Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Julie Bee, @BeeSmartSocial.
Julie Bee is the owner and operator of BeeSmart Social Media. Since 2010 BeeSmart has provided affordable social media services to hundreds of entrepreneurs, small businesses owners across the US. “We understand that entrepreneurs and small business owners wear many hats, and sometimes social media marketing falls by the wayside. We strive to provide affordable social media services that deliver high impact results,” says BeeSmart owner Julie Bee. For more information, visit: http://beesmartsocialmedia.com/
SmallBizLady: WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING FOR SMALL BUSINESS?
Julie Bee: Social media marketing for small business has many benefits. First, it’s a fantastic drip marketing platform, enabling your small business to stay top of mind with potential customers and clients. Social media marketing also helps build brand awareness, and gain followers and fans, for your small business. If one of your business goals is to build an email marketing list, social media marketing is one of the best ways to accomplish that goal.
Social media marketing can also help you find, engage with, and close new clients – if you approach it correctly. It can also help improve your website’s performance, through driving traffic to your website and enhancing how your company appears on search engines, like Google. Social media marketing can help you accomplish just about any goal you have for your business – and sometimes goals you didn’t even know you had!
SmallBizLady: WHEN SHOULD YOU STOP DOING YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING YOURSELF AND HIRE AN EXPERT?
Julie Bee: “I have plenty of time to do my social media marketing,” said no small business owner, ever. Most small business owners wear many hats and don’t have the time to focus on social media marketing. If you are in that situation, outsourcing your social media marketing to an expert can free up valuable time for you to focus on closing sales and growing your business.
Other reasons you would hire an expert to do your social media marketing is if you’ve hit a plateau with it. Many small business owners start out implementing their own social media marketing, but often hit a wall with results. No matter what they try, they can’t go any further with their social media marketing on their own. This is also a good sign that it’s time to hire an expert.
SmallBizLady: WHAT SHOULD THE ONBOARDING PROCESS ENTAIL?
Julie Bee: The onboarding process should start with a conversation about your business goals. How can the social media company help you, if they don’t know what you want to achieve in your business? After that conversation, the social media company should create a strategy for how they will help you achieve those goals through social media marketing. This strategy should also include success benchmarks, and plans for regular reporting, so that you can determine if the strategy is working for your business. Once you and your social media company decide on your strategy, the social media company can begin implementing the strategy for you.
SmallBizLady: WHICH PLATFORMS SHOULD A SOCIAL MEDIA PARTNER BE FAMILIAR WITH AND UTILIZE?
Julie Bee: A social media partner should be familiar with the platforms that are relevant to your small business. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Google+ are the primary social networks, but here are many others that may be relevant to your small business. A social media partner should be familiar with the primary social networks, and then any other social network that makes sense for your business. However, if a social media partner does not utilize a social network for their own business, don’t hold it against them. They likely have a very good reason for not utilizing every, single, social network available.
SmallBizLady: DO SMALL BUSINESSES NEED A SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY OR JUST A STEADY STREAM OF POSTS TO SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS?
Julie Bee: Small businesses need both a strategy and a steady stream of posts. Really, the steady stream of posts is PART of the social media strategy. The strategy helps small businesses achieve their business goals by providing a roadmap of how to implement social media marketing. The steady stream of posts, as long as those posts are in line with the social media strategy, will help the business to be viewed as a subject matter expert in its field. Curated content, or content written by someone else that you share on social, is one of the most important (and often overlooked) elements of the social media strategy. By combining original, unique content AND the best curated content, you become a top source for valuable, relevant information. That’s how you become a subject matter expert.
SmallBizLady: SOCIAL MEDIA IS A MARATHON- NOT A SPRINT, BUT HOW LONG BEFORE A BUSINESS SHOULD SEE RESULTS/SALES CONVERSIONS?
Julie Bee: This depends on MANY factors, such as industry, how many resources you put into social media marketing, products or services your company offer, your target audience, and many other factors. It also depends on what results you seek. If, for example, you want to grow your small business following, or send traffic to your website, those results happen in month 1. If you’re seeking leads, those tend to take longer. A good rule of thumb for sales leads is anywhere from 6-12 months, depending on the previously mentioned factors. Here at BeeSmart Social Media, we break down results into 3 phases:
Phase 1 Results – Social network side results, such as increased Facebook Likes, increased Twitter Followers, increased shares, retweets, and other types of engagement on the social networks. Expected timeframe – months 1-3
Phase 2 Results – Increased website traffic FROM your social media networks TO your website. Expected timeframes: With paid ads, this happens in month 1. Without paid ads, this begins in month 3-6.
Phase 3 Results – Potential customers recognize your company as a legitimate, trusted source for their needs. You’re the company they’ll call when they need your product/service. Expected timeframe: months 6-12.
SmallBizLady: WILL MY SOCIAL MEDIA PARTNER HANDLE CUSTOMER SERVICE ISSUES THAT ARISE?
Julie Bee: It depends. If this is something you want your social media partner to handle, ask them if they provide that service. Most social media marketing programs include customer service, because your existing customers are on social networks. Also, consumers tend to turn to social networks if they have a question or concern about products and services they’ve purchased.
If you work with a social media provider, make sure you discuss this up front, so there are no surprises. Also, if the social media provider will handle customer service for you, I recommend having a few “scripted” answers to FAQs your customers have regularly. You should also discuss what should happen if a customer leaves a negative review or comment – your social media provider will likely know best practices to follow, if a negative review shows up on your social media profiles.
SmallBizLady: WHAT IS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE YOU SEE WHEN SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS CHOOSE A SOCIAL MEDIA PARTNER?
They purchase it online, without talking to someone first. I see many small business owners purchase social media marketing services from a provider’s website, without speaking to a representative of the social media provider’s company. Then, the small business owner will fill out a standardized questionnaire, and turn over their social network login information. How can a company get your “voice” and represent your brand, without ever speaking to you? How can you trust that the social media provider won’t steal your social profiles?
When you partner with a social media marketing provider, it is essential to make sure you and the social media marketing provider are on the same page about goals, strategy, and brand voice. Otherwise, you’re leaving your social media marketing up to chance.
SmallBizLady: DOES EVERY BUSINESS, EVEN A SOLOPRENEUR, NEED A SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING PRESENCE?
Julie Bee: Yes, absolutely. Every business, solopreneurs included, needs a social media marketing presence. What shows up if you Google your business name? What shows up if you Google your personal name? If for no other reason, having a social media presence helps you protect, and somewhat control, what shows up in searches for your brand name and your personal name.
Also, your existing and potential customers expect you to have a social media presence. It validates to them that your business is a real business. It also provides them another way to get in touch with your business, in addition to your phone number, email, and website.
Finally, a social media presence provides your small business a way to stay top of mind with your existing customers. You can even offer your customers special promotions and discounts for following your business on social media. It’s an easy way to make your existing customers and Fans feel appreciated.
SmallBizLady: WHAT ARE SOME QUESTIONS A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER SHOULD ASK TO VET A SOCIAL MEDIA PARTNER?
Julie Bee: May I see at least 3 social profiles of current clients? The key here is to ask for current clients. Many service providers tout the results of projects they worked on 2-5 years ago. While the results may have been impressive then, the tactics used then likely won’t work now.
May I contact at least 2 current clients for a reference? The key here, again, is current. You want to talk with business owners who are currently working with the social media partner. This will give you a sense for how small business owners feel about this social media marketing provider, today, not 3 years ago.
Have you worked with businesses like ours? This question will give you an idea about the experience the social media provider has with your industry. If they answer yes, ask them about any unique issues or opportunities businesses like yours may find with social media marketing. If they say no, don’t write them off immediately. Ask them how they plan to gain the knowledge necessary to provide social media services for your business. That will give you some insight into how well they research your business, and your industry. It will also give you insights into how they approach creating a strategy for you.
What happens if we’re not happy with the results? Asking this question will show you how your potential new service provider handles customer service complaints.
Will you post content that is mostly about my industry? It doesn’t make sense for a moving company to post an image that says, “Happiness is the journey, not the destination.” That’s a real example! Some people may engage with this content because it is nice (or pretty), but ultimately, how does it help your business? While posting something like that once a month would be OK, posting similar images multiple times a week won’t help your business – it may even hurt it.
What questions do you have for me? This is two-way street, after all. Give your potential social media partner a chance to ask you some questions. A social media service provider should have some questions for you, especially about your business goals and OTHER marketing efforts you’ve implemented for your business. If they are really good, they’ll ask you questions about things you haven’t thought of, yet, but you immediately realize you NEED to think about.
SmallBizLady: WHAT RED FLAGS INDICATE THAT YOU SHOULD LOOK FOR A NEW SOCIAL MEDIA PARTNER?
Julie Bee: A few red flags that indicate you should look for a new social media partner include:
-Non-responsive to communication. If your social media partner won’t return your calls or emails after a reasonable amount of time, it’s time to move on.
-No reporting. If a social media partner provides no reporting on the status of your social media marketing, on at least a quarterly basis, it’s time to look for a new social media provider. Reporting is how you measure your progress, and without it, you’re wasting money.
-Does not act on your feedback. If you provide feedback to your social media partner, good or bad, and they do nothing with it, they aren’t listening to you. That’s a big red flag to move on.
-Does not innovate services. Social media marketing changes daily. If your social media company never updates their service offerings, they are not keeping up with trends. That likely means your social media marketing strategy is also falling behind.
SmallBizLady: HOW DO I LOCATE A QUALIFIED SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING PARTNER?
When hiring any business services provider, a great way to start is by asking for recommendations from trusted business connections. There’s a very good chance someone in your network knows at least one social media marketing expert. Bonus points if your business connection has used the social media service provider in the past, or is a current client now.
If referrals turn up empty, or to simply have more options, search on Google. It’s best to search a few keyword terms, like “social media marketing for small business,” and, “affordable social media,” based on your needs. You can also try industry-specific searches, like “insurance agency social media,” and, “car mechanic social media,” to see what comes up.
Once you search, find a few companies that have good reviews, and then reach out to them.
If you want a local company as your social media marketing partner, keep that in mind when searching. That will limit your selection of providers, but that is OK.
If you are open to working with social media providers who are not local, that will give you more options. With Skype, you can have a face to face meeting anywhere, anytime. Technology often helps make working with a provider that isn’t local easier than working with someone you have to schedule to meet in person.
You can also call your local Chamber of Commerce and ask for recommendations.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter. Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz For more tips on how to start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s bloghttp://www.succeedasyourownboss.com