Mistakes. They’re a dime a dozen. But they can cost us a whole lot more if we keep on making the same dumb ones.
This is part of the “Don’t Make The Same Mistake Twice” series, in which I discuss topics that have fouled up my small business (and some even not-so-small-business) clients before. But more importantly, they’re mistakes that I have seen people repeat.
You can afford to make mistakes. But you can’t afford to keep making them. Take a lesson from some bad situations and if you can’t help but step into the manhole the first time, at least walk around it the second. So if you’ve hired a social media marketing manager – or you’re thinking of hiring one – consider these mistakes and steer clear.
1. I’m The Expert. Trust Me.
Recently I wrote a healthy rant about why hiring an expert is a big mistake. You can read that here.
But more than hiring a (self-proclaimed) expert, blindly trusting that expert can really cost you.
Now, you may wonder why you should bother hiring someone at all if they’re not going to know what they’re doing.
Ah! But I didn’t say they shouldn’t know what they’re doing. They absolutely 100% should.
But what they shouldn’t do is tout their expertise, use some big or vague words, tell you that you can’t understand it all because you’re not a marketer and then go ahead and market your business on your behalf with little to no input from you.
I get it. You’re busy. You want someone you can trust, someone who will take the reigns and just make stuff happen. You want to go about the business of running your business, not micromanaging a Facebook campaign or an email blast or a tweet.
But when it comes to your business and the messages you put out – whether you put those messages out personally or a social media marketing manager does it for you – a little managing will go a long way.
Case in point. I spoke with a prospect once who had just fired his prior marketing manager for taking it upon herself to send out an email campaign on behalf of his company, without his knowledge or approval.
Now, that might not have been so bad except for the fact that she also got a very key bit of information wrong – one that could have created rather unpleasant blowback for his company.
They mitigated near-disaster in the end but the problem went even deeper than a misfired campaign. The problem was, this manager had declared herself the “expert” and was running campaigns and taking actions without even a “hey, what do you think?”
I don’t know about you, but the inner OCD child in me screams in horror at the thought of someone taking over my marketing, putting my messages out into the world, speaking for me.
Even after this particular event, the marketing manager insisted that all was right in the world. That she knew what she was doing. That it hadn’t been a mistake but rather a strategic choice.
Mistake, choice or whatever you want to call it, nobody has any right to do anything on behalf of your business without your knowledge and approval.
If you hired someone who insists on being the “expert”, who fails to tell you what’s going on, who neglects to get your sign-off, who shrouds her actions in secrecy or vagueness, fire her. Right now.
2. The Blurred Lines Between Business And Personal
My company has social accounts. Each of us also has our own personal social accounts. Sometimes we post the same things to both. Blog posts, fun photos, interesting tidbits.
That makes it sometimes tough to draw lines between business and personal. For many small businesses, the people are the business.
So we cross-share, try not to over-share and follow some simple rules to make sure all our accounts reflect positively on our business and on us.
The problem arises when businesses fail to be mindful of those two distinct spaces. And the problem manifests in two ways.
One, businesses tend to get too chatty and casual. They take “personal branding” a bit too far and start talking current events, politics and (God forbid) religion. If those are integral to your products and services, great. But for most of us we would do well to keep business separate.
You see this problem sometimes under the guise of “newsjacking”, when a company takes a trending topic and throws in its two cents. From natural disasters to national crises to which baseball team just traded which player and what’s really in that taco you ate last night… the comments come in fast and… well, stupid. And they can land a company in hot water.
The second way the problem manifests is a result of pure, simple mindlessness. And it happened to me.
I once hired someone to manage social accounts for our clients. An “expert”, if you will. Someone who should, at least, have known better.
A few days went by and then I noticed an odd stream of messages going out on one client’s accounts. These messages had nothing to do with my client’s products or services. They were out-of-left-field.
Turns out my manager had been scheduling personal tweets and instead of selecting her own account, had selected my client’s.
Fortunately, the messages were harmless but it looked pretty stupid and it could have been much worse.
I’m big on forgiveness and second chances, but sometimes, especially in these days of social media and instant backlash, you only get one chance. I took a zero-tolerance approach to that gaffe and fired her immediately. Lucky for me, my client didn’t do the same, but I wouldn’t have blamed him if he did.
3. Post It Again, Sam.
Managing a social media presence is hard. It requires thinking, planning, strategy, tactics, engaging, measuring, adjusting and doing it all over again.
That’s exactly why you will never find an “expert” in social media. There is just too much ground to cover, and it shifts constantly under your feet.
And it’s also why you will find so many people offering you inexpensive social marketing services.
Sounds like a contradiction, but think about it… social takes time. Time costs money. Lots of people are short on both, so along comes the expert who is going to save you. And the way they save you is by offering a minimal service at a minimal cost that gives you the illusion of marketing.
We covered this, in part, when Ralph talked about content curation.
The problem with that approach is that marketing is done by rote. A tweet today. An email tomorrow. Two Facebook posts on Saturdays. Curate 80% of the time and post original content 20% of the time. Or so the expert rulebook says.
And what is the result of this effort? Usually… exactly nothing. Noise. A busy social stream devoid of original thought, comments, engagement, return on investment. But it looks good on paper.
A prospect I met once had fired social manager after social manager because he wasn’t getting any results. He wasn’t inclined to hire me, either, because he had already decided social media was a waste of time. But it didn’t take a lot of examination to figure out that all he had been doing was hiring the next inexpensive person to make his stream look busy without any real focus on purpose or results.
And rightly firing them, but instead of living and learning, he went right to hiring the next person who posted useless things to his social accounts.
If your social marketing manager is doing anything repetitious, fire her immediately.
That doesn’t mean you can’t post consistently or even on a schedule but part of running a successful social presence is seeing what works, tossing out what doesn’t and adapting.
A Short List Of Tips To Help You Hire The Right Social Media Manager The First Time. And Definitely The Second.
Like I said, sometimes you have to make a mistake before you can correct it. But if you’re reading this, you should consider yourself ahead of the game. Hopefully you’ll have a better arsenal when it comes to vetting social managers and you’ll be able to cut the cord on anyone who isn’t providing you with a service worth paying for.
Have faith in your own expertise. You don’t need to be an “expert” or even a marketer to know your customers. And if someone ever says or does something that contradicts what you know about your own business then be sure to challenge them.
Fire if necessary.
And only work with someone who recognizes that you have a valuable contribution to make.
Don’t trust blindly. I don’t care how experienced or amazing someone is, never give them free reign to simply market and go. Never be too busy to oversee the process.
When your marketing manager asks for your approval, pay attention to what you’re approving.
Be immune to the sales pitch. We all want to know our investment is going to pay off. But rarely are there guarantees in life, and someone who tells you they’ll increase your ROI or your followers or anything by some specific amount is either going to be doing something you don’t know about or is just making things up.
Don’t be afraid to play the skeptic. Ask questions. Make sure you understand what you’ll be paying someone to do on behalf of your business.
Never hire someone who isn’t 100% transparent about tactics and realistic about results.
Never manage personal and business accounts with the same tools. It’s tempting to connect all your social accounts to one tool. You can sign up for Buffer, Hootsuite or any number of scheduling services and connect a ridiculous number of accounts.
It only takes one mis-click to choose your business Facebook page to post that naked photo of you from last weekend’s Bachelorette party instead of your personal page.
Either use a separate tool entirely or create two accounts.
And while we’re on the subject, beware the mobile post. In fact, I would advise against connecting your business profiles to your mobile phone at all. It’s too easy to have that extra glass of wine and by accident or otherwise post something untoward to your business accounts.
Pay attention. Sure, you’re busy. But your reputation depends on you being able to find a few minutes to spot-check your accounts to make sure your marketing manager is on point.
Ask questions. This applies not only to when you’re hiring someone, but for the rest of your relationship with that person. Ask why. Ask what for. And how come. Ask whether there’s a better way. A good marketer will welcome the opportunity to engage with and educate you.
Expect a dialogue. There is no “set it and forget it” approach to marketing. When you hire someone to market on your behalf, you should be engaged with that person on an ongoing basis.
Expect – demand – that you get one-on-one time on a regular interval to talk strategy, tactics and results. Use that time to ask more questions and to continuously educate your marketing person about your business.
Never rinse and repeat. At no point should your marketing become rote. You want to know that someone is paying attention to results, throwing out the least effective tactics, adopting new ones and doing more of what works.
It’s hard to fire someone. But when it’s your business on the line, your money, your sales, your reputation – you learn to close your eyes and point at the door.
And if that happens, if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to fire someone for one of these reasons or any reason at all, the best thing you can do is learn from it.
Don’t hire the same person in a different body. Stop, consider what you learned and find someone better.
Have I helped you see more clearly about hiring the right social media manager? Got any nagging questions that are keeping you up at night about your current manager? Drop me a comment or even an email and I’d be happy to share my experience with you!
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Join the discussion 10 Comments
Great post here, Carol — I’m glad someone said it. I love your point on setting it and forgetting it. With so much automation available, it’s so easy to get caught up in scheduling, bulk messaging, and auto-replies, that you forget to go back and engage, and BE HUMAN!
At the end of the day, if you’re not engaging and adapting to your target audience, then you’ve missed the mark (and the point) completely.
Word to other readers: if you’re completely dependent on automated services for your social media presence, just remember you get out what you put in.
Ok — rant over. 🙂
That was the quickest rant ever! Over-automating is definitely a problem. It’s a good idea to simplify and to save time but the point, as you say, is to be human and engage.
Great round up Carol and nicely put. Hiring social/community managers without the mindset your article takes will typically result in sub care, performance and ROI for the business.
I would generally advise small businesses to outsource social management as little as possible. It’s important to be the face of your business and not be too hands off.
Fantastic topic, Carol Lynn. One of my most popular posts of old stated that I was proud not to be an expert. It’s nearly impossible to profess expertise when the world of social changes daily, if not hourly. Each client is different – unique, and each social media plan must take the difference into account and work with that unique nature to create real messages that mean something to the brand and the audience. Expertise is a nice idea, a quick word you can add to a bio, but it’s those that realize that every day is a challenge and go into that challenge creatively that really make things happen.
Isn’t it funny how the real smart people in the world don’t want to tell everyone how smart they are 🙂 It’s the people who need to make a point about it that worry me! If you’re really that much of an expert, my feeling is that your actions will speak for themselves.
I agree Carol Lynn, I don’t think a Social Media Manager should be writing the content for a business. In my mind a Social Media Manager only promotes a company’s own communications on relevant social channels to further their reach. A SMM who takes over the marketing of the company and brand doesn’t have the best interests of that company at heart.
I think this article helps to put SMMs on the right path!
Let’s hope so! Marketers have to collaborate with the businesses they help otherwise it’s just more random noise.
#1 is definitely a no-no. It’s one of the worst ways to pitch your services to prospects. In the digital agency that I work for, we always refrain from calling ourselves as “marketing experts” or “gurus.” Scratch that. The phrase is forbidden in the company. Rather we like to refer to ourselves, marketing explorers always seeking new information.
Especially in digital marketing, a field that uses ever-changing fast-paced technology, one shouldn’t really call him/herself as an expert. Yesterday’s big buzz, is today’s outdated case study.
“Marketing explorers”. I like that. It’s pretty much what marketing is. You start with an idea and test it an keep going!