I’ve heard it before. “Oh, I’ll just hire a college kid to post stuff for me.”
I have nothing against college kids. I’m sure they are very smart. I’m sure they know all the ins and outs of posting to Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. But there’s a huge difference between someone who’s savvy about social media and a professional marketer. Because everyone can do it, people don’t take social media seriously.
But to do it right requires a strategy.
Content marketing is a professional discipline. It requires strategic planning and a carefully constructed set of tactics in order to be successful. It requires building your plan around clearly articulated business goals, setting metrics, and then measuring your success against those metrics.
This is the voice of your business. Your voice. Are you really going to hand that over to someone who’s not a professional brand manager? This person will be speaking as you. It had better be someone who’s up to the task. Someone you can trust with such a heavy responsibility.
Now, I’m not saying that you can’t get help. Sometimes you can offload the operational tasks (such as deployment) to junior staff or a WFH, where you drive the strategy and/or the writing—with a junior staffer to handle dissemination.
Here’s the way this works. Depending on resources, get your client to assign a junior staffer to handle all of the deployment. That could involve loading and launching blog posts or queuing a social stream. Everything will be done under your guidance and training, and soon enough you’ll have someone who can manage and execute your content plan.
That way, you can stick to the higher-level tasks, such as strategic planning and creating content. This is better for you because it’s more interesting, but it’s also better for the client because they are not “overpaying” for you to execute more basic tasks. Not to mention that they get training for one (or more) of their staffers, thereby making an investment in something that’s repeatable. All this will allow you to focus your energies on making a huge impact on their overall content strategy.
How to manage your new Social Media Manager
Hiring a social media manager isn’t going to solve all your issues. The strategy part will still be up to you. You can’t offload it. It’s your business, and you can’t have the tail wagging the dog. Content marketing is a means to an end. It’s not worth anything if it’s not delivering results. Here are some considerations for how to make it work for your business:
- Start with your goals. What is it that you hope to achieve in the next 3 months? 6 months? 12 months? For this exercise, try to narrow it down to one or two goals where a content strategy can help. Focus. Make sure your hire fully understands your plan. I particularly like this goal from Scott Severson about reaching break-even for your content expense within nine months.
- Construct a plan. Don’t just start posting. This is one of the biggest mistakes that I see businesses make. Without a plan, it’s very unlikely that you will get the desired result. And even if you do, how will you know? I always recommend starting with a set of hypotheses first, based on what you know about your audience. Then start testing, treating it like an experiment. Try the same message in different social channels. Try them at different times. Watch (and record) everything. Adjust as necessary and iterate. Little by little, you will “solve” the puzzle and start to be able to replicate results.
- Hire help if you need it. Sure, it can even be your niece (despite the title of this piece). Hiring is a big decision, so make sure that you and your business are ready for this step. Content marketing takes time, which means that it may not be contributing much to your immediate revenue stream. If it’s taking you away from activities that directly impact today’s revenue, it might be time. When it comes down to it, it’s a simple math equation. As John Rampton explains, “if you value your time at $100/hour, hiring someone for half of that, who is experienced and passionate about social media, is a logical choice.”
- Be accountable. Hold up your end of the bargain. If your Social Media Manager is constantly waiting for you to finish creating content, then it won’t be worth the hire. Take this issue seriously, because it can kill your entire strategy. Either start letting her create first drafts for approval, assign the writing to someone else, or hire some outside writing help.
- Train to your market. Make sure that anyone who’s speaking for your brand understands your target audience, your brand voice, and the tone and tempo of both. Every audience has a “language,” and the context matters. Hit the wrong note, and you’re seen as an impostor. You’re out. The good news is that you know this extremely well—so well that you may take it for granted. Try to see it through the eyes of a novice. It will be really important to transfer this knowledge to your new hire. Large organizations are starting to use web-based brand management software to onboard new hires. Ideally you want one place for all of your employees and stakeholders to find your latest brand guidelines and related materials.
- Manage interactions. Social media is bi-directional when it’s at its best. That means you will have customers or potential clients talking back to you. Devise a plan on how to handle this. You don’t want to slow down your Social Media Manager’s response time. Expectations run much higher in social—customers expect to hear from you within the hour. But in your haste to respond, you also don’t want the wrong message going out. Use an approval system until you can give her more leeway. And most importantly, prioritize this “approval protocol” until you’re comfortable that all responses are clear, consistent, and courteous.
- Measure results. This is required of any content marketing plan. Come up with a system for recording your results—good and bad. Interactions with your audience are going to tell you a lot, and having data on it is going to help you plan your next move. Collecting this data is another worthwhile activity for a lower-tier position. But it will be up to you to perform the analysis—here’s a great post on the four key performance indicators (KPIs) you should measure: Consumption metrics, sharing metrics, lead generation metrics, and sales metrics.
- Adjust and iterate. Content marketing is extremely dynamic. What happened with your last blog post? Your last e-mail campaign? You have to know so that you can continue to make adjustments until you get the tone, language, message, timing, and frequency right. I’ve seen too many plans get stuck, even when it’s obvious that progress is stalled.
There’s a lot to content marketing, to be sure. It’s overwhelming to small teams, especially. So get the help that you need. Just make sure that you hire someone who will treat this as a professional endeavor, even if it is your niece. Communicating with your audience—your current and potential customers—is the most important activity of your business.