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Digital Mums The ten commandments for working with a social media freelancer

The ten commandments for working with a social media freelancer

So you’re ready to hire a freelancer to support you with your social media? We don’t blame you. It's a very complex and time consuming area of marketing and one that’s best outsourced to a professional to free you up to focus on other things.

The first hurdle to overcome his finding the right social media freelancer. Thankfully, we have that covered. Simply head over to That Works For Me where you can find amazingly skilled and qualified women fully trained by us on our Diploma and Advanced Diploma in Social Media Marketing. We strongly advise hiring an expert that’s been trained extensively (our vocational courses are 350 hours of study) rather than someone that’s self-taught. For obvious reasons.

Once you have found the right person the challenge doesn’t end there. You need to make sure that you work successfully with your new hire.

We have supported almost 1,000 small businesses, large businesses and charities to connect to, and work with, social media trainees and graduates over the years. And our 1,700 strong alumnae community teach us new things every day about best practice.

So please do trust us when we say there are some very obvious do’s and don’ts when it comes to having a great relationship with your social media freelancer. We have collated our top tips below. Treat these like your ten commandments and you’ll be off to a great start.

1. Thou shall not start without a strategy

It’s very tempting to hire a social media freelancer and ask them to start running your accounts immediately. But you absolutely must have a clear strategy in place before you do. Otherwise they aren’t doing social media marketing they are only doing social media. The marketing is the strategy. It takes some time but it’s a vital step.

Qualified social media freelancers will know this and should ask you lots of questions upfront, things like:

  • What’s your USP in the market?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Who are your target audience? How old are they? How much do they earn and where do they live? What are their likes/dislikes?
  • Why would your customers buy from you - what problem are you solving for them?
  • Why would they buy from you and not your competitors?
  • What are your business goals for the next 12 months?
  • Do you have a marketing strategy? Are you clear on your marketing funnel?
  • What’s your budget for organic social?
  • Do you have a budget for paid social?

Once they have the answers to these questions they will start to build you a social media strategy that will help you meet your business goals. It’s possible to hire someone to do the strategic work upfront and then hire someone else to execute the strategy. But either way your social media freelancer needs to know how to be strategic.

There are thousands of social media freelancers in the job market and it’s astounding how much their fees vary. The biggest differentiator on price is their knowledge and expertise, particularly around the strategic marketing element. As with most things in life you get what you pay for.

If you chat to a social media freelancer and they don’t ask you any of these questions then you should see this as a red flag and avoid hiring them. Thankfully you can access our graduate pool via our exclusive relationship with That Works For Me here, and our alumnae are all trained in social strategy so you’ll be in safe hands.

Digital Mums The ten commandments for working with a social media freelancer

2. Thou shall not obsess over vanity metrics

Lots of people hire someone to manage their social media and then obsess over follower numbers. Follower numbers are a great metric to track but they aren’t the be all and end all. Focusing on getting large follower numbers quickly, instead of trying to build a true following of qualified leads, will get you into trouble.

Everyone has seen or heard of some business that grew their Facebook Page by 10K likes in under a month. And naturally it’s tempting to want some of that. But try not to get your head turned. Because it’s likely that all is not as it seems. It’s nigh on impossible to grow a Facebook Page that quickly using organic, quality social media marketing techniques. So there’s generally one of three things going on here:

1. The business has thrown in a hefty advertising budget

This is a valid strategy but won’t come cheap. But if you have the budget go for it. Just make sure your social media freelancer is trained to run paid social campaigns or hire someone that is.

2. The business in question has bought their followers.

We have worked with small businesses that have gained large followings quickly. But on closer examination despite having large followings they have zero engagement on their posts. Fishy.

When you examine their analytics things turn even fishier. Their brand sells women’s clothing, mainly to women over 35, and exclusively within the UK. However, the analytics shows that 90% of the followers are men between the ages 18 and 30, based in Eastern Europe and Asia.

This is a clear sign that these followers were purchased for a few hundred pounds.

Fake followers are going to forever damage your ability to grow an authentic and quality social media account to meet your business goals because they will skew your data so you’ll struggle to find out what’s working for your real target customers.

3. The business in question has hired someone to grow their Page quickly using questionable techniques

Often, but not always, people that promise to grow your social media accounts by thousands in a short space of time, call themselves growth hackers. They might claim to ‘trick the algorithm’ - which isn’t a thing - or ‘hack the system with their inside tricks’ - again not a thing. Whatever they call themselves they promise you thousands of your target customer in just a few weeks for only a few hundred pounds. It sounds too good to be true. Because it is.

It’s simply not possible to grow a Page with thousands of quality followers in a few weeks using quality organic social media marketing techniques. It is possible to grow a Page with thousands of low quality followers who are unlikely to be your target customers using automated techniques - using bots. These bots are automated computer programmes that are set up to run mass follow/unfollow campaigns or to auto-like/comment on vast numbers of posts at once.

When these tactics are used you’re likely to start seeing your account ask for a password reset on a regular basis because the social network thinks you’ve been hacked. Eventually they will suspend your account altogether because these tactics break their Terms and Conditions. Bye bye Facebook Page. And good luck getting hold of someone at Facebook to reinstate it.

10K Facebook followers or Instagram fans mean nothing if they aren’t qualified leads - people that like your brand, are your target customers and are following you because they are interested in knowing more about your products and services. An expert social media freelancer will build you a following using a social media marketing funnel aligned to your business goals which will grow an audience of qualified leads to move through your marketing funnel to purchase and ultimately loyalty. And 100 qualified leads is worth 10K pointless followers any day.

Digital Mums The ten commandments for working with a social media freelancer

3. Thou shall not expect quick sales

One of the biggest challenges of social media is that brands expect quick sales. But social media platforms aren’t about quick sales. Research shows that it can take a potential customer 6 to 9 interactions with your brand before you convert them into making a purchase. Plus they often have further interactions post-purchase whether it’s asking questions about the sale, querying delivery times, complaining about something or providing positive feedback on their purchase. Managing these interactions well can turn that person into a repeat customer and potentially a brand ambassador.

Ultimately, a qualified social media freelancer will focus on moving people through your social media marketing funnel, from initial brand awareness, to interest, to sale and to loyalty. All of this takes time. It’s not a quick fix.

Digital Mums The ten commandments for working with a social media freelancer

4. Thou shall not put all your eggs in the social media basket

We have worked with over 600 small businesses and charities and I’d estimate that 80% of them had no significant marketing budget. The only marketing they were doing was organic social media marketing. But they were hoping to grow their business quickly. Some even expected to build a seven figure business up from scratch.

If you have big ambitions for your business then you need big marketing.

If you’re in the “growth” phase of your business and particularly if you’re getting a new business off the ground you must compliment your organic social media marketing strategy with a robust marketing strategy, that should include things like:

  • Brand strategy to make sure that your brand copy and visuals are on point and speak to your target customer.
  • Content marketing to drive people to your website with quality, value add content, particularly if you’re a B2B business.
  • Website optimisation to ensure you capitalise on this traffic by offering a slick user experience that drives conversions.
  • Email marketing to take advantage of website visits to nurture your customers into purchase.
  • Google Analytics to track traffic, monitor goals and track conversation rates.
  • Basic SEO to improve the organic searchability of your products/services.
  • Advertising which can help move things forward more quickly, whether that’s paid social or search advertising using Google Adwords.
  • PR opportunities as this can be a great way of building brand awareness

Now this might seem overwhelming and it’s fine to just do organic social media marketing if you’re just starting out and have a limited budget. But if the only marketing you’re doing is organic social media marketing you just need to manage your expectations around how quickly you can grow your business. Particularly, because there is so much competition to reach customers on social media.

Digital Mums The ten commandments for working with a social media freelancer

5. Thou shall not treat your freelancer like a member of staff

Working with a freelancer is brilliant. You get the benefit of a flexible resource that you can cut quickly if your business doesn’t perform as expected.Your business can work with freelancers without any of the added costs and complexities of having to pay holiday, pension, NI and maternity pay.

But you can’t have your cake and eat it. There are downsides to working with freelancers.

It’s highly likely that your social media freelancer has other clients and other priorities. This means they can’t be on call for your business all day every day in the same way as in-house staff. Particularly if you've hired them for just a few hours a week.

If you find yourself getting exasperated that your freelancer isn’t responding immediately to the 10 emails you’ve sent them that day then perhaps working with a freelancer isn’t right for you.

Here are three pieces of advice that will result in harmony in your relationship:

  1. Limit your emails to once a day maximum. If you have lots of things you want to talk to them about just make notes as you think of them and group everything into one email at the end of the day.
  2. Have a weekly call with a clear agenda for efficiency and follow up with agreed actions so everyone knows where they are.
  3. Never, ever contact them via WhatsApp unless it’s an emergency - perhaps a potential PR crisis for example. WhatsApp is a very personal and invasive medium of communication - it’s not right for professional conversations.

Don’t forget that your freelancer is charging you for the client relationship management time so every time you send an email you’re cutting the amount of time they have to spend managing your social media.

Digital Mums The ten commandments for working with a social media freelancer

6. Thou shall treat your freelancer like a member of staff

What? But you JUST said don’t treat them like a member of staff? While you shouldn’t expect them to be at your beck and call it is important to include them. Ultimately social media marketing is a team effort. If you’re going to use social media to meet your wider business goals your social media freelancer needs to be tapped into your business so don’t treat them like an outsider.

This involves:

  • Setting up workable systems and processes to communicate and collaborate. This could be adding them to your Slack workspace, your Trello or setting up a Dropbox folder or sharing an editorial calendar.
  • Updating them regularly about what’s happening with the business. It doesn’t always have to be important stuff like new product launches discounts or business events. Let them know if it's the office dog’s birthday or if you’re having a soft ball game after work. Share as much as you can to help them bring the business to life. We recommend using your weekly meetings to list everything that is relevant for that week rather then ping them over thoughts as they arise.
  • Providing them with content. Social media is a content-thirsty medium and they will need a lot of content. It can seem like an endless cycle. The more you get involved in providing content the better. This could be about identify in-house “content champions” who can identify content opportunities and support your freelancer to capture them. The less content you provide the more your social media freelancer will have to find content which is incredibly time consuming and won’t be directly about your business. So getting involved in content provision can save you money in the long run and help you meet your business goals. - We recommend having a shared content folder or better yet a content editorial calendar in Trello.
  • Connecting them to relevant team members. If anyone else in the business works on the marketing, sales or business development side make sure they aren’t working in silo. Ensure they have good working relationships with your social media freelancer because there is a lot of overlap in their objectives. Often when you hire an expert freelancer your regular team members can start to feel threatened. It’s your job to make sure that this doesn’t happen and the team all work together harmoniously.

This is optional but we also invite our regular freelancers to our Christmas party. If they don’t want to attend that’s fine but we find it’s a great way of making sure they feel connected to the mission of the business and it’s good for building working relationships.

Digital Mums The ten commandments for working with a social media freelancer

7. Thou shall set aside a realistic budget and have realistic expectations

Our single biggest challenge when businesses and charities approach us to hire one of our highly qualified graduates is a lack of realistic budget.

They want someone to manage their LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts and create all the content required to do so, including regular photos, graphics and ideally videos. Their budget is £300 a month.

Very few businesses understand the ins and outs of social media marketing - hence they get in touch to hire someone that does. But their lack of understanding severely impacts their ability to hire the right person to do the job because they are asking WAY too much and paying WAY too little.

Success with organic social media marketing is hella time consuming. Depending on what they are hired to do (because creating a strategy is much less time consuming than managing your accounts day to day overall), your social media freelancer will be:

  • Finding great content. As mentioned, social media is a content-thirsty medium. Social media freelancers use clever tools and tricks to find great, relevant content online to share across your social media accounts to support optimum posting targets.
  • Playing a role in creating content. How much they are involved in creating content depends on their contract with you but if you don’t have a graphic designer, photographer, videographer or copywriter working for you it’s likely they will be playing a role in taking photos, creating simple graphics, videos for Stories, and don’t forget that crafting all that compelling marketing copy for the social media posts is time consuming stuff.
  • Managing the day to day activity. Your social media freelancer will be making sure the accounts are hitting optimum posting, that posts are going out at the most important times, and they will be reacting to comments quickly and professionally. This includes using time management tools to make sure your accounts never go short of great content and conversation.
  • Proactively building relationships. As well as reacting to comments your social media freelancer will be proactively building relationships with your target customers, potential partners and influencers in your space. This involves honing the right hashtag strategy for your market.
  • Monitoring and listening. Your social media freelancer will be monitoring mentions of your brand because few people actually use your social handles when they talk about you online. They will be looking out for anyone that’s talking about you and will also be snooping on your competitors and thought leaders in your space to learn about anything that might impact your brand. They can also add value by monitoring potential press opportunities shared by journalists in your space.
  • Handling customer services. They will praise positive feedback to thank the customer and increase the likelihood they will become a repeat customer and a loyal ambassador. They will also professionally handle any tears and tantrums associated with negative feedback by showing empathy, finding out more about the problem and dealing with it according to your agreed process.
  • Continually measuring performance. Analytics tools allow them to continually measure and improve on their performance, building understanding of what works best and reporting against targets.
  • Designing and executing social media strategies and campaigns. More experienced social media freelancers will be providing you with high level strategy surrounding your social media marketing funnel and how to integrate this with wider marketing initiatives. They may also design campaigns specifically around product launches, competitions and discounts.
  • Managing their relationship with you. They will also be spending time in weekly communications and catch ups, informally reporting on activity, sharing customer feedback and potentially producing monthly reports.

This is a LOT of work. It equates to around 5-7 hours per platform per week for an average brand but more if their content needs are high.

It also requires a LOT of knowledge and skills, hence you can't get expertise on the cheap.

So, in the example above, to hire a professional to manage four social media accounts at an optimum level we're talking 3-4 days a week. And even our newly qualified graduates charge a minimum day rate of £150/day (you're looking at a higher day rate for strategy and content creation work). So their budget is way, way too low for their requirements.

But even if you have a decent monthly budget you should still have realistic expectations around some other areas. Take it from us, here are some things to avoid asking:

Can you get Kim Kardashian to promote our products for free?

The only influencers that you MIGHT get to work with for free will be up and coming nano-influencers (typically 1-10K followers) and potentially some of the smaller micro-influencers (typically 10K-100K) if you are a not-for-profit and have a common mission. You’re not getting anywhere near the larger influencers without contacting their agents and taking out a second mortgage on your home.

Can you get the posts to go viral?

Even someone like M&C Saatchi can’t get your posts to go viral. We actually did run a campaign “Real Mum Moments” that went viral and got into all the papers but not even we can replicate that success again because there is no magic formula.

Business posts are unlikely to go viral because they are about your business and not a skateboarding dog. But this doesn’t mean you should share memes or comedy cat videos just because they are more likely to be shared. Catwalking cats won’t do anything from your brand. We can all post silly memes to try and 'go viral' but is it what we want our brand to stand for and will it attract the right audience?

Can we get our social to be more like Coca-Cola’s?

Don’t compare yourself to a much bigger brand and don’t compare yourself to a brand that’s in a totally different industry. It’s fine to be inspired by your competitors. And it’s expected to benchmark yourself against competitors that are about the same size and age as you. But avoid all other comparisons because they aren’t realistic or relevant. An IT software company complained to one of our graduates that their social media didn’t seem to be as good as their friend’s. The friend in question happened to own a large luxury travel company with access to the most beautiful visual content, budget for large influencers, plentiful opportunities for user-generated content and more. There was no way his IT company could ever compete no matter what their social media freelancer was doing.

Digital Mums The ten commandments for working with a social media freelancer

8. Thou shall let them focus on social media

Don’t expect your social media freelance to also be able to:

  • Update your website and provide Google Analytics reports.
  • Handle all your SEO and PPC needs.
  • Create and managing your email marketing needs.

That doesn’t mean you can’t increase the budget and pay for additional days of their time if they happen to have these skills. And sometimes they do. But often they don't. Social media marketing is a hugely complex and specialist area and it’s constantly evolving so expert social media freelancers often have their hands full with this.

If you have wide-ranging digital marketing needs you can also consider working with an agency. Many of our alumni run boutique agencies that offer a full range of services. Again you can find them on the That Works For Me site.

Digital Mums The ten commandments for working with a social media freelancer

9. Thou shall trust in them for they are experts

In our experience the best relationships between client and freelancer happen when there is mutual trust.

Try not to second guess every recommendation or decision. We hear stories of clients giving more weight to advice from their partner, sales rep, or nan than their social media expert. If you’ve taken care to hire the right person then they will know what they are doing.

Trust them to keep on top of promoting everything one your list and while it’s fine to do some off-the-cuff tweeting or posting make sure you let them know in advance as they often have schedules and plans and are working 5-7 days in advance at any one time. And it can be a bit confusing to see sudden tweets and posts that aren’t scheduled so just a heads up will keep everything sweet.

In the early stages, of course, it’s fine to check over their planned posts in advance and be a bit more hands-on to ensure they have nailed the tone of voice and are on-brand with messaging. But then just take a step back and trust them to do their job.

Focus instead on all those extra hours you suddenly have in your day. Bathe in the joy of finally being able to get through your to-do list happy in the knowledge that your accounts are in safe hands.

Digital Mums The ten commandments for working with a social media freelancer

10. Thou shall pay on time

Last, but most definitely not least, is a call to all clients to pay your freelancer on time.

This seems like a really obvious one but we see lots of our graduates get very stressed with late payments so it’s not happening as often as we’d like.

As parents our community of social media freelancers have a lot of financial outgoings. So help them out and pay on time. It’s quite standard for our graduates to include late payment fees in their contracts, on our recommendation, so paying on time is in your financial interests. But that isn’t why you should do it. It will harm your relationship if they keep having to chase you. It’s demeaning to have to chase someone for the money you are owed and it speaks volumes about how much you respect them if you’re happy for them to do this.

So that’s it. Adopt these ten commandments and you're guaranteed to have a great working relationship with your social media freelancer.

Don’t forget you can find our social media experts on the That Works For Me platform now.

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