Getting personnel on social media

In December 2013, Facebook reported that it has 1.23 billion monthly active users. Social Media Marketing Managers in New York and California were reported making six-figure salaries in 2012, according to research conducted by Onward Search, a staffing agency for digital marketing and creative talent.

Recent data from Twitter stated that 500 million Tweets are sent per day.

As figures similar to the ones listed have been examined, many business leaders, communications experts and stockholders have abandoned the question “why” to explore answers to “how.” How can social media be used to leverage the digital brand of a company?

As businesses have shifted their mentalities, many have begun considering their investment in social media. Labor is a significant part of that investment conversation. Our industry has approached the social media personnel topic from numerous angles.

Ellen Rohr, president of the venture capital and consulting company Bare Bones Biz, is a supporter of finding social media personnel “close to home.” Rohr encourages clients to consider current employees, local young adults and even family members for the job.

“Here’s the thing, I don’t think we should bother telling people that they can’t Tweet or look at Facebook at work. I think that’s just a waste of time,” Rohr said. “If they’ve got the time to be checking their own Facebook, they could be checking your Facebook too.”

As a mother of her own young adult, Max Rohr (columnist for our sister publication, Phc News), she saw firsthand how millennials use social media. Rohr said that the light bulb went off for her when she realized that phone books had become antiquated ways of maintaining contacts. Her son has never opened a phone book. Rohr hired a 20-something-year-old subcontractor to handle her business’ technology, and later enlisted his help with social media.

“For people who already have someone young on their team, just enlist them,” Rohr said. “Then, set the parameters: ‘You’ve got to check twice a day, we have to post at least three times a day, these are the appropriate things you can post, the service techs are going to send you videos, and we’re going to post customer testimonials.’ Just go through a laundry list of things that are OK.”

While Rohr’s son does not consult her about social media directly, she did suggest considering family members as social media managers. Rohr explained that children and even grandchildren who are active on social media can help establish a business’ presence and a strategy that future managers can use.

“What could you pay them to do that?” Rohr questioned. “Ask what they need and give it to them. Is it school credit? They could do it for the summer; they don’t have to do it forever.”

Rohr also recommended seeking out social media interns from local universities, community colleges and trade schools.

“You can sometimes give internships in exchange for paying for a class for that semester,” Rohr said. “Or, minimum wage is $10 an hour, so pay them $12 an hour.”

It is up to business leadership to decide whether social media related paid internships or salaried positions are worthy investments. Rohr said that there is no right or wrong answer on taking the paid or unpaid route, but there is a definite need to have an active presence on social media.

“I use Hootsuite to try and schedule things. All of it I could do better, but the thing I want to communicate is that even the very best of minds in the social media world are like five minutes ahead of the very worst of minds,” Rohr said. “But, whether or not you need social media, that decision has been made. You just have to. You have to get one platform that speaks to you, or even better, speaks to your customers, and stay connected in that way.”

The term “affordability” often comes up in conversations about public relations, marketing and related agencies. But, some industry companies, specifically small businesses that rely on outsourcing, have found such agencies to be more helpful than harmful.

With fewer than 200 employees, Noritz America Corporation fits into the range commonly used to describe a small business in the U.S. For more than five years, the O’Reilly DePalma agency has assisted Noritz with marketing and public relations needs. In the past two years, those needs have grown to include social media.

Currently, O’Reilly DePalma’s partner company, Flying Camel Advertising Design and PR, helps manage Noritz’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages. The push toward social media occurred after the company realized there was a need to hear the voice of the customer and be able to respond in a quick, timely fashion.

“In the beginning, we were very much Noritz-centered,” explained Jason Fleming, manager of Marketing at Noritz. “We’ve tried to broaden our scope a little bit and not talk so much about Noritz but also talk about things that our community may be interested in.”

On Facebook, Noritz predominately reaches a contractor audience by highlighting new products. Twitter and LinkedIn reach broader audiences for Noritz, as posts there are industry-focused. There’s a back-and-forth that occurs among Noritz, O’Reilly DePalma and Flying Camel as social media strategy and management are discussed. Each month, the two agencies discuss a calendar with Noritz that has post categories including industry news, company announcements, green products, etc.

“They have a good understanding of our company, which is a really important aspect of the whole thing. They’ve been working with us for a long time so they kind of know our personality and what we want to get across,” Fleming said.

Fleming said the existing trust and relationship that Noritz had with the agencies made their decision easy when considering social media management.

“It’s important to have the right people who can answer the questions. That’s something that we learned and are still learning,” Fleming said. “The people who are engaged on Facebook, Twitter and anything else want quick responses. So, to have the right people in this is a little bit of a challenge. But, it’s the first step.”

Aquatherm’s North American office was recently able to invest in a social media manager. Starting in 2007, when the company joined Facebook, key people in Aquatherm’s marketing department shared social media responsibilities. Originally, the company stuck to posting photos or installation-related posts to engage with customers and the public. Over time, the company’s social media presence grew to include Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+ and YouTube. The marketing department quickly realized that they were lacking the bandwidth to post as regularly as they would like to.

“It has evolved organically with our president, Adam Clark, and VP of Marketing, Parr Young, driving it,” explained Barry Campbell, vice president of Advertising and Media Relations at Aquatherm. “As we posted more things and got more interaction with end users of our product, we wanted to increase the frequency and relevancy of social media posts, which we’ve done in the last several months.”

Aquatherm has achieved some of its social media goals thanks to recent hire, Sara Lutz. Lutz joined the team as a communications specialist during the summer of 2013.

“Sara spends roughly a third of her time managing social media, with the remainder going to marketing/PR support,” Campbell said. “She and I find relevant content to post and she posts it via Buffer. So, posts go out the same time every day.”

On Aquatherm’s social media, visitors can find posts from the field, unique pipe innovations created by the prefabrication shop, photo submissions, event coverage, and more. It is the company’s ongoing goal to post more original content. Aquatherm recently launched a new blog, www.stateofthepipe.com, to host its original posts from industry professionals who offer insightful information.

Campbell agreed with the sentiments that hiring a dedicated social media employee brings up questions of affordability, especially in the business-to-business world and more specifically, in our industry. He recommended that employers consider creating broad communications, public relations, sales, etc. roles when making social media personnel decisions to help alleviate budget strains.

“It’s wise for anyone being hired with social media as a main component of their job to have a solid writing background,” Campbell noted. “Social media does have its own sort of language and attitude, and that’s great. But, when you’re trying to educate contractors, engineers, building owners, and facility managers about a new product that can save them money, time and hassles, it’s more important to speak their language, relate to them and know your market than to be fluent in social media.”

Though return on investment (ROI) and time spent are nebulous terms when it comes to evaluating social media, Campbell said that using social media is worth it. Businesses have the opportunity to build brand awareness, grow communities, share unique stores, develop partnerships, and learn what customers are saying in order to better respond to their needs.

“I have this discussion regularly with a variety of people in different roles throughout the industry. With the average age of a contractor, building owner, or facility manager somewhere around 50, you’re only reaching a small subset of the overall industry with social media,” Campbell said. “Yet, it has become something that you still need to devote time and resources to so you’re not missing the boat.”

For those still needing answers to the “dollars and cents” of social media, both Fleming and Rohr had stories about the connection between social media and sales. Fleming made an analogy to pitches while Rohr took the angle of friendship.

“[A previous Nortiz coworker said] it’s almost like you’re going in on a sales call. What are you going to talk about when you’re on that sales call? Whatever you’re going to do to pitch to make the sale, you want to use that same thought process with social media; it’s just that everybody else is going to be able to see it,” Fleming said. “Treat it as a relationship. It can’t just be one-sided. It’s got to be give and take.”

Rohr said, “Jeff Ginimer had a thought that really resonated with me, ‘just make a friend.’ That’s all sales is about. And social media gives you the opportunity to make a friend.”

The 2013 Pew Research Center Social Media Update said that 73 percent of online adults use at least one social networking site and 42 percent of online adults use multiple social networking sites. That’s a lot of opportunity for your business to make some new friends.

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