PR Agencies and Social Media: 4 Tips to Power Social Brand Building

The Importance of Social Media for Public Relations

PR professionals today are using social media to either supplement or add to their existing strategies, signaling an evolution in the role of PR over the last few years. Public relations specialists were among the first few to understand the power of social media, making them leaders in the social space. Along with handling website content, more and more PR pros are responsible for their company’s and clients’ social media presence. The gradual shift towards, what industry experts call ‘the social media release’, indicates how the traditional long form press release is changing. According to David McCulloch, director of public relations at Cisco Systems, “The press release of the future will deliver its content in text, video, SMS, microblog and podcast form, to any choice of device, whenever the reader decides, and preferably it will be pre-corroborated and openly rated by multiple trusted sources.”

eMarketer expects PR as well as ad agencies to witness an increase in their social media revenue in 2011. Findings from a joint study by the Transworld Advertising Agency Network and Worldcom Public Relations Group show:

• In 2010, 28% PR firms said that between 15-33% of their revenue came from social media.
• This number has grown by 44% in 2011.
• The study indicates that, when compared to ad agencies, the PR industry is more effective in leveraging social media.

The Road Ahead…
Industry research firm IBIS World has predicted the factors that are likely to fuel the growth of PR firms in the coming years and the expected rate of growth.

• PR firms are expected to grow at an average annualized rate of 5.7% to $12.8 billion from 2010-2015.
• This spurt will be attributed to the increase in demand by companies who want PR firms to handle daily interactions with consumers and the press on their social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
• The recent shift from traditional media to more direct media (social media) will result in PR firms specializing in or launching divisions devoted to blogs, social networking sites, mobile media and podcasts.
• Over four-fifths of PR firms are anticipating an increase in digital and social media work in the future.

Whether it is consulting with clients from the agency point of view or working with an in-house team, PR agencies need to be social media ready. Position² lists a few guidelines that will help your agency survive and stand out in the digital space:

1. Making a Pitch
Social media has given a whole new meaning to the concept of ‘pitching’. While the idea of e-mailing a press release to journalists, editors and bloggers is not completely obsolete, it is easy for the readers to hit the delete button and forget about it. Incorporating social media in your PR strategy will ensure your pitch is heard above the din. In order to effectively use social media in your PR pitch plan, we recommend a few points that can be added to your ‘to do’ list:
o Avoid the Fancy Stuff:

Too much information laced with fancy catch phrases like ‘cutting-edge, mission-critical applications to improve business process, etc’ can put off readers. Keep in simple.

o Getting your Tweets Right:

If you are planning on using Twitter to make a pitch, keep in mind, you have 140 characters to get it right. According to Nicole VanScoten, a public relations specialist at Pyxl, getting your tweets right leads to high response rates than e-mail.

o Don’t Spam them:

Whether its journalists or bloggers, no one likes to receive random tweets or Facebook messages. It would be a good idea to learn about the journalist or blogger before reaching out to them. Read their Twitter profile or personal blog to find out if these are the contacts that need to be targeted and then make your pitch.

o Build a Relationship:

Once you have figured out your contacts list, the next step is easy. Building a relationship with a journalist or editor involves getting on their radar. What you can do is a) check out their Facebook page and comment on the posts you like b) retweet their messages and c) comment on a blog post. This will ensure your presence on their radar, even before you decide to make a pitch.

Here’s an example of a good pitch made by a PR professional to a marketing blogger:

For PR pros, using social media to make a pitch saves time as well as money, besides yielding much higher response rates.

2. Delivering Value to Clients
The last 2-3 years have seen PR agencies don an entirely new role in organizations. A large part of a PR specialist’s job involves educating clients on the benefits of social media. Handling a company’s or a client’s account these days includes everything from building brand loyalty to promoting and monitoring content on various social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn). In order to be a successful, we believe a PR firm should deliver value to its clients. Here are a few simple suggestions:

o Creating Content:

PR companies are expected to be experts when it comes to writing. Therefore clients expect your agency to figure out how to turn a boring announcement into interesting content. This could either be a campaign or a company blog. Churning out good content will not only get the required media coverage, but will also help generate leads.

o Identifying the Influencers:

Identifying and developing relationships with the ‘influencers’ in the PR domain is an added advantage. Instead of simply looking for bloggers and journalists who are magically expected to create buzz and drive sales, it will be wiser to:

o Determine who the real influencers in a noisy market place are. This can be done by connecting with reporters, bloggers and journalists who cover the topics that are closer to the market your client is interested in.

o Keep in mind, the size of one’s audience does not always translate into influencer popularity.
o Engaging and Monitoring Conversations:

Social media monitoring and engagement is vital for any PR agency that wants to deliver value to its clients. Brands understand that they not only need a social presence, but are also keen to work with PR agencies to know what is being said about them in the market. By using social media monitoring tools such as Brand Monitor, you can:

o Measure your influencer scores: Social media monitoring tools make it easy to identify journalists and bloggers with high influencer scores.

o Handle Crisis Situations: By keeping a watch on blog conversations, twitter messages and Facebook posts, your agency can help identify signs of trouble. Following this, you could either diffuse the situation yourself, or alert your client asking them to respond as necessary.

o Measure the consumer sentiment for clients’ brand (s) and products (s) and quantify impact.

o Measure the connection between press releases and news coverage with social media activity.

o Assess the effectiveness of your communication strategies.

o Provide you clients with domain expertise based on the data obtained.

o Measure detailed metrics such as popularity, share-of-voice etc.

When videos of rats running around at a Taco Bell outlet in NYC were posted on YouTube, owner Yum Brands saw its stock sink to an all time low, with customers doubting Taco Bell’s hygiene standards. Within hours, duplicates and versions started multiplying. Customers looking for reassuring information from the brand had a hard time finding it. Although Yum Brands’ PR team was not entirely ignorant (the CEO posted an apology on YouTube), monitoring the situation better and engaging with customers in real-time could have averted the PR crisis.

With the public relations industry evolving rapidly, the need to monitor social media channels has never been more important. According to Daryl Willcox, founder of PR industry information firm Daryl Willcox Publishing, listening is a critical part of social media strategy – a proactive process as much as a reactive one. A survey by his company indicates that almost 60% of PR agencies and departments that monitor social media channels spend less than two hours a week doing so. These statistics indicate the growing need for PR companies to monitor social media.

3. Sorting Out your Social Media Toolkit

With so many social media platforms to choose from, how would you know what’s best for you? As professionals in PR domain, it’s not always about putting a PR pitch on Twitter or Facebook; the social media platforms with the most value must be used to connect with a client’s target audience and should function as a meaningful place for brands to connect with journalists, bloggers and consumers. We believe that each social media tool has its own benefits, depending on what your agency wishes to achieve.

o Facebook & LinkedIn:

While Facebook and LinkedIn are almost perfect for establishing and maintaining relationships with media, these tools are slightly more personal than Twitter. It would be wise not to start sending friend requests to every reporter possible. After using Twitter to initiate a friendship with a journalist or a reporter, you can then follow this up by connecting with them on Facebook or LinkedIn.
If you are looking to increase engagement or reinforce your brand’s reputation for value, then Facebook is the place to be. For instance, when the Healthy Choice brand aimed to grow its fan base and increase engagement, the company decided to target its huge Facebook fan base and launched a progressive coupon on the Healthy Choice Facebook Page. This was supported through a variety of PR tactics. Efforts by the brand’s PR team resulted in the Healthy Choice’s Facebook page growing from 6,800 to nearly 60,000 fans. The PR team also distributed over 50,000 buy-one-get-one-free coupons.

10 Social Media Dos and Don’ts for Higher Education Enrollment Success

Social media has become the buzz-phrase of the marketing world; the must-have solution to all marketing challenges. It’s cheap, fast and has reached near saturation in some age groups.

But leveraging social media marketing – the art and science of getting your message out using this online ecosystem – isn’t as easy as setting up a Facebook page. The ability to shape opinions of prospective students, current students, and alumni in this online world is largely determined by the social authority that your message carries. In other words, successful social media marketing campaigns depend on the trust the market places inyour messenger.

This should come as no surprise. It’s the same trust process we, as admissions professionals, use when we visit high schools, engage college counselors and have alumni-sponsored events in distant cities. The differences are simply the delivery channel and the types of trusted sources. For social media, the delivery channel is web-based (via a social media site) and the trusted sources tend to be students and peers, rather than adult authority figures.

In this playbook we outline how colleges can leverage their existing resources to build an effective social media marketing strategy. We will also give some guidance on “do’s” and “don’ts” for insuring that your message is heard, while also enhancing your brand identity.

Why should you care?

So why should college admissions officers care about all of this social media business? Because your prospects care – a lot!

According to a recent EDUCAUSE study[1], social media use has reached near saturation levels, with 95 percent of 18 to 19-year-old college students using social media sites regularly. Facebook still leads the way with 80 percent of 18-24 year-olds checking in several times a day. Social media touches virtually every facet of these students’ lives. It has become the primary way that today’s students stay in touch with each other and the world. It is where their attention is focused and where they first look for information, including details about colleges.

These trends have a direct impact on college admissions because high school students are increasingly turning to social media, rather than a college website, as they begin looking for a school. Today’s college searches begin on sites such as or Facebook (with enhancements such as Campus Buddy). Mash-up sites with titles like “Ten ways to use social media to pick a college”[2] are the new equivalent of the college section at the local bookstore.

In a recent study by Noel Levitz[3], 74 percent of college-bound high school seniors said they think colleges should have a presence on social media sites. Eighty-one percent of these students admitted that they rely on official and unofficial online content about colleges during their search process.

Yet, despite this obvious shift to social media content, college marketers have failed to keep up. The study also showed that only 26 percent of private four-year institutions were intentionally using social media resources in their marketing efforts.

Marketing must reach its target audience to make a difference. To be heard you need to meet your prospects on their turf. Social media is the foundation and future of modern college recruitment and marketing precisely because it is their turf. The ultimate goal is to have your messages picked-up by the marketplace and passed on spontaneously – and often exponentially – by trusted sources. You want your message to go viral! (“Going Viral” refers to when an image, video or link spreads rapidly through a population by being frequently shared with a number of individuals; social media makes this sharing easy to do.)

So now, a little background.

3 Parts of Social Media

From the earliest days of the Internet, folks have looked to online communities as a source of trusted peer-based information. It started with the original dial-up systems of the 1970s – remember “moderators”? – and then evolved into web-based communities in the 1980s and 1990s that were packed with “collaborative filtering” websites. Although the tools and technology to engage in online conversations have certainly evolved, the underlying process is much the same as it was 30 years ago. Similarly, its effectiveness and ability to shape opinion are still based on the credibility of the people who serve as online key opinion leaders (KOLs).

Fast forward to today.

Modern online communities have exploded into an ecosystem bursting with millions and millions of fan pages, blogs and tweets. Facebook alone claims more than 700 million users, with more than 50 percent of those people logging in every day. This growth has turned an Internet niche of obscure hobbyists into a marketer’s dream – a vast audience of consumers that can be reached in near real-time at a very low cost.

Social media is a particular form of online conversation held among a group of people with a shared interest and is mediated by a “reputable” source. (But remember, on Facebook a “reputable” source might be a 17-year-old college freshman!) To successfully capitalize on this busy world of social media, admissions officers must understand its three core components: channel, reach and credibility.

Teenage experts aside, these three components determine the ability of a particular social media outlet to impact the market and influence the opinions of its participants.

More Than Just Facebook

Although Facebook is the most popular social media site in the history of the world, the bulk of social media marketing efforts don’t have to be focused there. Now, that’s not to say that every admissions office should not have a Facebook page – they should. But your Facebook page is where prospects will go after they are already interested in you (probably after they decided to apply). Once students are admitted, they will likely become daily visitors.

A Facebook page isn’t ideally suited to be a recruiting device, it’s meant to be a yield device, best used after admission offers go out.

In this playbook, however, we are more concerned with social media marketing as a means of building your brand identity – and building your prospect pool. So we’re going to focus on recruiting high school juniors who are just starting to think about college. Facebook is great for keeping “friends” – but how do you find new ones?

4 Steps To Making New ‘Friends’

The first step to making new friends on social media is to think like a digitally connected high school junior – minus the gossip and other baggage, that is. Today’s students are much more active seekers of information. Remember, today’s students:

Use their social media network to stay connected to friends

Use search engines to find relevant blogs, mash-ups and helpful websites

Visit college websites and college content on social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube and others.

Want the “inside” story right now!

The second step is to do some research.

Before attempting to directly enter any social media conversation or friendship, survey the “buzz” that’s out there about your institution. This can be an onerous and time consuming task but it’s worth it. You will learn quite a bit about how your school and its culture are being portrayed and perceived. You are also likely to come across a range of misperceptions and falsehoods that you can begin to alter as you move forward in the process.

The third step is to use social media aggregator services and analytical tools such as Radian6, HubSpot and Twitalyzer to help you monitor the ongoing conversation and make adjustments to your messaging as your market perceptions change. While there are definite costs involved with this monitoring, it’s the only way to really know what’s working for you and what isn’t.

Finally, and this is only after you understand the lay of the land, move on to step four: enter into the conversations and begin to disseminate your own content in ways that make sense to your young, connected audience.

Colleges can send their content directly, which means content is “produced” by official offices or personnel of the school, or indirectly, which means content comes from people familiar with your campus, but who are not acting in an official capacity. These indirect senders of content are usually current students, former students and “fans.” Both types of content – direct and indirect – are useful and can be complementary. But remember, both should be monitored and guided (if not quite controlled) by your designated “Social Media Ninja.” Your Social Media Ninja is responsible for monitoring the messaging and the content as well as any reactions or questions from your followers. We’ll talk more about this role in a subsequent playbook.

A Few Reminders

Different social media channels work for different folks. Think about the kinds of content you would like to make available and where it makes the most sense to post it. Setting up a YouTube channel is a great way to offer a “virtual campus tour” or share video of a special event, like a concert. Student-generated videos can provide a more informal look at campus life and can often be more effective than professionally produced marketing pieces – as long as they are thoroughly vetted and carefully selected. If you are lucky (or unlucky, depending on the content), one of these videos may go viral and expose your campus to millions of potential prospects.

Facebook, blogging and tweeting are other ways to get your message out and provide a range of options for sharing information and influencing the perceptions of various constituencies. You can encourage current students to participate in the conversation and maintain topical Facebook pages devoted to different aspects of your school. (But be sure to stay involved and actively monitor the content.) Twitter gives you the ability to update prospective students on approaching deadlines, send reminders and engage people in conversations about timely topics. Blogs can provide insight into the admission process from a counselor or student perspective and create a forum for exchanging thoughts about admission related topics, like writing a personal essay, the use of test scores or things to do on campus.

As you enter into these conversations, there are a few very important rules to keep in mind.

Social Media Do’s

Be authentic. Make your blogs and posts real and honest. Authenticity builds credibility slowly, but shameless promotion can destroy it quickly.

Be responsive. If comments are posted, make sure to follow up with clarifications and additional content. Take feedback seriously; don’t dismiss criticism out of hand.

Contribute to the broader conversation. Not everything needs to be a marketing message. Engage prospects on relevant topics and provide them with useful information on financial aid resources, testing strategies and personal essay writing. Help them navigate the admission process; don’t just try to recruit them.

Be consistent, build your brand. Think carefully about your image. Who are you? What differentiates your college? Be consistent in your messaging. Your online identity can take on a life of its own, so you want to be consistent across channels and accurately portray the campus culture.

Leverage your human resources. Social media, as we have said, is really an online conversation between groups of people with a shared interest. The more participants you involve, the livelier and more engaging the conversation will be. Admissions officers, administrators, faculty, staff, parents, students, alumni and friends all have a role to play.

Social Media Don’ts

Don’t be a one-way bullhorn.Don’t turn the conversation into a one-way broadcast that fails to engage participants in a conversation.

Don’t translate your view book into a series of blog posts. It’s not just about you; it’s about engaging in conversations with your audience about topics that are relevant to them.

Don’t be rude. Remember that your audience can be easily put off if you inadvertently snub a question or topic that’s relevant to them.

Don’t neglect your content. Stale content is worse than no content at all. Admissions offices historically have been on a multi-year content cycle. Every couple of years, we hire a marketing consultant and “update” our materials. That approach no longer works. Social media is a real-time conversation and your content must reflect real-time interests and events.

Hiring a Social Media Manager: 21 Questions to Ask

The Social Media Manager is becoming the go-to person for businesses who require assistance with their online marketing efforts. It’s no secret the impact social marketing can have on a business and the advantages its brings. And it’s also no secret that most business owners cannot handle their social marketing all on their own.

A Social Media Manager does a whole lot more than just posting status updates on profiles. Social media management encompasses figuring out the who, the what, the when and why. Who does your business want to reach? What is needed to reach them? Where are they most active? Why should we use social media as part of our marketing efforts? Many businesses are finding that outsourcing or hiring someone to manage their campaigns is becoming an important part of using social media for marketing. An outside individual can usually see the bigger picture more clearly.

Social media management is a position that has attracted a huge amount of attention and membership in recent years. I see the main reasons for its popularity as:

– Low entry barriers

– A high demand for the services

– Big rewards

But is it really for everyone? Honestly, there are now a lot of social media managers. Some very, very good. Some really, really bad. So how do you filter out the bad ones and find the good ones? Well, the good social media managers will know their stuff and they understand what it takes to be successful.

Here are 21 questions you can ask your potential social media manager and what the better answers should look like…

1. How do you define success?

The amount of followers isn’t the only sign of success in social marketing. A social media manager should be able to help you define success on a strategic and tactical level, in order to support your larger marketing goals. If a social media manager has a limited view of success, or is unable to explain performance measurement beyond the volume of audiences, they won’t be able to provide you with higher level strategic solutions.

2. What sort of results can we expect?

A good social media manager will manage your expectations and let you know what results you could achieve. Remember that social media managers are not psychics. They should act on your behalf using the best practices of the industry, but there is a lot that is out of their control. They should be able to give you a rough idea of what they bring to the table based on their previous results and experiences. If a social media manager cannot communicate this effectively to you, then they probably don’t have the level of experience you need.

3. How is ROI defined in social marketing?

Contrary to popular thinking, ROI can always be measured in social marketing. But it can be perceptual. What are your goals? Were they achieved? If so, then you had a positive ROI. Did your campaigns help your business in any way or have any positive effects? If they did, then you were successful. Social marketing ROI is not always tied to tangible business benefits. Ask the social media manager which factors can be measured and how they will be reported to demonstrate the value they bring to your business.

4. What social platforms do you specialise in? Why would these particular platforms be right for our business?

Different social networks have different audiences and practices. Not every network is right for every business or industry. For example, how could a pharmaceutical company possibly engage in drug marketing on Twitter? The reality is that most businesses can take advantage of the networks out there in some way, but if there are limitations, you want your social media manager to be aware of them.

5. Should we be on every social platform?

A social media manager who has done their research on your business should know your target audience. How this is answered is the key because it provides you with an instant understanding of their perceptions of your business. If a social media manager extends your business visibility to many networks, then your marketing efforts may spread too thin and mean some of the campaigns might suffer. They should pick where your target audience is already situated and focus on maximising performance on those platforms.

6. Would Google+ be worth using for our business?

This should highlight the extent of your potential social media managers Google+ knowledge. Google indexes Google+ content faster than content posted anywhere else. It’s a platform that has grown rapidly since its launch in 2011 and is now one of the main social platforms. A social media manager should know this and should understand whether your target audience is present there, thus viable for your business, and how Google+ can be leveraged to fulfill your wider marketing objectives.

7. Could you give us an example of a limitation on a social platform that you have experienced? How did you overcome this?

A social media manager should know that social networks come with limitations; API calls, bandwidth limitations, character limits etc… If a social manager has never run into limitations and hasn’t experienced how to overcome them, then this likely means that they are not very experienced. In fact, they will probably be completely new to the social landscape. Asking how they overcome any hurdles with their past or current clients will give you a good indication of how they respond to adversity.

8. Can we run a “Like and Share to Win” style contest on our Facebook page?

If a social media manager does not know the answer to this, then move on. Its imperative you find someone who knows the rules and guidelines of each and every social platform and who will not have your business in violation of any Terms of Service. As a heads up, on Facebook you have to use a third-party app to host the contest and cannot use the ‘Share’ button, ‘Like’ button or require a comment in order to be entered to win.

9. Have you ever had to handle a social marketing crisis? If so, could you provide an example?

Asking a social media manager to define what that ‘crisis’ means to them can highlight their level of experience. If their biggest crisis consists of miss-typing a URL on a Pinterest pin and not noticing until their client asks why there’s so many messages about broken links, then chances are they are vastly inexperienced. It’s also insightful to ask what steps they took to resolve the crisis and how the situation was handled.

10. Could you show us some of the clients or projects you are currently working with?

Any reputable social media manager will show you their client accounts. And be proud to do so. Some profiles will probably be doing better than others depending on each campaigns goals and strategies. If they dodge the question or cannot show you anything, then it should rightfully lead you to think they are hiding something. Social media managers who take pride in doing quality work should want to show you their portfolio. Imagine turning up to a sales pitch without a product sample. Clients would never even think about placing an order unless they can see what they are buying.

11. How would you allocate our social marketing advertising budget?

A social media manager should be able to describe a plan for how best to allocate your advertising budget and how they would know if it’s successful. Specific metrics and KPIs should be given, analysed and reported. The choice of advertising platform will also allow you to gauge their perception of where they think your business should be promoted, in what format and to what audiences.

12. What will our responsibilities be as a client?

A social media manager doesn’t operate in a vacuum. They will need to be in the loop with your other marketing activities. You’ll also need to provide any necessary resources and wider marketing information or materials. A social media manager should have clear guidelines for their role, and yours as a client. This should typically be communicated to you prior to establishing a working relationship.

13. What are our competitors doing in social marketing?

Any social media manager who values your work opportunity will do initial research before sitting down with you. If they doesn’t know what your competitors are doing, it should raise alarm bells. A social media manager should be able to give you insight into the way your competitors are using the major social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube right from the offset. This can always be researched fully later, but will give you an idea into their proactiveness and organisation.

14. How do you evaluate new social platforms? How do you stay on top of the latest updates and innovations in Social Marketing?

The social landscape is always changing. Even the most experienced social media managers need to refine their skills, update their strategies and practice new techniques. A social media manager should have experience with building engagement and showing results across multiple platforms and with several different tools. There are some platforms considered to be the juggernauts right now, but remember the days of AOL, MySpace and eBay? Would you hire a social media manager who pitched engaging your I.T customers on MySpace? I doubt it. The point is that the social landscape is dynamic and a social media manager should be constantly evaluating new platforms and making recommendations to you on whether they are suitable for you to explore.

15. Do you offer community management in your Social Marketing services?

Social engagement doesn’t end when you publish your Facebook page. In fact, creating profiles is often the ‘easiest’ part of the process. The execution of the community management strategies that follows is the more difficult (and more expensive) element. It is important to know how your social media manager approaches community management and what strategies and tactics they will use to interact with your audiences. If you don’t know this, then you will have no clue on how they will manage your brand online. You should have guidance and offer feedback into how your business is positioned and wants to be perceived online.

The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Great Social Media Manager

A great social media manager is, as Ron Burgundy would say: “The balls“.

It’s an undisputed fact that every business needs to be active in social media. The ever-changing demands of the modern day consumer requires brands to think fast and adapt quickly in order to stay one step ahead.

The role of a social media manager has appealed to the mass generation of socially-active internet users. It’s hard not to. Especially when some might think that you can earn big bucks from posting Facebook updates. Hardly.

Being a social media manager is kind of like being a stand-up comedian. You have to quickly understand your audience and your engagement with them is vital. In order to accomplish this, you need to know if the audience is laughing at your jokes and you need to know this in real-time. If you can do this, then you have already won the crowd.

So, how do you become a social manager? More to the point, how do you become a great social manager?

The answer will be surprising to some. Firstly, you have to want it. Second, you have to love it. Third, you have to learn it. And even if you tick all these boxes, you should ask yourself: “Am I a social person?” If the answer is no, then becoming a social media manager is probably not for you…

So let’s take a look at the stats.

  • LinkedIn shows 57,910 results for “social media manager”
  • Social media has now overtaken porn as the number 1 activity on the web
  • 97% of all consumers search for local businesses online
  • 71% of consumers receiving a quick brand response on social media say they would likely recommend that brand to others
  • 93% of marketers use social media for business
  • In terms of difficulty of execution, nearly half (49%) of B2B marketers put social media marketing at the top, followed by content marketing (39%), SEO (26%) and mobile (25%)
  • 77% of B2B marketers use a blog as part of their content marketing mix
  • On average, 25% of marketing budgets are now spent on content development, delivery and promotion
  • 78% of small businesses attract new customers through social sites
  • When asked to rank their company’s social business maturity on a scale of 1 to 10, more than half of global business executives gave their company a score of 3 or below

But the statistic that is most relevant to this article is:

  • Just 12% of those using social marketing feel they actually use it effectively.

Being a social media manager brings with it some key benefits within a freelance setting. The most recognisable being the fact that you are your own boss. You make the decisions and answer to no one. You send the invoices and you set the policies. Heck, you could sit in your underpants all day on the computer if you wanted to.

The other is money. It is an in-demand role, but one that companies are still struggling to come to terms with. Some companies realise and understand the value social media could bring to their enterprise and are willing to invest heavily in robust social media campaigns. Being your own boss, you can decide how to set your costs and price accordingly.

Another attractive reason is the low barriers to entry. With low start-up costs and plenty of online resources (like this one!) to rapidly decrease the learning cure, anyone can launch a freelance social management business within a short space of time.

I’ll tell you my story shortly but first, let’s explore the essential skills you’ll need to become a great social media manager..

Fundamental Skills:

Marketing Knowledge

You should have a good grasp of the basic marketing principles. Some education in marketing would be beneficial, but otherwise you can find many quality resources online.


Your experience doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to life experiences. Have you managed your own social media profiles for a while? Do you know how to effectively maintain your own social accounts and understand what clients expect?


I touched on this at the beginning of the article. If you are not a sociable person – someone who doesn’t like communicating much and isn’t very outgoing, then becoming a social media manager just isn’t for you. Sure, you can hide behind a keyword and monitor for a while, but clients will usually want to meet, speak on the phone, or have Skype sessions at some point.

Project Management

You don’t have to have a Prince2 certificate, but you do need to be able to manage projects and your time well. It’s typical for social media manager’s to work with multiple clients at any one time. Keeping tabs on everything is important so that it doesn’t get overwhelming.


Social media exists online. Therefore, you need to have a certain degree of computer literacy. Having good knowledge of social technology will enhance your services and ensure you are keeping up to date with the latest social trends and developments.

Interpersonal Skills:


It kind of goes without saying that if you’re going to be representing a company and engaging with their customers, then you will need to have strong communication skills.


Companies tend not to want to hire people with no personality to act on behalf of their brand. It doesn’t resonate well with them, or their audiences.


I’ve touched on this a few times – social media is very fast-paced. Imagine if one of your social assignments was largely focused on customer service and you didn’t respond to customer complaints or queries for weeks. People online want rapid responses. Being able to fulfil these needs can stand your client (and you!) in good stead.


To become a social media manager in a freelance capacity, you have to be a self-starter. You should be willing to go the extra mile and take a few financial risks along the way. If you don’t land a job that pays enough in one month, how will this affect you?


A great social media manager must be able to effectively carry out a wide range of tasks.


You should always be very well organised when delivering social media management services. I use all kinds of traditional tools like calendars, white boards and task lists to keep myself organised. I also use many online organisational tools, such as: Thunderbird for accessing all my email accounts in one place, Dropbox to easily share documents with clients and bookmarks to keep track of all the websites I frequently visit.

Strategic Thinking

Being able to think campaigns through before they happen and sometimes thinking outside the box when needed, are great asset to have as a social media manager. Clients tend to want to know how you will do something before letting you do it, so being able to present a clear and concise strategy is essential.

Flexible (with travel)

Contrary to popular belief, a freelance social media manager has to leave his office sometimes! If this is a problem for you, then you should think about starting another profession. Nearly every sizeable project I undertake involves multiple meetings with the client. You should have reasonable pitching skills, as you may be required to sell your services face to face too, before being hired. You may even opt to take on in-house work.

Wider Skills:


Every good social media manager is a great writer. Writing forms the foundations of many aspects of online marketing, be it creating ads, writing blogs, engaging with customers, scripting sales copy or writing press releases.

Graphic Design

Pretty much all social media platforms provide the functionality to customise the interface and incorporate your own branding. If you are sharp with Photoshop (or similar design software), then you are in a good position to offer these services as part of your social media package. Similarly, creating content such as infographics, banners or images is standard practise for a social media manager.


Every social media manager should have sound knowledge of advertising. Be it Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising or banner advertising, you should know the ins and outs of each discipline and understand how to optimise each format.

Why Your Business’s Social Media Policy May Be A Dud!

The importance of utilizing social media to help any business grow cannot be understated. But, there can be serious legal consequences for businesses when their employees or affiliates and marketers use any of the popular social media forums. This can hold true both when employees are acting on behalf of your business and when they use social media for their personal use. Smart business owners identify the problems ahead of time and then devise a strategy to prevent unnecessary liability and address risks when they become known. Of course, that strategy should start with an appropriate social media policy. But, many businesses draft social media policies which do not address all the potential concerns it should, or even draft policies in a manner which renders them illegal!

So, how can you ensure your business’s social media policy isn’t a dud? First, you must understand what could go wrong in social media.

What Could Go Wrong For My Business In Social Media?

Here is a broad list of legal concerns your business may face relating to social media:

-Employees who reveal confidential or proprietary information in a blog entry that can be viewed by millions of readers;

-Employees who post discriminatory or negative comments on social media regarding your business or other employees;

-Employees who post objectionable content on their Facebook pages that raises into question their character, which in turn reflects on your business; or

-Employees, affiliates and other sponsored endorsers can even subject their employers to liability by promoting the company’s services or products without disclosing the employment relationship. This is otherwise known as a sponsored endorsement in legal parlance. The FTC has made it clear that any “material connections” between the endorser and the sponsor must be disclosed in connection with a product or service endorsement, which is defined as any type of positive review. Sponsored endorsers can also potentially create liability for your business through any deceptive claims made about any products or services offered by your business.

Why A Social Media Policy Can Protect Your Business

If you have employees or use any type of third-party marketers or affiliates, you should adopt a written social media policy. Though not an absolute shield from liability, businesses must adopt social media use policies protecting the employer consistent with the company’s organizational culture. Not only can these policies serve as a strong deterrent to employees, they can be uses as the basis of terminating employees and affiliates or other third-parties.

But, What Should Your Company Social Media Policy Really Say (Or Not Say)?

Of course, your company’s social media policy should make clear to employees what the employer expects with regard to social media use, both on and off the job. These expectations may vary between companies, but employers should generally be concerned with rules against conduct that may result in unlawful sexual harassment or other liability, rules prohibiting disclosure of confidential or proprietary information, and company policies governing the use of corporate logos and other branding concerns when engaged in social media use. I’ll go into more specific details about what your policy should say below.

But, the problem every employer must understand with employee social media use is that the individual’s actions may be legally protected. Some states, for example, have laws protecting employees’ off-duty activities and political activities or affiliations. At the Federal level, the National Labor Relations Act protects employees who engage in “concerted activity,” which often includes the right to discuss the terms and conditions of their employment with co-workers and outsiders. If your social media policy has not been updated over the past two years, the policy is likely to be out of compliance with the guidance provided by the National Labor Relations Board recently. In addition, federal and state whistle-blower laws protect employees who complain about (among other things) potential securities fraud violations, in certain situations.

Practical Guidelines

Some practical and basic guidelines you should include in any social media policy are listed below. I use the term “employees” to refer to employees, affiliates and all other sponsored endorsers.

-Employment Rules and Company Code of Conduct

Require that employees always follow the terms of their employment agreement, employee handbook or other company code of conduct at all times when using social media (obviously this just applies to employees). The social media policy should restrict employees from violating the terms of any company policy via social media use for work or personal purposes.

-Broad Use Statement

You should state that the policy applies to all forms of social media, including multi-media (videos, posts or audio recordings), social networking sites, blogs, podcasts, sharing sites and wikis and covers both professional and personal use.


Employees should not disclose any information that is confidential or proprietary to the company or to any third-party. What if you have a new product or software application in development that you want to keep confidential? What about financial and other non-public information? There are a million reasons to post rules prohibiting disclosure of confidential or proprietary information on social media sites. The best practice is to define what comprises “confidential” and proprietary information and other trade secrets similar to a non-disclosure agreement and restrict disclosure. This restriction should include personal use and use on company owned sites. But be specific. Rather thanbanning any and all disclosure of confidential information, be specific about exactly what cannot be disclosed (such as trade secrets, customer information, business strategies, etc.).

-Endorsements & Affiliation

If an employee comments on any aspect of the company’s business they must clearly identify themselves as an employee and include a disclaimer. Employees should neither claim nor imply that they are speaking on the company’s behalf unless they are expressly authorized to do so. For example, you should require each employee to use the language “any views expressed are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of ABC Corp.”

-Advertising Liability

All sponsored endorsers must not make any misleading or deceptive ads or claims about your products. All content must be accurate and truthful. Since you are just as responsible as any sponsored endorser would be, you need to have a clear policy on what deceptive advertising is and restrict such claims. In fact, any employee, affiliate, etc. you allow to post or promote on behalf of your business really should truly understand what is deceptive under FTC and state consumer protection laws. Your social media policy should restrict your company’s bloggers or product reviewers, affiliates and marketers against making such claim and the policy should be incorporated in the separate agreements used with any affiliates and independent marketers.

-Intellectual Property & Brand Dilution

Restrict your employees from including any company logos or trademarks on their own personal blogs or Facebook pages unless permission is granted. Similarly, they should not be allowed to upload or paste these marks onto any other interactive forum. Clearly communicate the company’s expectations and offer examples of scenarios that are acceptable and include an approved description of the company’s brand. Make it clear that individuals who link online identities with the company and disclose their employment also incorporate the approved language into their online profiles. A policy that includes the positive can help to build advocates for the brand. Trust your employees to drive responsibly if you give them the rules of the road. You should restrict employees from posting unauthorized ‘promos’ that purport to represent the company without pre-approval.


All posts and content uploaded onto any corporate blog, fan page or integrated into promotional multi-media application (i.e. a company podcast) must not violate copyright, privacy laws or be defamatory.

-Require Approval

You should require that each of your employees seek and obtain approval before posting or adding content to any corporate blogs, Facebook fan pages, Twitter accounts, etc., and have a system in place to monitor and remove this content at all times.

-Adopt Restrictions on Posts, but understand the requirements of the NLRA first!

Under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), an employee cannot be fired based upon “protected, concerted activity” that relates to the terms and conditions of his or her employment or that involves coming together with other employees in issues relating to employment. Under the NLRB, employees have a legal right to discuss the ‘terms and conditions’ of their employment, which protects a broad spectrum of conversations, potentially including complaints about wages, working hours, supervisors, and other aspects of an employee’s working conditions. This includes such discussion through social media site. While state employment laws vary and may protect your employees right to free speech, you can still reserve the right to request that the employee avoid discussing certain subjects, withdraw certain posts, remove inappropriate comments and generally restrict the employee from posting any type of comments or videos that would tarnish the reputation of your business. However, generally speaking, complaints related to working conditions are protected. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) applies to union and non-union employees alike.

A social media policy violates federal law if a reasonable employee could interpret the policy to prohibit conversations about the terms and conditions of their employment. If a social media policy has not been updated over the past two years, the policy is likely to be out of compliance with the guidance that has been issued by the National Labor Relations Board over that period and recent NLRB decisions relating to social media policies.

But, inappropriate remarks about the public do not relate to working conditions and are therefore not protected. In the context of social media, the National Labor Relations Board has issued an Advice Memorandum each company should review before drafting its social media policy. For example, firing an employee for making inappropriate and insensitive remarks about certain crime victims via Twitter was not considered to violate the law.