited.
(2) Clicks. If your followers don’t retweet, but they are clicking on your links and reading your blog, then you will get points with Google, and in my opinion, that is the bottom line.
(3) Retweets, favorites, mentions, etc. If you have an active crowd, you will get these, otherwise there will be silence which is bad. A good social media company will know how to bring life to your Twitter account and get people to interact.
(4) Shares and commentary. On Facebook, it is a little bit similar to Twitter. There are shares, and commentary. My experience is that Facebook followers are a lot more likely to post comments to your posts than on Twitter. If you want more of a forum type experience, then Linked in or Facebook might be your starting point.
Basically, when you hire a company to take care of your Twitter, Facebook, or other account, you need to measure their success on a monthly basis. You need to see if they are doing all of the interactions they promised to do (keep requirements in writing in emails for best results.) You need to track your total number of followers, and number of interactions as well. Basically, keep track of as much critical information as you can.
Be careful. Social media companies typically hire millennials, This group tends to be very idealistic in their own way. But, if they lose interest in a project, they will not give their full 100%. Their attention span is not the greatest to begin with in any case. One guy went from 200% to 10% in a few months because he lost interest. When managing millennials, make sure they don’t lose interest, or have a change of attitude. Make sure they are not slacking off. If you notice that they are not doing what your agreement said they are to be doing, it is time to find someone new. Don’t trust whatever company you hire! Keep a close eye on them, and keep them on a short leash. I’m not saying to treat them like they are not trustworthy, just treat them like a father treats his six year old. The minute you stop watching them, all hell very easily breaks loose!
How do you interview these companies?
Most people who work at social media companies are horrible at communication and are not that knowledgeable about social media either. They know how to do certain types of repetitive tasks and certain marketing functions. Their knowledge is very rarely wide in scope. There will be a lot that they don’t know even in the most seasoned of experts. I have observed an expert who charges $250 per hour who doesn’t know how to craft a classy tweet — his tweets are very short and clunky. He is good at analytics, but not at composition. I met another expert who knows Twitter inside out, but who doesn’t know much about Google+. Here are some questions you can ask to get a sense of how these companies handle their work.
(1) Before you ask any questions, see if they even answer their phone or email. How fast before they call you back or return an email. I just emailed an American guy who runs a company in Thailand. He got back to me in 12 hours. I am very impressed!
(2) Ask them what techniques they use to grow a Twitter account. See how thorough their answer is.
(3) Tell them a little about your industry. Ask them what types of tweets they would write to attract readers. If the answer is evasive, or if they tell you that it is complicated, don’t put too much faith in them. People who have thinking skills will think of something useful to say when you ask them a question — that is the most valuable rule of interviewing companies.
(4) Tell them that you had a problem with Google+ and don’t know what the best way to solve it is. One guy told me just not to use Google+. That was not a very intelligent answer, although I agree that Google+ should not be the primary thrust of my marketing efforts.
(5) Ask to see some of their top five Twitter accounts that they manage. Send them a personal message to several of those accounts and see how they respond. If they don’t respond to you, then they won’t respond if they are handling your account. Also, by seeing the accounts of their clients, you can see if they are managing any successful accounts. You can see how good the tweets are, and see how fast their client’s accounts grow which is critical to your success.
Even if you don’t understand social media…
Even if you don’t know anything about social media, if you have common sense and take good notes, you can easily distinguish between responsible, knowledgeable teams and idiots — and there are a lot of idiots out there. Sometimes you get a smart manager who hires workers who can’t think which is another issue. Just because the manager is good, doesn’t guarantee that the workers will be. If you ask teams the questions I indicated above, you can compare answers. See which teams give you actual information, and which teams just tell you that it depends, or that it is difficult to say, or that they would need to look into it after they made you wait two weeks just to have a meeting with someone. Wrong answer!
It is generally good to try companies out for a few months on low. Don’t give them too much work. Give them enough to see how it is in real life working with them. After you make contact with a few dozen companies, pick two to try out, and if one doesn’t work out, try others. You will not find the perfect company on the first attempt, so expect that the shopping around process could last for years, and become complacent to that reality.
Be wary of contracts
When you are trying someone out, you don’t know if you will like them and you don’t know how good their work will be. Even if their work is good, they could lose their star employee and then it will all go downhill. Try to avoid large contracts. If your company insists on a contract, keep it as short and as small as possible. It is easy to get taken for a ride with a contract. The contract guarantees how much money you give them, but does it guarantee how much results you will get? I strongly suggest putting very detailed and well thought out results in the contract if they insist on a contract. You might not be able to get them to sign it, but at least the contract will be beneficial in some way to you instead of purely for them. In the long run you will be forced to sign contracts. Just shop around very carefully before you sign anything, and keep it as small as possible in the beginning, even if that means going overseas!