10 Questions to Ask a Prospective Social Media Manager
When you’re ready to contract with a professional, freelance social media manager, you’re going to want to handle the entire process from an organized approach – as you would any other business investment. Doing so will save you time and money as well as potential frustration and will help ensure your working relationship with the social media manager of your choice gets off in the right direction.
Surely, you’ll have your own questions relative to the project you have in mind, as well as your own immediate and long-term business goals – but the ten questions we’ll share with you here will provide you with a solid start for gathering the information you need about each prospective social media manager you speak with.
1) What Will You Do to Help Me Grow My Business?
This may seem like a fairly vague question to ask someone at an initial consultation, but the social media manager’s answer will provide ample insight into his or her approach to marketing strategy and its implementation. A social media manager who has prepared for their meeting with you will have answers that relate directly to your business, your industry, and the products or services you offer.
Don’t expect the social media manager to be able to wrap your marketing needs into a nutshell at this first meeting though – while they should provide an answer that shows serious insight, a social media manager who has had time to work with you in and on your business will obviously develop new perspectives and approaches as they learn how your business operates and what your social media marketing goals are. At this stage, you’re looking for a response that shows the social media manager has done some research prior to the call and takes a genuine interest in you and your company.
2) What Are Your Fees?
It can be hard to avoid price-shopping when you’re a business on a budget (and who isn’t, really?). While it can make sense to do so when it comes to some business expenses, in this case, the answer to the question should not be the deciding factor in which social media manager you choose to work with. The fact is, you’re going to need to know how much it will cost you each month to work with your social media manager but ultimately, the point of utilizing a social media manager is to make more money by freeing you up to spend more of your time on billable hours, and less time on the marketing aspects of your business. In the right circumstances, with the right social media manager, that’s exactly what will happen.
As you gather pricing data from the various social media managers you speak with, bear in mind this famous quote: “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”
Price points can vary wildly in the social media management industry. It’s important to realize that a truly professional social media manager, with the skills and experience you need to actually take your business to that next level, charge between $25-$40 hourly, and up. While a $4 an hour “social media manager” may seem appealing, it could actually end up costing you a lot more than you realize.
Weigh your budget against the social media manager’s experience, abilities, and professionalism. What could take an inexperienced social media manager an hour might take an experienced social media manager less than 10 minutes, depending on the situation of course. Oftentimes, when a choice is made based solely on price, you’ll wind up back at square one, hiring the more expensive social media manager to redo the work or worse, to fix issues caused by going with the ‘cheaper’ option.
All of this is not to say that a social media manager has to be expensive to be good. Ask the question with all of this in mind and use due diligence when making your final decision.
3) Why Are You Interested in Working With Me?
Similar to Question #1 (What will you do to help me grow my business?), this question will also help you separate the social media manager who is replying to your RFP (Request For Proposal) simply because you’re willing to pay for services, from those who are sincerely interested in partnering with you and working within your industry.
Social media managers go into business for many reasons, not the least of which is to focus their skills and talents on industries and projects that interest and appeal to them. Unless you’re planning to delegate nothing more than scheduling posts to your social media manager, prospective social media managers should have a notably enthusiastic response to this question.
In fairness to those social media managers who are responding to your RFP, they can only adequately answer this question if you’ve given enough information, so be generous with the details about you, your company, your industry, potential projects you have in mind that the social media manager will ideally be responsible for, and anything else you feel will help the very best potential social media manager respond appropriately to your RFP and your subsequent questions.
4) What is Your Level of Experience?
This question is designed to help you determine if the social media manager in question is experienced with and skilled at the particular tasks you’re currently aware you need help with.
It’s worth noting that we didn’t phrase the question as ‘How long have you been in business?’, and that’s because a social media manager who has only been in business a few months may bring decades of applicable experience to the table.
As was mentioned earlier, you and your social media manager will almost certainly come to discover new tasks and projects that can be delegated as you work together over time. For now, you’ll need to be sure that the prospective social media manager can handle the tasks that are driving you to find and hire a social media manager in the first place.
Your business and work are likely centered around a specific industry or industries and the tasks you have in mind may relate strongly to that particular field. If that’s the case it will be important to find a social media manager who has relative and relevant education, experience or both.
For example, real estate agents commonly work with social media managers and often will seek out social media managers who have either worked in the real estate industry themselves (as an administrative assistant or even as an agent themselves), or who have completed an industry-relative training course.
This question will naturally lead into further conversations about the social media manager’s background, work experience, and current projects – which will ultimately help you learn more about his or her varied skills and service offerings. During your conversation, you may together uncover additional marketing tasks that could be delegated. Whatever your particular, immediate needs are, prepare ahead of time by examining and listing them so that you can clearly lay them out when you speaking with a prospective social media manager.
5) What Are Your Billing and Payment Policies?
It’s important to have a clear understanding of how a prospective social media manager handles billing and payment processing.
Regarding billing: some social media managers bill by the minute, others in six, ten or fifteen-minute increments. Some charge an hour, minimum; others will invoice only for the exact time spent on your request. Most social media managers bill for phone calls made or received on behalf of you or your company, as well as for calls with you or with your clients and contacts. Many social media managers bill for time spent discussing projects with you, as well as time spent communicating on your behalf, via IM or email. You may also find that some social media managers would prefer to work for a monthly retainer agreed upon by both parties.
Some social media managers require a retainer or deposit payment up front, others will accept a pay-as-you-go arrangement with or without a deposit. If the social media manager does work on retainer, find out what happens if you are unable to utilize all of the hours you’ve paid for or need additional hours above and beyond what you’re purchased.
Note that a professional social media manager will provide you with a contract detailing all of this information (and more) in writing should you decide to hire them. Some social media managers will share their contract details prior to any binding commitment being made, to help clarify their business policies and procedures. Read the contract carefully and be sure that it stipulates billing processes fully.
Regarding payment processing: social media managers accept payment via varying methods and on various terms. Payment methods a particular social media manager accepts could include: PayPal, check, direct deposit, Intuit Payment Network or even money order. Payment terms will vary, depending on the social media manager and the project/circumstances, including (partial or full) payment due in advance, Net 7, Net 10, Net 30 or payment due upon receipt.
Again, in order to ensure complete understanding of a prospective social media manager’s business policies and procedures, you’ll want to ask on what terms they invoice and how you would be required to make payment.
When you do decide to hire a particular social media manager, check that these details are included in the social media manager’s contract as well.
6) Will You Be Handling My Projects or Do You Contract Work Out?
If you’re contracting with a qualified team of social media managers, this question may not be quite as applicable (although you may still wish to inquire if the firm sends work out to other or overseas service providers) but it’s still necessary to consider how important the answer to the question is to you.
If you prefer to work closely with a single service provider with the understanding that he or she is the only person working on your projects and requests, a social media manager who does outsource work may not be a good fit for you.
In some cases, though, just as a firm or marketing team of social media managers can help cover a wider range of services – so too can a professional social media manager who has built a network of fellow social media managers with various specialties to call on when a request comes in that she would ordinarily not be able to handle. In these situations, your social media manager would either project manage or oversee the results of a request that needed to be outsourced; ensuring you get the quality product or service you need without having to spend the time or energy tracking down another service provider.
If a social media manager does outsource, don’t be shy about asking deeper questions regarding who the social media manager sources work for. Find out if the social media manager sends work overseas or works with non-native English-speaking service providers – this can be particularly important when tasks involving writing, editing, proofreading or preparation of written marketing materials come into play.
Many well-established social media managers also have equally well-established colleagues within their network on whom they rely for specialty work or other requests they cannot fulfill for their clients. A professional social media manager who does outsource work to other professional social media managers will have no qualms about sharing this information with you up front.
If a prospective social media manager doesn’t outsource, ask him or her how they would handle a request they’re not qualified to complete.
7) How Do You Communicate With Your Clients?
This is actually two questions in one. You’re not only looking for information on a social media manager’s preferred methods of communication with their clients (email, IM, VoIP, phone, etc.) but also clues to their communication style.
Answers to the first question are generally pretty easy to arrive at. Email is easily the preferred method of communication for nearly all social media managers because it helps create a ‘paper trail’ of project planning, requested deliverables, proposed and agreed to deadlines, invoices and more but some social media managers also provide a company telephone number that clients can ring during business hours and expect to be greeted at the other end.
Some social media managers may also set up an IM (Instant Messenger) account for use during business hours, usually with specific parameters in mind for how and when they will interact with clients. After all, being immediately available to every client at all times would allow too many interruptions in what should be a focused working day.
Your prospective social media manager should be able to articulate their own client communication policies, and in doing so will also give you some insight into their communication style. In actuality, just about any question you ask should give some insight into a social media manager’s communication style.
If your questions are met with brief, vague, shallow or otherwise lacking responses and you (as most clients will) prefer working with someone who is communicative, forthcoming and transparent, make note of this issue and move on to another prospective social media manager.
A professional social media manager should be not only available to you via methods and during periods of time that will work well for you and your business, but should also communicate with you in a way that leaves you satisfied, informed and ready to move forward – not lingering with yet more questions or uncertainty.
8) What Are Your Business Hours?
This question doesn’t have a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ answer, per se. Many social media managers use their incredible time management skills to run not only their own businesses as well as their clients’ businesses – but all while caring for a family, attending school, or taking other educational courses to enhance their skills and service offerings, and more. There are also social media managers located the world over in various time zones. With all of this in mind, you can imagine that working hours, planned holidays, and schedules among social media managers are as many and varied as the social media managers themselves.
As a business owner investing in a service provider, it’s important for you to know when your social media manager is available to work on your projects, to collaborate with you, and to help manage the marketing side of your business.
If you anticipate needing assistance with time-sensitive projects or things that ordinarily must be accomplished on a particular schedule, be up front with prospective social media managers about this to ensure they can accommodate your needs and meet your expectations. (It’s relatively important to note that social media managers are independent contractors, not employees – and as such, any scheduling of work or meetings ultimately must fall to the service provider, not the client.)
9) What Kinds of Projects Do You Most Enjoy?
If you want to get real insight into what a social media manager does best, find out what they most love to work on.
This question will help you uncover a prospective social media managers greatest strengths, which will also ultimately be your greatest assets. Human nature dictates that we spend more time and effort to truly excel at doing that which we love. When a service provider is enjoying what they’re doing, they do a better job, provide better results, and take more care arriving at the end result (in this case, your company’s white paper, blogging, newsletter, marketing campaign or community management, etc.)
Asking this question will also help you fine-tune and expand the list of tasks you wish to delegate by bringing forth ideas for projects you may not have thought of yet.
10) How Do You Stay Up-To-Date on New Technology, Software and Resources?
Naturally, you’re going to want to hire a social media manager who works to stay on top of the latest developments in technology, software, and small business resources.
A professional social media manager worth his or her fee will have an immediate and thorough response to this question. If he or she specializes in a particular industry or field the answer should include industry-specific sources.
The last thing you want is to hire an ‘outdated’ or ‘outmoded’ social media manager, so look for clues to active participation in the various social networking platforms, reference to industry-relevant feeds, blogs, forums and newsletters, as well as mention of recent or current applicable learning pursuits.
This is the final question in our series, but is by no means the last question you should ask. As you move through each of your questions with a prospective social media manager you’ll naturally come up with new questions to ask and new tangents to explore. We’ve provided these ‘Top Ten’ as thinking points to help you get started.
You should ask as many questions as you need to during your initial consultation with a social media manager. (Most social media manager will offer a thirty or sixty-minute consultation prior to engaging in a contract with a new client.) Remember, a professional social media manager is ‘interviewing’ you as much as you are interviewing them.
A professional social media manager is looking for a client who will be a good fit for his or her skills, business philosophy and work style, among other things. By being communicative about your own hopes and expectations and clearly discussing each of your questions and concerns, you’ll help yourself and the social media manager in question determine if you’ll be a good match for each other.
I am a Certified Social Media Manager, Strategist, International Keynote Speaker, Organic Specialist and Agile marketer! Blogging is my creative outlet. Running, hiking and skiing are how I recharge. You'll recognize me on stage and online by my always present orange glasses, a nod to my Dutch heritage.