Last week, I wrote a blog about the debate surrounding business owners’ decision to outsource their social media efforts or keep them in house. A reader named Joel Don posted a question asking how a company like ours handles these activities in terms of time management and cost. I’ve had a number of people ask us about this so I thought I would share the question and my response. I hope it lends some insight into the way our company carries out the day-to-day social media management operations for our clients.
Monitoring and posting to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, etc. plus tracking blog posts & comments can take several hours a day, depending on client requirements for volume of engagement and vigilance. Since agencies bill by time (even with a flat retainer you have to track hours to calc business metrics), outside support might be pricey for small and medium-sized businesses. Do you find greater cost efficiencies with an in-house resource doing the heavy lifting, or have you devised a budget approach that enables you to provide those SM services so that there is budget for other PR & marketing activities, such as traditional media relations, content development, design, collateral creation, measurement, etc?
Just an overview on how my company handles the overall operations…
All clients have social media content timed to run on software except for: when promoting a blog link, Pinterest pinning, Google+ messages, or LinkedIn Company profile messages. I adjust my pricing to reflect any work that needs done manually on those channels. Right now, we only have two clients who have Google+ messages and they are not as frequent as other channels such as Facebook or Twitter. We have several that use Pinterest and LinkedIn Company Profiles.
In terms of monitoring and engagement, I receive email notifications for all Facebook fan page and Pinterest interactions. We check LinkedIn and Twitter accounts at least once daily and interact, accordingly. At any time, I can log into my software and see all notifications for all clients instantly. All of our clients are signed up for Google alerts and social mentions, which are sent to my email if there is any interaction. Most blogs also allow for email notifications. Clients choose whether they would like me to be notified or if they would prefer the notification. If the notification goes to me, I coordinate with the client appropriately.
What takes the most time is the content development. Unless otherwise requested, we draft most of the content for the social sites and blogs and this content is then approved by the client. This involves a great deal of planning and coordinating. It also requires a good relationship and communication system with the client.
All that being said, every client has different needs and different levels of management. I offer packages based on the strategy we develop. Sometimes, I spend more time than planned, but I would never nickel and dime them for that time.
The non-financial advantages of hiring someone like me: consistency, creativity, and knowledge of social media. The financial advantages: the cost is still way below the cost of an employee. Taxes, payroll costs and insurance alone can equate to more than what they would pay an outside party.
Regarding your last question, we take a look at everything when meeting with prospects for the first time. We learn their goals, challenges, resources, finances and current marketing initiatives. It's important that we devise a plan that will a) meet their online goals b) enhance or integrate with current marketing and/or advertising, PR, or communications efforts c) give them the best value for their budget (again, integrating/working with not necessarily 'taking from' other marketing avenues), d) minimize the time the client needs to spend on their efforts by establishing a communication system that works best for them and e) measure and evaluate so we can benchmark but also remain flexible to shift efforts based on these results and/or changes in new media.
If the client would like to do the heavy-lifting, the cost is always less, especially if they prefer to develop the content. Overall, I find if clients wish to manage social media in-house, they hire someone like me for consulting/training/coaching. I become a resource, accountability partner, and consultant to these efforts.
Great article. Thanks for sharing. If you don't mind my asking, what software do you use?
Thanks for reading.
We use a software called Sendible.
Rachel, I never imagined my question would turn into a follow-up post. Thank you! You provide further elucidation on the practice, and I imagine clients probably don't appreciate how much time is usually given away by agencies, especially the smaller ones. Of course, when I worked in corporate PR I never was paid for overtime, and there was plenty of that (and I enjoyed every minute of it). One of the areas that gets dicey is when timed dispersal of social updates and/or content leads to increased engagement (the problem you want to have). Eventually engagement levels should exceed the volume of scheduled updates, which means the client is getting more interaction and the agency is delivering more (billable) service. The ROI metrics should track that activity and tangentially the client should see the results on the balance sheet.
You're right, Joel - interesting point. The time dispersed doing the 'smaller tasks' is hard to calculate as well. ROI is a topic in and of iteself. I find there are a lot of lurkers out there, which is hard to track!