Social media marketing is tough to do alone; you’ll need to understand your audience intimately, remain familiar and up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices, and be on call 24-7 to respond to customer needs. You can try to juggle this yourself, but you’ll probably end up performing inefficiently and neglecting your other responsibilities. You could also drop social media entirely or invest only a small amount of time, but then you’ll miss out on the massive benefits of the strategy.
You have a few alternative options. You could hire someone full-time to take over your campaign, work with freelancers to organize your tasks, or outsource to an agency to take care of the work for you. All of these options can yield a positive return and a convenient working relationship—but they’re all going to cost you money.
If a service earns you more revenue than it costs you in expenses, it’s worth pursuing—but since underpaying will leave you with poor service and overpaying will eat up your profits, how can you know what to pay?
Finding a Consultant
Your first job is to use a reliable process to find a good consultant, who will likely charge you a fair rate for high quality service:
- Explore your options. Don’t just settle for the first social media consultant you come across. Take your time and explore your potential options. Use a site that allows you to connect with your choice of hundreds of different consultants, and see how they’ve performed in the past, such as Consultants 500, and ask around your network of contacts to see if anyone has a strong recommendation.
- Read reviews, testimonials, and case studies. After you’ve gathered a small circle of prospective candidates, read up on reviews and testimonials to see what people have said about this consultant in the past. You can also look at case studies, if available, to see a demonstration of the type of work this person is capable of.
- Conduct interviews. If everything looks good, you can move on to the interview phase, where you can ask targeted questions and get a feel for the communication style of your prospective candidates. You can also ask questions related to price, including what they offer and how much they charge.
Know What Services You Need
Consultants and freelancers sometimes offer set package deals, with a strict list of services they perform on a regular basis (usually weekly or monthly), but it’s more common to see an “a la carte” style selection of different services. To get the best price, you need to find a consultant who’s willing to offer what you need, and nothing excessive beyond it.
These are some of the most important services to consider, though depending on your goals, you may not need all of them:
- Analysis and/or audit. Analyses and audits assess your current situation and may make recommendations for changes.
- Strategic development. Expert insight here can be costly, but worth it. Strategic development is all about establishing a plan for your brand’s future on social media.
- Platform specifics. Different consultants cover different platforms. Know which ones are most important for your brand.
- Most consultants and freelancers take charge of posting new content on a regular basis.
- They may also set up a recurring schedule to post links to your blogs or revisit old content.
- Following and community building. The goal in most campaigns is additional visibility, so most consultants offer following and community building to create a thriving social ecosystem.
- Most marketers remain on-call to respond to comments and questions on your brand’s behalf.
- Influencer marketing. Some marketers also engage with influencers to expand your reach even further.
- Monitoring and reporting. Almost any service will include some monitoring and reporting, to analyze your progress over time.
How Much to Pay?
So how much should you be paying for this selection of services? Obviously, some services will be more time- and labor-intensive than others, and differing levels of experience and skill will affect your prices.
The salary range for a full-time social media marketer is $30k to $70k per year, so for a novice freelancer, you’ll see rates as low as $15 per hour—don’t expect the best quality here, but it could help you fill in some gaps. In the mid-range, you’ll see consultants charging $30-60 per hour for their work, which represents the mid- to upper-level of that salary range. And for genuine experts who can offer large-scale strategic direction, you’ll likely see rates of $100 or more; this isn’t usually sustainable for long-term work, but could be valuable in brainstorming ideas or establishing infrastructure.
On a monthly basis, you should aim to pay a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per month. That will give you sufficient quality and quantity to get your campaign moving, without putting too much pressure on your budget. And remember, you can always seek alternative options if you’re seeing great results and want to invest more—or if you’re disappointed and need to change direction.