How do I become a social media expert for free?
OMG has recently celebrated its 5th anniversary which for some industries is nothing but in the digital marketing world is ancient! Lockdown has allowed me the headspace to reconnect with the love and passion of what I do – which I think shows in the relationships I have with my clients. But it’s also given me the chance to join social media groups and forums which seems to be full of people asking, “How do I become a social media expert for free?”
We all have to start somewhere, and I am very supportive of anyone who wants to become self-employed – even more so with women. But digital marketing and social media is perceived as a side hustle or a cheap marketing channel – something which can be done easily and with very little investment. If you google side hustles, digital marketing is often listed. It’s also an ‘add on’ service for many VA’s which I mentioned in a previous blog.
Using the platforms is obviously free which makes the tools very accessible to everyone – an estimated 4.5 billion people are on social media – and they are as essential to a business as a website and phone number. But your businesses social media presence is a daily representation of your reputation, products, customer service and - more importantly - your social proof. You will never know how many potential customers you have lost by not having a presence or by having a very badly run page.
But because this is such a new industry it’s open to any Tom, Dick and Harriet becoming an overnight 'expert' and this then damages the reputation for those like me who are dedicated, professional and know what they’re doing!
The cowboys of the social media world will baffle you with a little bit of what they know and then once they have signed you up as a client, will google the rest or go on forums to find out how to do what you are paying them to do. Here are some questions asked recently in a social media ‘professional’ Facebook group;
“LOOKING FOR AN A* CONTENT MARKETER FOR MY STARTUP. PLS GET IN TOUCH IF YOU ARE A MARKETING GENIUS” (Read that as "I want someone for as cheaply as possible and I'm going to SHOUT AT YOU ABOUT IT!")
“Can anyone plz recommend any decent FB or IG Business Pages/Accs to learn and take value from in the 'Property Development' niche?” (Read that as "I want to be paid to copy someone else’s work")
“I need some advice. I am a primary school teacher living in XYZ. I am interested in becoming a social media marketing/ admin and supporting small businesses in these areas. I don’t have experience in this line of work. Any advice on how to get my first clients? How much to charge customers? Can you recommend any social marketing courses I can complete online?” (This one made my blood boil! Teachers are amazing but how can they charge clients when they have no commercial or marketing experience!)
So, what skills do I believe are needed to run a professional social media agency?
A creative eye for graphics
Sense of humour
Grammar and spelling aficionado
Ability to write with flair and imagination
Coach / Counsellor
Those skills can’t be acquired overnight, nor can they be acquired for free. They take years of hard work, qualifications and investment in time, energy and money.
I've heard told many times “I’ve got a daughter / student / intern who can do my social media for me for free / pocket money.” They may be amazing but what that tells me is that you don’t appreciate the power of reaching new prospects every single day. Teenagers are often viewed as being cheap yet knowledgeable labour who are social media savvy as they’re on it all day every day. I have two sons (aged 20 and 18) who I love dearly but would never allow anywhere near my clients! Do they understand socio-economic groups, tone of voice, Call To Actions, how to upload a URL to avoid using the thumbnail image, define an audience for an ad campaign, spell using ‘proper’ words? IDTS! (The perils of teenagers is that they abbreviate everything...)
And there are some working practices which do not sit comfortably with me and my ethos. Personally, I won’t represent a client on a personal LinkedIn page unless I know them very well. I can’t become ‘you’ online, but I can become your business. I won’t know the relationships you have with your LinkedIn connections – did you go to school with them and therefore have a ‘banter’ style conversation or are they a potential lead you are trying to impress? This, for me, is disingenuous but some agencies do do this.
My advice when looking for a social media manager;
Look at their social media – most agencies profiles are awful! If they can’t represent themselves well, how will they represent you? Is their content fresh, with interesting comments which are spelt correctly? It matters!
Read their online reviews – Facebook, Google and LinkedIn are genuine reviews which gives them social proof.
What experience do they have? – if you are a HR consultancy, for example, can they find and create relevant and current content which makes you look like the expert?
What qualifications do they have? – I am biased as I put a lot of emphasis on qualifications but if they have a professional qualification it demonstrates a commitment to the industry, their business and in turn their clients.
What is their personality? – are you aligned with someone who is quiet, loud, introvert or extrovert? Are they going to make sure that your online persona matches your offline? There has to be a synergy.
Question their passion and integrity – are they as passionate about your business as you are? Do they genuinely get a buzz from every message you get, every Like and engagement? They are becoming ‘you’ and you are paying them – you should get your money’s worth.
There are no shortcuts in any profession that will bring you longevity or a strong reputation. Good isn't cheap and cheap isn't good...