Beware: Social Ninjas
We've seen a rash of companies hiring "Social Media Directors" lately. For about 1/4 of them, it's a really good idea. For the other 3/4 it's just a way to give a self-proclaimed “social media guru” license to goof around on Facebook all day. Some of these gurus (occasionally they call themselves "Social Networking Rock Stars" or "Social Samurais") have fell in to jobs simply because companies have either haphazardly created social media programs because of the buzz, or worse, because they think social media is a golden ticket that will make all of their advertising and marketing dreams come true.
We love social media. It plays a big role in how we run our own businesses, and we have clients that we have worked with on very successful social campaigns. But we hate to see good businesses waste money. If you’re one of those groups that is debating between hiring someone, using someone internal, or outsourcing your social networking to your marketing or advertising firm, here's a few things to think about.
First, social media has little to with the actual use of Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and LinkedIn and everything to do with how you represent your business online. Ideally the person responsible for your social networking will be someone who has a solid marketing background, a good awareness of your company's identity, and someone you can trust to react appropriately in an array of scenarios ranging from simple promotional posts to responding to angry customers. It's a tricky gig. If you’re someone not familiar with the industry, it’s pretty easy to listen to one of the self-proclaimed experts and think they really know what they’re doing. Fans, Followers, Likes, Retweets, Check-ins, Mayors etc. apply to the media, and they’re important, but what’s more important is knowing how to communicate to your audience, and that's really what you need to look for.
So first, consider what your business’ role is in social media. What do you have to say? How will you interact with people? What do you have to offer the community? What tone will you take?
Next, decide What are your goals. Branding (i.e. keeping your name in the public eye)? Do you want to drive traffic to your web site? Do you want to directly create sales or generate foot traffic? Do you need to manage PR or customer service issues? Probably some mix of those.
After you know those things, you'll know what type of person you'll need. This is when you can start to consider how much time/money you need to put into social media. For most small and mediums sized companies, it's not a full time position, not even close. If you decide to manage your own social media, take the time to lean the tools and tricks and give it plenty of time to take off… it’s not easy. If you use someone within your company or outsource, choose a good communicator. Most advertising or marketing groups offer this service, or you can tap you existing internal marketing team. Avoid the kid off the street and never task your shy, angry IT guy with social media just because it involves technology. If you do end up hiring someone, get a pro that will be consistent with your marking efforts and who will stay true your company’s core values. Generally if your company doesn't have or wouldn’t hire a marketing director, it's probably not time for a Social media ninja. After all, social media is just one piece of the puzzle.
Also, look for ways to automate. Our local business directory in Wichita - 360Wichita.com offers a tool that allows a business to update their 360Wichita page, their company website, their Facebook page, and their Twitter account all with one update. Less time = less cost.
Remember social media is evolving. We know it's going to play a big part in marketing in the future, but let the dust settle a little before making huge investments. Closely monitor your social activities, make sure your fan base is growing, make sure you're engaging customers in discussions, make sure people click your links and like your posts, monitor your wed traffic. In other words make sure what you're doing is working. Expect a return on your social media investment, just like any other marketing.