Guest Blogger! Benson Hendrix

I have been a little under the weather and have been remiss in my blogging.  I’d like to welcome a guest blogger this week, Benson Hendrix, APR.   Benson is an Adjunct Professor at the University of New Mexico, and teaches Social Media.  Like me, he believes a professional should handle your Social Media.  Where we differ is that my approach is more marketing and advertising and he is an expert in the public relations field.  2e4ea05I thought it might be nice for you to learn from his point of view.  In the following blog, he tells you why a professional is best.  

I present to you, Adjunct Professor, Benson Hendrix, APR.

Social Media Amateur or Professional?

 

So you’re looking to increase your business’ profile on social media. Congratulations! Focusing on improving your profile online is a great move. But it has to be the correct focus, you can’t just jump into social media and think that it’s a quick add-on for their business. Create a Facebook page, update it every so often and that’s that.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Social media is (still) a new communications channel that’s growing and evolving, with new branches sprouting all of the time (SnapChat, WhatsApp, Tumblr, etc.). Plus there are tried-and-true tools, like blogging and online video, that many are still overlooking that need to be a part of your organization’s complete digital presence. Once a business decides to jump into social media, many of them immediately start looking for someone to run the program.

This is when you need to ask yourself to figure out if you’re hiring a social media amateur, or a social media professional. There are a lot of wonderful social media professionals in New Mexico, people who can really help build your business’ social media presence the right way. There are also a lot of social media snake oil salespeople. People who run “successful Facebook pages” but can’t translate that into an impact. I hope this post will help you separate the wheat from the chaff as you hire your social media team.

One of my favorite statements from people is “why should I hire a professional when I can get my nephew/niece/cousin/son’s friend/etc. to do it for minimum wage?”  Well, other than the fact that you get what you pay for, let me give you a series of questions that I usually respond with.

Do their social media goals match your business goals?

You’re in business for a reason, and your social media team needs to sit down with you before kicking off any social media campaign to talk about your business goals. Do you want to increase sales? Improve customer relations? Raise awareness of an issue? Increase donations to a nonprofit? Win election or re-election? Do you want them to create interesting content and engage with your customers on social media?

Do they recommend creating your own social media hub and diversifying your social media program? Or are they promoting outsourcing all of your social media content to Facebook and Twitter?  Original social media tools like blogs are still important for organizations to be found through Google search, which is still how many of your potential customers will find you.  If your agency isn’t focused on using a variety of tools to help you connect to your audience, including a blog, then they aren’t focused on helping you increase your revenue.

Social media is just one part in a successful communication, customer relations, or community relations effort. It does give you the opportunity to connect with customers faster than before.

Just as important – Can they spell?

Retro vintage font type. Vector alphabetThis sounds like a question that should be a no-brainer, but there are people claiming to be social media professionals who don’t understand the basics of English. I’ve seen press releases that have been missing many grammar basics, like the fact that quotation marks (“) are used to start and end a quotation and proper nouns (names of businesses, the names of the products you sell, etc.) are capitalized.

Your social media team is a reflection of your company. If your social media team is unable to use proper grammar and spelling, even on a short text platform like Twitter, your company looks unprofessional, and it impacts your bottom line.

Giving You The Playbook

An agency or other social media professional should be able to provide you with a plan for how they are going to achieve your business goals. While this plan may not provide a day-by-day update of blog posts, or infographics/etc. that will be created, it does need to provide your organization with the basic path to achieve your goals. This playbook should be tailored to your needs, and they should be able to sit down with you, walk you through what they are going to do for your organization, and how that will improve your business.

Does Everyone Sound the Same?”

Once they take over your social media accounts do you see a lot of interaction with other clients of this agency? Or the people working at the agency?  This is one of the oldest tricks in the social media snake oil book. An agency convinces you to hire them, promising you a lot of interaction with “key influencers” (while not providing you a list of those targeted people), and you see a sudden, almost miraculous, increase in engagement (with the same seven or eight accounts it turns out) without any real growth in your business goals (see above).

If this is the case, and the other social media profiles you interact the most with sound the same, or their messages have the same “feel” to them – for instance, if you run a club and you get three or four similar “Oh my God! This place rocks!! I LOVE THIS PLACE!!!” responses to something that was posted on your behalf, (and if you get those comments from the same handful of accounts over and over) then you’re not getting actual growth and development online. Your agency is probably using these accounts to make it appear that you are getting more online attention than you really are. And what’s more interesting, they are probably using your account to comment on these other client social media accounts as well.

Ask your agency how they intend to reach out to those very important people online, and how they will nurture a positive relationship on your behalf, not for you and other clients.

Is Your Team Looking to Promote the Positive?

Is the agency in question looking to create false accounts, or looking to push a negative, “victim” mentality for your organization online? While negative advertising works in political campaigns, it can’t help you build your business online.

Your agency should be telling you how they will promote your organization in a positive light. Positive stories help build brand loyalty much more than negative stories about your competition, especially if it promotes an “us vs. them” mentality. Most consumers don’t want to worry about this level of high school drama from business owners, they want an enjoyable experience with your organization. This may help bolster a small core group of supporters in the short-term, but in the long-term people may remember your company more for “whining” than for its products.

“Likes” vs. “Goals”

Goals PlanAre they charging, or promising to charge, based on how many followers or likes they get your organization?

If an agency asks you to pay them in part based on how many Facebook fans or Twitter followers they get your organization, ask them where those fans will be based, and what impact will they have on your bottom line. Where will those fans be located?

You need to ask these questions because it is incredibly easy in 2014 to purchase thousands of Facebook fans or Twitter followers for a small amount of money. Many times these followers come from countries that are unrelated to your organization’s needs, and are unlikely to turn into meaningful connections or paying customers.

Doing Your Own Research

Check out the social media accounts of the professionals you want to work with. If someone is going to be in charge of developing your business or personal social media brand, how active are they on social media?

This is a delicate balance, you want someone who is active on social media, but not so active in their personal accounts that they will neglect your organization’s social media accounts to promote their own agenda or build their “personal brand.”

Are they just creating content to be goofy, or try to build as many followers as possible? It’s good to have fun online, and it’s nice to have a variety of content that your potential audience will find interesting. But if your social media professional is relying too heavily on images that don’t relate to your business, or if they are promoting new ideas that don’t make sense (ask yourself, do you really need drone-based photography? If you’re a Realtor, maybe. If you’re a candy shop, probably not).

Another question worth asking is, what groups have they worked with? Can they provide you with references? If they do provide you with references or other clients they have worked with, you can look at their This may not be as important if you’re working with a new professional or agency. If you’re among the agency’s first few clients, you need to understand that they’ll be cutting their teeth with your business, and mistakes may happen along the way.

How is your social media team monitoring the online terrain? Are they paying attention to the local, regional and national trends and news stories that might be impacting your industry and providing you advice on how you can benefit from it?

 Social media is just one part in a successful communication, customer relations, or community relations effort. It gives you the opportunity to tell your own success story and connect with customers faster than before. It’s worthwhile to make sure you have the right social media team in place from the start.

thank you note

Many thanks to Benson Hendrix, APR, Adjunct Professor at UNM!!  Please check out his blog about business, public relations and a side of ruby, at:  http://bensonhendrix.com/

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