There’s no doubt about it. Social media platforms are among most powerful marketing tools in a business owner’s arsenal. But with the time and effort that it takes to curate your online presence, sometimes it simply makes more sense to turn over these responsibilities to another professional. So, how do you find a qualified expert who can effectively promote your business on social media? In episode #97, Elizabeth Larkin, Gene Marks and special guest, Ryan Heisler, guide you through the process of hiring the right social media professional for your small business.
1:45—Today’s Topic: How Do I Hire A Social Media Expert to Manage My Business’s Online Presence?
2:39—Online job boards are among the most popular resources for finding potential social media consultants.
4:09—Before you begin searching for a social media expert, it is important to identify your specific needs and expectations; then, check to see if you may already have an employee who is qualified enough to handle these responsibilities.
5:27—Creating measurable objectives, based on either sales or revenue, will not only help you determine your budget, but it will also allow you to evaluate your social media expert’s performance.
8:04—You need to identify which platform is best suited for your business and find someone who specializes in that medium.
11:46—Typically, it will be more expensive to work with an agency than either an independent contractor or an internal employee.
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Elizabeth: Welcome back to the Small Biz Ahead Podcast. This is Elizabeth Larkin, the editor of Small Biz Ahead, and I’m here with small business owner and guru, Gene Marks.
Gene: So that’s your official title, is editor? Small Biz … I never knew that.
Elizabeth: Yeah, I’m like the managing editor.
Gene: Oh, I know you’re like the boss, I just didn’t know that was a-
Elizabeth: Sometimes I don’t throw in the managing part, because I think it sounds snooty, so I just say editor.
Gene: Okay, fair enough.
Elizabeth: Yeah. So, I work with all of our writers and Gene-
Gene: That’s exciting.
Elizabeth: … to create content for small business owners.
Gene: Very excellent content, by the way.
Elizabeth: Today, we have a very special episode because we have our social media guru Ryan Heisler here.
Elizabeth: To talk about … Actually, he’s going to be with us for the next three episodes, so-
Gene: So guys, this guy is like the social media … We’ll get into Ryan, but he’s in charge of social media at The Hartford. It’s like a Fortune 100 company, is like his job, and as a small business owner, this is a huge thing to talk to guys like this that do this for a living, what we can learn from him so pay attention.
Elizabeth: He’s worked with small businesses before.
Elizabeth: He kind of knows both sides of that.
Elizabeth: We’re going to take a break to hear from our sponsor very quickly and we’ll be right back with Ryan.
This podcast is brought to you by The Hartford. When the unexpected strikes, The Hartford strikes back for over 1 million small business customers with property, liability and worker’s compensation insurance, check out The Hartford’s small business insurance at TheHartford.com.
QUESTION: Where Can I Hire a Social Media Professional?
Elizabeth: Okay, here we go. Our first question. This is from anonymous so we don’t know who they are, where they’re from, so we’ll just make it up. They say:
“I’m a restaurant owner and I use social media to advertise events and help build community. I cannot keep up with the demands of posting on my social platforms. Where can I find someone to do this for me and how much should I pay them?”
Okay, so my challenge to Gene and Ryan is to get as specific as possible about paying them because as you know it’s really hard to figure that out.
Elizabeth: You’re just like kind of guessing so welcome to Ryan and I’m going to let him take over from here.
Gene: So Ryan, let me rephrase that question again so where can we find people to help us with social media? What are we looking for?
Ryan: First, my email address is-
Gene: Get him out there.
Ryan: No, in all honesty, there’s a lot of different places that you can wind up looking. An unbelievable resource of talent is actually Craigslist.
Gene: Yeah, I agree. You can find a lot of great social media people that are also homicidal maniacs at the same time on Craigslist.
Gene: Which is great.
Ryan: Just make sure that your hiring practices are all up to date and we have lovely content on SBA to really sort of look at when you’re trying to engage with a consultant or anybody else. But really kind of just doing different research, I really truly believe in the power of Craigslist to look for people, especially if you’re looking for somebody who is local in your marketplace.
Gene: What do you think of, do you ever go to Fiverr? Are you familiar with Fiverr?
Gene: By the way, Fiverr is F-I-V-E-R-R and we’ll put that link on the show notes.
Elizabeth: I was just going to say, we’ll put everything in the show notes.
Gene: Sure. What are your thoughts about finding people on Fiverr?
Ryan: Fiverr is as much or as little as you really kind of put into it.
Ryan: A lot of the work tends to be more on the generic side and I think it tends to have more benefit if you’re struggling with say logo work or any kind of images that you’re trying to create and cultivate for social because social is not just the advertising and getting yourself out there but it’s also about what’s the quality of the messaging and content that you’re putting out into the marketplace. The first thing I would really kind of look to do in this scenario is try and figure out what it is in the gap. Is it you don’t have enough time to manage it? What part of it are you having trouble managing? Is it creating actual content that you’re then putting onto your social channels? Is it the actual day-to-day management and engagement with people who are trying to reach out about your business or is it just, I don’t have time on my plate for any of this and I need to outsource all of the work associated with it.
Looking at my own story, this exact scenario played out and is the reason that I even got a start in social media because I was working at a small business and the owner had had all of the channels and email marketing and he just didn’t have the time for it anymore.
Gene: Got it.
Ryan: I kind of raised my hand and said, “I’m kind of interested in this.” Before you go and look to hire somebody externally, look internally. You might have somebody who actually has the skills and knowledge to wind up taking that on and really kind of having that ownership mentality.
Gene: Makes sense.
Ryan: Because when somebody has that ownership mentality across the board, they’re going to invest more of their time into it.
Gene: How much do you pay somebody? Depending on their skills and what you’re hiring them for but give us, how specific can he get?
Ryan: You can, usually you’re going to have somebody who puts together a proposal for you. More often than not, the bare minimum per month you’re going to spend on somebody is probably $500.
Ryan: That might be as few as 10 hours of work or it might be as many as 50 hours worth of work. But generally, somebody is not going to put themselves out there for less than $10 an hour on social and usually you’re going to be paying somewhere between 40 and 50 dollars an hour for somebody who’s really kind of an expert in the area.
Gene: Ryan, how do you measure that? You know, how do you get evaluated on your job, right, that you’re doing for The Hartford? How do I evaluate that social media person I’m hiring to help me whether they’re successful or not?
Ryan: Well, it all comes down to what are your bottom line goals? What are you trying to do out of this program? Are you trying to just be there and have a presence? If so, it’s going to be really hard to say somebody is failing at their job-
Ryan: … unless they’re just not posting or they’re not engaging. From a business owner’s standpoint, you really have to evaluate, what is it that I need to have happen here? Is it, I need a certain number of sales to come out of this program? Do I need to be able to offset the cost of doing this? Do I need to just be there to be there because your competitors are there?
Gene: Sure. Having an objective and knowing what you’re basing that criteria on is very important before you even get started?
Ryan: Yeah. I mean the first thing you have to do is understand, okay, I’m going to have a social media presence.
Ryan: What am I doing with it?
Ryan: And then be able to back it up from there. I mean, at the end of the day this is an expense that is going to have to come out of somewhere.
Ryan: You’re going to spend less money on something else.
Ryan: I would just caution to make sure that you’re trying to tie whatever activity you’re doing to some type of sales or revenue based opportunity.
Gene: Yeah. A lot of people look at that as a lead generation thing but it doesn’t necessarily have to be because sometimes people look at social media as a customer service platform. That’s also equally as important.
Ryan: I mean, that starts diving into, okay, I’m going to have a social media presence, where am I going to be?
Ryan: Because certain platforms lend themselves to being a little more customer service-centric versus others that are better at simply broadcasting a message.
Gene: Do you think as we talk about different platforms, again let’s get back to the people that we’re looking for, do you think that, it used to be like, I’m an accountant, right, so and it used to be back in the day, you’re an accountant. Nowadays, it’s like you’re a tax accountant. You’re a personal financial planner. You’re an auditor. Do you see right now and in the future people, you have to hire people with social media skills dependent on the platform you want to be on? In other words, I want to be big on Instagram, I’ve got to look for somebody, it can’t just be a social media person, they’ve got to be an Instagram person.
Ryan: Yeah. I mean, platforms are so different across whatever kind of end audience you’re trying to reach and so I would be sure that whoever you’re looking to engage with has the requisite experience on the platforms that you’re looking to make an impact on. My background’s with Facebook and then it really kind of grown has into all of the paid media behind all of the different channels that we currently operate on. If you ask me to run a Snapchat campaign right now, I’m going to say, “Please go look for somebody else because I don’t have the expertise to advise you on what you really should be doing.”
Gene: Right. That’s great.
Elizabeth: Ryan, I really like what you said in the beginning about maybe identifying somebody internally that has an interest in this, but let’s say, like your boss stepped aside and said, “Why don’t you take this over?”, but you didn’t have all the knowledge you needed at that time. Can you recommend any ways to learn? Like could you take like a Lynda.com course or what are some … And I know we didn’t tell Ryan we were going to be asking him this so he’s probably looking at me like what?
Ryan: There’s one kind of brilliant resource by the name of John Loomer, who has literally written hundreds of pages of useful information about how to properly use Facebook. I tell you I reference his site probably once a day.
Gene: Wow. John Loomer.
Gene: We’ll put this in the show notes. Okay?
Ryan: He’s just an expert in terms of being able to really kind of lay different scenarios out in terms of, alright, if you’re trying to engage with these people or Facebook’s made this change, here’s how you’re going to be able to react and do something about it. Another place, kind of speaking more on the paid advertising side, I really like WordStream, which is, they’re a digital agency out of Boston but they have a phenomenal blog and their founder, Larry Kim is one of the smartest guys when it comes to digital marketing I’ve ever seen. So those two people are really kind of my bedrock principles on everything from social marketing and even beyond.
Gene: Do you, when we’re talking about educating yourself, do you think that business owners should be doing this themselves or do you think that it’s really something that should be outsourced?
Ryan: The wonderful answer is, it depends. It’s just, is this an area that you feel like you can invest in and put the amount of time and resources into it?
Gene: It’s like everything else in life. It takes, you get out of it what you put into it.
Ryan: At a bare minimum, you’re going to need to spend 10 hours a week working on social media, not just that, but also you’re going to need to have content on your website that you link to and all of these other places just to curate your presence and so if you don’t have the ability to dedicate that amount of time to it then you need to step aside and you have to figure out, okay, from there, am I looking at somebody who has shown an interest in it internally or do I need to hire somebody to do it?
Elizabeth: Follow up on that, Ryan. Let’s say you’re a retail store, so social media is going to involve taking really beautiful pictures, posting a couple of times a day on different social platforms and then also, I think like working with the website manager to make sure. Is there any point where … So you’re the small business owner, so that means you’re going to have to hire. If you contract out a photographer, an actual social media person, then you’re going to have to dedicate a lot of time to managing them. When should you just say, “I’m just going to hire an agency and they can just do all of this for me.”
Gene: Oh, and let me even add to that. Agency or independent person? Because agencies can be … We have, listen, we’ve got another three hours to spend so just carry on.
Ryan: This exact scenario was me where I got that opportunity. I had to become the photographer, the CMS master, the social media person.
Gene: The data analytics guy.
Ryan: The analytics, the tie to the sales in the store to prove out that our spend really kind of benefited overall sales. Thankfully, there was that opportunity where they looked at it and said, “Okay, he’s got to dedicate more and more time and we’re going to be willing to put that resource together.”
Ryan: It’s always going to be less expensive for you to have an internal employee to do all of those things, rather than having to keep me on the sales floor and then hire somebody externally to kind of do this sort of thing. In terms of independent versus an agency, again, background, I worked for an ad agency before I worked for The Hartford. When you work as an independent, you do have somebody who is more willing to put forth that sense of ownership but the drawback is you still don’t know how many clients that this person is managing at any one point in time.
Ryan: That’s where your contract with that individual, really has to spell out the number of hours that you expect for them to spend on things and really specific goals and benchmarks that they have to hit.
Ryan: When you’re talking about an agency, that’s pretty much always going to happen. Usually with an agency, you’re also going to get a pretty good idea in terms of what their media recommendation is because as we’ll talk about in a couple of episodes, whether or not you need to be spending money to advertise on social media beyond the kind of labor cost.
Ryan: But you also get the management fee, and you know exactly what that’s going to be.
Gene: Realistically, can you even hire an agency for 500 bucks a month? That seems pretty low.
Ryan: You can hire an agency for $500 a month in management cost, but you can’t hire an agency for $500 a month all in.
Gene: Yeah. Sure. He’s going to be doing all the work as well.
Ryan: Usually, if you’re going to an agency, you can expect your bare minimum cost as somewhere going to be between a thousand and 15 hundred dollars a month. If your budget is less than that, then you would probably look independently.
Gene: Got it. Can I ask you, do you use any agencies, right now?
Ryan: There are multiple agencies that The Hartford works with on an associated basis and then I kind of run my own hat with a couple of other projects a month.
Gene: When you work with an agency, is there anything that an agency does that is, throws up red flags to you or that you’re like, “I’m not happy with this agency because?” Not that we’re naming any specific agencies, but any advice that you can give if I wanted to hire an agency, what would be a sign that this agency is not that great?
Ryan: What it comes down to you is that you always have to go into a relationship with somebody, with an open mind. I’ll give an example, I had surgery on my hand a few years ago and when I went to the first appointment with the guy, he pretty much looked me in the eye and said, “Take everything I say with a grain of salt but I’m a surgeon. My job is to cut people open and this is what I do, so my advice is going to be colored that way.” Having that information up front really kind of set the relationship pretty easily.
Gene: That’s good. Sure.
Ryan: With an agency, they’re always going to want to be doing more for you.
Ryan: Because it’s like, alright, this is our open door, so what’s next?
Ryan: They’re always going to kind of be trying to push into other spheres that maybe you’re initial relationship wasn’t supposed to be on. Just keep that in mind, that they’re always going to be trying to sell just a little bit more-
Gene: Got it.
Ryan: … each and every time-
Gene: Got it.
Ryan: … that you’re dealing with them.
Elizabeth: Our boss Dave, calls that scope creep. Whenever we’re talking to a vendor, he’s like, “No scope creep.”
Elizabeth: “We’re hiring you to do this and this is what we want you to do.”
Elizabeth: I think if you have the budget and you can hire, like let’s say you don’t want to manage anything. You don’t want to do any work and you have the budget, I would say go with an agency because they can do everything for you. If you have a little more time and you don’t have as big of a budget or let’s just say you don’t have as big of a budget, then you are going to have to hire independent contractors but you’re going to have to spend more time managing them. Ryan, thank you so much.
Gene: Awesome, Ryan. That was great stuff.
Elizabeth: He’s going to be here for our next episode too.
Gene: We can’t wait.