A commonly known phrase in social media circles is, “if someone says they are a social media expert, run away, run far away!” There are no social media experts. There are professionals and talented social media managers, strategists, community and brand managers, specialists in a specific niche, but no experts. I sometimes joke around about social media rock stars, but even the title rock star is meaningless in social media. The same goes for gurus. I’ve been labelled a guru by some well-intentioned people, but it sure doesn’t fit me, and it implies traditional wisdom (static knowledge, not dynamic like social media). I endeavor to keep up with the ever-changing world of social media which means I can’t rest on what I learned yesterday, I must be vigilant for what emerges today and tomorrow. So I am always the disciple not the master.
Don’t hire an “expert”.
There are really just two salary models I like to share with other social media professionals. The first goes something like this:
Charge clients a $1,000 retainer*, and $67.00 per month for basic consulting (teaching and coaching, not doing).
Now I have your attention! You heard that right, $67/month. It’s basic math really and nearly a proven fact that we “normal” human beings can only engage effectively with 150 people or less with any regularity. 150 x $67 = $10,000 per month. (see “how much to charge for social media consulting“). To expand on this, there are roughly 22 working days in the average month, so 150 clients divided by 22 is about 6 clients per day. that means that you can have a $120,000 per year consulting practice and all you have to do is meet with 6 clients a day for about an hour. Of course you’ll have to spend 4-5 hours per day handling a lot of followup, support and client maintenance issues, so for me, this model doesn’t work. Your clients deserve positive results and that’s impossible to achieve in one hour a month. [* when I mention "retainer" I mean "a sum to be received prior to performance, not a recurring fee or salary"]
The second model I like to call the, “you get what you pay for” rate (YGWYPF). Most non-social media people might question how much time it takes to “do social media”, or say that they, “can just hire someone for $10/hour to do that stuff”, when in reality, social media is best done by those who (A) have a strong sense of urgency, (B) enjoy their work, (C) have a consistent “take ownership” style, and finally, (D) must “get it” as we say in professional social media circles. The latter means basically they they have an in-depth knowledge and experience engaging in the various networking platforms that are collectively called, “social media”. You can’t buy that for $10 an hour.
The YGWYPF rate is $150/hour on average. I’ve seen $300 per hour and $25 per hour, but you get what you pay for. This is all dependent on your geography and local economics of course, but in general, expect to get good results for about $150/hour. So the next question is often how much time is involved. That depends on so many factors we cannot discuss them in much detail here. Some very talented friends of mine who are social media professionals once hammered out the time it takes to conduct social media activities according to an average strategy. Having said that, I know every business, organization, project or event is different and requires a custom social media strategy. But for the sake of argument we assumed some very basic factors. For example, minimum needs, starting fresh, no time constraints, and the client was required to produce all “content”. Content in this case was photos, videos, links, marketing materials, contests, or whatever minutia we needed to conduct this thing we affectionately call, “social media”. We determined that about 30 hours a month of sporadic and generalized activity was needed to supply quality results for a very basic small business. A complete generalization, but we just wanted to get a rough idea. So the basic cost of a social media professional should effectively be at least $4,500 per month. Ironically, the average compensation in the United States for a social media consultant is $66,000 per year, so our number wasn’t far off the average (see stats here: The average Social Media Consultant salary in the United States). These are just guidelines and nothing here is set in stone by any means. [note: you can't hire a social media professional for "x-hours" per day. It doesn't work that way.]
How many tweets do I get for $100?
Don’t try to break down how many tweets or Facebook posts you’ll need, because that’s not the way it works. Remember these three time-consuming practices that all social media practitioners preform regularly: Research, Outreach & Engagement. I call it the ROE of social media. These three interdependent and dynamic concepts require nearly constant attention. If you’re social media person is worth their salt, they will have effective tools to be productive as well as to measure success. The best way to measure social media effectiveness is audience participation and community growth. The more improvement you see in those two areas the better your brand exposure. The more brand exposure, the higher the potential for new business from the different profit centers you have set up such as your blog, event registration, website email collection page, donation form, product sales page, etc).
Social media done right is an art form that doesn’t require the artist to die before the work is valuable.
So what exactly is the cost of a social media expert? Expensive! Hiring the wrong person or agency could be very costly. Today’s social media professionals know that it’s not traditional marketing, but they must work closely with a company’s marketing manager(s). They know that social media is an involved practice that is time-consuming and requires uncommon talents to perform an ongoing strategy that evolves every moment. If you’re on the lookout for a social media professional for your business make sure you properly interview and investigate before you get involved with someone who is a wrong-fit for your brand. Don’t be afraid to Google the name of your new found social media person and wander around on the various social media outlets to see how that person or agency is interacting online. Check with your local college or technology community to find who they might recommend. It doesn’t hurt to ask your friends who they may know because you might hear the same couple of names come up often. Then ask those professionals who they know in the field. Social media isn’t cheap. Do your homework and remember, don’t hire an expert!
Here are some valuable resources about hiring and compensating Social Media Professionals:
- How to Buy Social Media Services: A Survey (really good info!)
- Social Media Jobs Salary Guide
- How social media consultants dupe their clients
I am more than happy to recommend professionals with many different of talents. Please check out my Maui Resources page for local professionals I recommend.