Kate Rose

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What does social media management cost?

When we started Rose McGrory, our intention was that most of the work we do would be outsourced management; helping SME type businesses, or other smaller organisations, get up and running on social media even if they didn’t have the skills in house or want to commit to employing someone full time.

As the business has evolved, we do less and less of it.

As of now, probably around two thirds of our work is on bespoke training, consultancy, or projects which are a hybrid of the two. So that leaves a third which is management work. We were reflecting on the reasons why at a recent review, and thought that the explanation might be helpful to a lot of people – potential clients, but also other agencies in related areas who we’re working on joint projects with.

Why have we reduced our social media management work?

One reason is the type of client relationship that’s needed. For outsourced management to work well, it really helps if the agency and the client share a similar approach – in our case, pragmatic and with high standards of customer care.

Not everyone likes to work that way, it turns out: there’s been more than one presentation where the client’s disappointment at our lack of unprovable claims and hyperbole about what social media could do for them, was almost palpable, and our attempts to explain the practicalities were met with impatience.  That wouldn’t have been a comfortable working relationship in the long term.

But by far the biggest reason is the immense difficulty of costing the monthly figure in a way which is fair to both us and the client. And the amount of time it takes to educate businesses on *why* it’s hard to cost, what’s involved in the costing, and why it is that we can’t just promise them the moon on a stick for $99/ month like some providers out there.

So, here is that explanation!

How much to manage our social media?

Guaranteed to make my heart sink: the potential client who opens the phone call with “how much would you charge to do social media for us“.

If i weren’t being polite, I could save the company a great deal of time and money by pretending they got a wrong number, right there. Because if cost is the first item on the agenda, before quality or strategy or even telling us what they do, they’re not going to be a client for us. On days when i’m totally snowed under, i’ll just give out a website or two for the $99/month merchants and leave it there.

So, if you want to get this job done properly, here are just a few of the things which a business should discuss with a potential agency, before that agency can get even close to providing a meaningful cost figure.

1. What do you mean by “social media”?

Are we talking about the Big 3 by user volume (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn)? The sites most suitable for your sector (could be anything from Pinterest to Houzz to Tripadvisor?) The ones you’ll get most cost benefit from? Sometimes this question is easily resolved by asking what the business has already set up, but even then, there may be a huge difference between what that business *is* doing currently, and what they *should* be doing. If there’s not been any kind of strategy work to relate social media to their business environment and objectives, then even asking what sites are involved can be pretty much meaningless.

2. What results are you looking for?

This question does two things: weeds out the wildly optimistic (“we want to generate at least 100 leads a day in our local town where we currently have 12 customers”) and helps us quantify the type and quantity of activity that’s needed.

Let me explain how big the range of activities is, using just one site: Twitter.

Within the spectrum of “doing” Twitter, there are many things which *could* be done. Starting with the obvious  – sending out X number of Tweets per day (about what? Is that a number that’s based on the amount of valuable content you have to share, or just based on “the more, the better”?) and moving on to proactively building an audience (clever searches to find people who might be interested in the products or services in question, engaging them in conversation, and so on) or providing customer service via Twitter (ah, so we’ll be getting access to your bookings system then? thought not). Plus, of course, responding to any inbound Tweets – which in any given day might be none or thirty.

3. How involved are you prepared to be?

That list of activities is *just* an “off the top of my head”, for *just* one of the many possible sites. And within that set of activities there are almost infinite possibilities in how that work is split between the client business and the agency.

If the business would like to tweet ten times a day, we’d recommend that those are ten decent quality tweets which stand some chance of being interesting, entertaining or otherwise valuable to their followers. Without good input from the client, achieving that is near impossible; it relies on timely updates about what’s happening in the business, suggestions on current hot topics, and sometimes actually sitting down and writing a blog article. Yes, you absolutely can just set up a Google Alert on a set of vaguely related keywords, but the results won’t be of much interest to anyone. And will sometimes catch you out by using those keywords in unexpected ways.

So just taking the activity “send out ten tweets”, this could be half an hour’s work – if the client has great content and provides it regularly – or five hours, if you have to come up with the ideas and then find content to suit.

What else affects the cost of social media management?

And there are other variables. Business sector is a huge one; it’s kinda easier to come up with interesting tweets around a Swimwear designer who’s constantly putting out new products than, say, a laboratory involved in obscure cell research. Some businesses are simply more opaque to outside personnel than others.

There’s also a minimum committment needed to any client. By which I mean, authentic and credible content requires being in the mindset of that business, just as a full time employee would be. Realistically, any one social media manager can only do that for a handful of clients at most.

If the monthly figure you’re willing to pay for social media management is less than, say, 20% of a social media manager’s wage, then either the quality is likely to suffer or the agency hasn’t thought their business model through and is going to want rid of you as a client eventually.

But I just want a number!

Sure, ok. Here’s one: £800. Or £1500. Or £5. Here’s the thing: it doesn’t help, does it.

So if you want to have a positive experience of outsourcing your social media management, be prepared to have a fairly long conversation with a potential provider first – and be optimistic if they want to have that conversation with you. Or, you can try and figure out what organisations like this are really providing, in the light of the challenges above. There’s really only one plausible answer to that, isn’t there.

In one image, why all hospitality venues should offer free WiFi NOW!

In a bid for the shortest blog post ever, we bring you this. In a single image, all of the arguments we have over and over with hotels, tourist attractions and similar businesses about why providing no (or chargeable) WiFi is shooting themselves in the foot.

So here’s the picture which is worth a thousand words: it appeared in Kate’s Facebook news feed recently.

If you need it spelling out, here’s the significance:

Why providing free WiFi is the single best piece of marketing spend you’ll ever make

That image was snapped by a contact of Kate’s, and put into a group for dog owners which she’s a member of. Pretty much all of the people in that group are more or less constantly on the lookout for quality places to stay which will also accept their hounds.

That hotel meets both criteria, and because of that post to Facebook has just been advertised, for free, to the most targeted group of potential customers they could ever dream of. Oh, and rapidly endorsed by several other people who all love the place too – social proof, much?!

For any hotel or resort owner, getting such a compelling advert in front of a large and relevant target market has got to be the ultimate victory. And yet the one thing they could do to make it easier – providing great Internet access – is all too often forgotten about or priced at a level which gets nothing but derisory laughter from their customers.

To really put the icing on the cake

Now that Facebook post being out there is obviously a great start. That particular hotel has also established a Facebook page, which allows the customer to tag them (provide a live link to their Page) in her post – even better, as potential customers are likely to click on it to find out a bit more.

If they were really savvy (and we’ve no idea whether there was any followup in this particular instance) they’d be replying to the lady in question and going all out to ensure her stay was as perfect as possible – since she’s just proved with that one post that she’s influential with, and connected to, exactly their type of customer.

It’s not rocket science

It really isn’t, is it? Make sure your customers can get easy internet access. Be present on the social media sites they might be using. Monitor those platforms, respond and capitalise where you can. So why are so many hotels still charging £10 an hour for WiFi and totally ignoring social media?

Of course, if your rooms are a candidate for The Hotel Inspector, you might have good reason to keep that router in the cellar. Real-time commentary on the mould in the shower isn’t going to do you any favours…but then the best plan might be to fix that, before you bother with any marketing at all!

Why Facebook Business Pages are no longer a free lunch

It’s not entirely true that there’s no such thing as a free lunch: sometimes there is, just usually not for very long. And so it’s proven with Facebook.

In the early days, business marketers really did get a pretty delicious free lunch on Facebook. They did all the hard work of developing and managing an infrastructure that would attract pretty much the biggest single audience in human history; all you had to do as a business marketer was show up, and create content that consumers enjoyed.

And  access to that massive audience was free; once you’d attracted some folk to Like your page, you could generally expect the Reach of an individual Post (ie, the number of people who saw it) to bear at least some resemblance to the number of Likers you had.

When is a Liker not a Liker?

Towards the end of 2012, many Pages saw that reach decline. This was down to changes in the Facebook News Feed algorithm (then called Edgerank).

Once a user is connected to sufficient people and Pages that there’s more content available when they log on than they’ll realistically read through, Facebook filters that content to try and present the user with the stuff they’ll find the most fascinating. The News Feed algorithm is the thing that does the filtering, and over the years has prioritised all kinds of different “signals” from the user as to what content they were going to enjoy the most.

The algorithm seems to get tweaked more or less constantly, although of course Facebook don’t give away too many details. But there was another big change at the end of last year.

Facebook says: spend some dosh or forget it

And unlike the last time we saw a major decline in post reach, when Facebook denied that this was a deliberate strategy, this time round they are very explicit that there’s been a deliberate shift in the algorithm in a way which basically reduces Page owners’ access to their Likers’ newsfeeds.

Because the content in News Feed is always changing, and we’re seeing more people sharing more content, Pages will likely see changes in distribution. For many Pages, this includes a decline in organic reach.

They go on to state pretty categorically that you need to prepare to spend money, recommending that Page owners use

a combination of engaging Page posts and advertising to promote your message more broadly. Advertising lets Pages reach the fans they already have and find new customers as well. The fans you have matter. In addition to being some of the most loyal customers, fans also make the advertising on Facebook even more effective.*

Organic reach decline in pictures

They’re not kidding. Here’s what the change, which looks to have taken effect pretty clearly at the start of the December, has done to one of our clients.

This business has a Liker base of over 10,000, and we’ve been managing their page for over two years. Levels of engagement have been consistently strong during that time, but look what happened to their reach when the new algorithm cut in:

facebook business page reach decline

A quick glance shows that there’s been a reduction in peak reach from 5-6k per post, to around 3k. So yes, Facebook really mean business on this one.

What does this mean for Businesses on Facebook?

There are big implications this time. Here are our top ones:

Coming up with a strategy to gain targeted, relevant Fans is more vital than ever. Facebook paid media is frequently based on promotion to either your Likers or your Likers’ friends, so in either case having a solid Liker base to start with is crucial to getting value out of your paid media. If you’ve been running ill-advised contests which have attracted a huge Liker base of Indian ipad lovers when you’re running a nightclub in the UK, you’re now going to be paying for the privilege of showing your content to those people who will never buy from you.

It’s more important than ever to think carefully about whether you have the time, content and budget to make Facebook work for you. (In actual fact this is a blessing for both users and businesses – the overall quality of business-generated content should go up, as those businesses who don’t “get” the Facebook environment give up and leave, and businesses who were “dabbling” will refocus their efforts elsewhere and stop wasting time on Facebook.)

Relying on “viral” content shares just got even harder. If you don’t pay for visibility, you’re relying on even fewer initial views to generate shares and get your brand seen. Together with the difficulty of creating truly “catchy” content in the first place, your chances of making an impact are low.

But basically, this means that Facebook is now mature in terms of a clear business model: they provide the infrastructure and attract the users, you pay for access to those users – essentially the same as for any other web property. A business can still influence both the reach and impact of their Facebook presence (through a clever attraction strategy to draw in Likers, rigorous targeting for paid media, and ensuring that the content is up to scratch when it is seen);  but without setting aside a regular budget, the majority of organisations are not going to see results.


*full article text from the Facebook blog can be found here

Infographic – the state of social media in 2013

As you know we’re not always fans of infographics here, but this one has some really useful facts and figures, plus a good visual summary of how fast things can change – and how quickly one platform can get kiboshed by the arrival of a killer function on another *cough* Vine *cough*….

Just click if your tired post-Christmas eyes need some bigger font!
The State of Social Media 2013
The State of Social Media 2013 by Infographic Promotion