May 16, 2021

By: 
Rachel Strella

13 Questions and Answers About Running a Social Media Business

social media business

Highlights from My Virtual Visit With Shippensburg University Students

On May 10th, I had the opportunity to speak to 28 students enrolled in a social media strategies class at Shippensburg University. 

Since this was the last class of the semester, we decided on a Q&A style format for the virtual presentation. In addition to asking questions, the students also tweeted live throughout the discussion. 

I fielded many thoughtful questions from the students. I was surprised at how many individuals asked about my entrepreneurial experience! Below, I’ve highlighted some of my favorite questions and how I responded to them. I’ve also shared some of the students’ tweets.

Q1. What were some of the challenges you faced when starting your own social media firm?

The biggest challenge was overcoming my initial lack of knowledge about how to run a business. A written business plan can only take you so far. A plan is useless without real knowledge of how to start and operate a business. There are many moving parts: having a vision, establishing values, interacting with people, leveraging data, dealing with issues, fine-tuning processes, and gaining traction in the market. It can be especially difficult to figure out how much to charge clients and identify where to set boundaries for what you will and won’t do for customers.

Q2. What were some of the lessons you learned as you started to get more clients? 

I learned to not sell myself short on pricing. Charging too little for professional services can result in attracting clients who don’t value the expertise and quality you bring to the table. I also discovered quickly that it’s important to stick to the scope of work agreed upon. If you go above and beyond what the contract says you will do, then clients will always expect you to do more for the same pay. 

Another significant thing I learned is that, to succeed, I cannot handle everything alone. I need more hands on deck to work in the business so that I can work on the business.

Q3. Was social media work ever on your radar as something you wanted to get into, or was it something you found later?

As a communications major in college, I wanted to be a journalist. Running a social media firm was never on my radar.

Q4. What does a day in the life as the CEO of Strella Social Media look like?

Every day is different. Some of the activities and tasks include:

  • Communicating with my team and clients
  • Preparing for meetings
  • Resolving issues
  • Going to meetings with my business coach or lawyer
  • Working on proposals
  • Creating an editorial plan for my business’s content
  • Planning the content for my clients 

As the company grows, I’ve shifted how I spend my time. With more team members who can handle our day-to-day operations, I’m able to spend more time leading my team and planning our business strategy.

Q5. Why did you want to start a social media company soon after your first job in social media?

I never had a social media job before starting my business! 

Q6. How has COVID-19 affected your work and everyday life?

I think I’ve experienced fewer effects from the pandemic than many other people and types of businesses. However, the COVID-19 crisis certainly has impacted how I work. For example, my spouse also now works from home, and we share the same workspace. That makes it challenging to coordinate meetings and calls. 

Also, I’ve found my ADD is a little worse! Our business grew during the pandemic. So, I am pulled in a lot of directions as we take on new customers and scale our team to meet the increased demand for our services. 

Q7. Which social media platform do you think has the biggest influence on getting your messages across?

My blog, for sure! It has been active for 11 years and has gained a strong following. In fact, my top customer found me on Medium

Q8. How do you help your clients become thought leaders in their industries?

First, clients must want to help themselves. They need to commit to the content plan we create, which usually requires two to three hours of their time each month. Believe it or not, many business owners, especially solopreneurs, find it difficult to carve out that time on their schedules.

Clients also need to have a niche that differentiates them from others in their field. For example, I have one client who is a leadership coach. He has set himself apart by focusing on helping business leaders establish and implement their organizations’ core values.

Last but not least, they need a source of rich content (e.g., blog, podcast or video series) and be willing to spend the time and effort on developing it for at least 18 months. That level of dedication is necessary for achieving a reputation as a thought leader. 

Q9. How do you generate leads? Is there a certain software you use, or do you rely mainly on word of mouth?

I know that many people rely on technology to do the work for them, but I view technology as just a tool to help us do our jobs. 

My leads come from two primary sources:

  • Inbound inquiries, as a result of years of blogging and syndication
  • Word of mouth and the referrals it generates

Q10. Do you use an external content planning site? If so, what is your favorite?

I need something that my team members and clients can access, so we use Trello for organizing projects and Google Docs and Google Sheets for content planning. 

Q11. For someone who wants to start their own social media company, what would be the biggest piece of advice you could give them?

I would want them to know there is still a lot of misunderstanding about what social media can do and its role in the marketing landscape. A lot of their job will be educating their prospects. 

Many clients will want blanket expertise that covers social media, SEO, content development, website, lead generation, video editing, and graphic design. Anyone getting into this industry should identify what they do well and stick to it!

Q12. What skills make the best social media professionals?

There needs to be a combination and balance of professional strengths, including attention to detail, creativity, strong work ethic, flexibility, resourcefulness, and a readiness to work nearly any time. Oh, and also grit!

Q13. What advice do you have for graduating seniors as they are about to enter the real world?

Try not to expect anything immediate. It’s important to know what skills you bring to the world, but it’s also critical to understand that it will take time to find your dream career. Realize you may have to be willing to start at the bottom to gain the necessary experience to advance yourself professionally.

I believe you’re entering the workforce at a really opportune time. The gig economy is in full swing, which has opened a lot of possibilities for those who have not yet found (or want) a full-time job. Sites like Upwork and Fivver are great places to start building a portfolio and earn a little money, too. 

Entrepreneurs In the Making?

My interaction with the intelligent and inquisitive students at Shippensburg University highlighted how the current business landscape has changed the way people think about career paths. I’m encouraged and impressed by the students’ interest in learning what it takes to start and grow a company. 

Could these young folks be headed for careers as business owners? No matter what they decide to do professionally, I wish them the very best. They have a bright future ahead of them!

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2 comments on “13 Questions and Answers About Running a Social Media Business”

  1. Hi Rachel, I love this quote "Always know your self-worth and never at any time cut yourself short on costs."
    When I first started I started with low rates and find it hard to up them going into year 3. I did one year increase them but still, it is not enough with the amount of time I spend creating graphics for social media posts, etc.
    I have a few freelancers too that help out and I need to pay them as well. So I'd recommend starting with higher rates than you think when you start out as everything takes more time and social media changes fast. You have to keep on top of it all at the same time!

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