Back when social media was still pretty new to mainstream America, I was working in financial services. It’s a highly regulated industry that’s not known for being on the cutting edge. As “finserv” marketers, we were called to be creative and innovative, but there were times when we just sighed a lot. And occasionally cursed.
As a career marketer who’d been focused on more traditional marketing, I was dying to get my hands on a company’s social media account. I desperately wanted to grow my expertise in the area and put into practice new strategies and tactics I read about online, learned at marketing and communication conferences and saw peers in other industries exploring.
If You Can’t Grow Your Experience At Work, Grow It Elsewhere
Since my day job didn’t afford me the opportunity to grow my expertise, I spent countless nights and weekends getting smarter and more confident about all things social media. I found courses to take (at my own expense), a related certification to work toward (after hours) and a few volunteer opportunities, where I managed Facebook pages for a business and a nonprofit (fun, educational and well worth my evening and weekend time).
And even though I wasn’t doing social media marketing at my day job, I asked my manager for a new title (Digital Marketer) that I thought better-represented my near-term aspirations and also the online-focused (but not social media) work I was doing at the financial services company.
A PowerPoint Preso to the Rescue!
I created a (quite compelling, I later learned) PowerPoint presentation to share with my manager, showing the evolution of my role and how digital marketing was a “thing” — and how I was doing it at the finserv company. My manager agreed the title made sense, and I was thrilled to update my LinkedIn account and company email signature with “Digital Marketer.”
Time went on and my social media marketing knowledge grew even more, but the hands-on part was still outside of work — except for the occasional question I would get from people in my company. (“Ask Melanie. She seems to know a lot about social media.”) So I took on two more small clients (with approval from my day job, of course) and did social media and other marketing work for them and continued some pro bono work for nonprofits.
Goodbye, Corporate America. Hello, Self-Employment
When I left corporate America at the end of 2015 (well, technically, it left me … but that’s a story for another day), I took my Digital Marketer title and social media marketing expertise with me. I found clients who would pay me for this type of work, as well as for my other marketing skills, like content development, blogging and creating and managing WordPress websites.
Fast-forward to today, where being a social media marketer (and a digital-focused marketer) is less of a distinction than it was before. Two of my marketing/communicator peers recently reminded me that my skills are still somewhat unique in that I can cover a broad spectrum … but they’re long-time friends and could be biased. Personally, I think that any marketer worth his or her salt must be versed in social media marketing — or at least understand its role in a company’s marketing mix.
Social Media Marketing Is Now a Commodity
Today, we all have personal social media accounts (if not three or four). Most businesses do, too. This has turned social media marketing services into a commodity, with companies having many options for getting this type of work done and at varying price points.
When it comes to social media marketing, a company can:
- Keep the work in-house.
- This could be asking the company’s resident marketer to do the social media work. Or a company could task its receptionist or someone else who’s known to have extra time on her/his hands or has the aptitude for or interest in the role. In small companies, the owner often takes on the role of posting on social media accounts.
- Find someone outside the company to do it (option A).
- A business owner can tap someone in his or her immediate circle to manage the company’s social media accounts, like the owner’s daughter, wife, brother, neighbor, cousin or best friend. (Once I heard it was an ex-wife. Interesting.)
- Find someone outside the company to do it (option B).
- Hire an agency or an independent marketer, like me.
- Find someone outside the company to do it (option C).
- Hire a low-cost resource — someone found on Fiverr or a virtual assistant in the U.S. or elsewhere, like the Philippines where there’s known to be a burgeoning industry of people managing US-based social media accounts.
Since I make my living, in part, by helping companies with social media marketing, you’d probably guess that I only like option 3. But I understand why companies choose other options, because it can be seen as too expensive to pay an experienced marketing professional or agency to manage their social media channels.
Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware)
Outsourcing anything comes with risks, once you let someone else represent your company and brand. I’ve been asked to review companies’ Facebook pages, for example, as part of a new-business pitch. I found examples that make me say, “You’re doing a pretty nice job with your Facebook page.” But I’ve found others where I have to politely say that I see typos, funky formatting and/pr overly promotional and other sub-par content on the Facebook pages. Was this because the owner was managing her social media account or because she had her sister doing it? I don’t always ask, but I have my assumptions.
I run my own business and know what it’s like to want to add a resource or new tool to my business but not have enough money to pay for it. A nice thing about living in the age we do is that we business owners have many options to choose from — technologies on our desktop computers, powerful apps on our phone and nifty online tools that help us with social media — and, yes, even people in far-away countries who it might make financial sense to hire.
And then there’s artificial intelligence (AI), which is quickly bot-walking its way into our lives. Soon, we could all have our very own AI social media manager … but will our future bot buddy (or options 1, 2 and 4 above, for that matter) know how to manage our social media accounts in a way that’s strategic, marketing-smart, creative, audience-focused and professional? No surprise, but I have my doubts. (I talk more on the topic of high-quality social media marketing here.)
Social Media Work is Worthwhile Work
I have two long-term social media clients who I help week-in and week out with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. I’ve helped many other clients with social media marketing, but only these two have stuck with it for more than three years. As you may have heard or experienced yourself, businesses (especially small companies) aren’t as enamored with using social media (Facebook, we’re talking to you!) as they were five years ago.
Recently, I’ve been sending out more social media proposals and would enjoy growing this part of my marketing business. But with my level of expertise in not just social media marketing but many things marketing, I’m often too pricey for companies. (If you’d like to know what I charge, here’s the information.)
Right as I was wrapping up this blog post, I read one from Seth Godin. (Bald guy. You may have heard of him. LOL) In “You can hire just about anyone …“, Seth is writing to someone like me who wants to be paid for their value; here’s an excerpt:
Websites that offer lowest common denominator jobs for freelancers (like Fiverr, Uber, ZocDoc, Mechanical Turk etc.) are focused on the generic. They intentionally blur the identities of the people doing the work — a simple star rating, a measure of reliability, that’s all.
These are easy jobs to get. If you’re the cheapest, you’ll be busy all day.
But is being cheap and busy the point?
Because that’s a race to the bottom. And the problem is that you might win that race. You’re not generic, so why act that way?
The alternative is to be distinct. To be uniquely you. To bring a point of view to the work, one that is worth seeking out, paying for and remarking on.
Even if you’re on the buying side of this conversation today and are reading my words because you want to outsource social media marketing, I hope you’ll get something from Seth’s words and what I shared here, too. Because I have a point of view on social media — one that’s worth seeking out and paying for.