Social Media for Small Business, an Interview with Gaynor Alder
Interviewer: Tim Martin, October 2013. Episode #01 from the NET:101 podcast.
TIM: With me today I have Gaynor Alder. Hello.
GAYNOR: Hi, Tim, how are you going?
TIM: Gaynor is a co-presenter with me at NET:101 – we do the Advanced Social Media course – but again, also has her own business.
GAYNOR: Yes. I’m a PR and Social Media Consultant. I also freelance in copywriting, and I also have the Modern Woman’s Survival Guide, which is a blog.
TIM: Nice. The thing we’ve decided to run with today is how is the modern marketer, the social media manager, supposed to be jack-of-all-trades and do so many things brilliantly? How do you pull this off? How do you do it?
GAYNOR: Yeah, I think the first thing is – like when we actually sit down and you put it to me that way, Tim, I guess it does sound like a lot, and it is a lot. I think because social media has been such a rapidly evolving industry, I think people that work in social tend to be quite dynamic, and you just keep going in there and evolve with it and just do it.
But yeah, I think there’s definitely a lot of social media managers like myself who do have to be across a lot of different skill sets. I guess you learn them as you go, and learn to become really proficient in all of them.
TIM: Let’s hope you’ve got a boss or upstairs group of people that allow you to learn on the job. Is that the way it has to be these days, that we’ve got to learn on the job? Or are people just parachuted into the position and they know exactly what to do?
GAYNOR: I think there’s definitely still – it’s a continual learning process. I’m constantly keeping up to date with what’s going on in social. The platforms change so rapidly, so just the technical knowhow and understanding of how the platforms operate is a continual learning process. And if you don’t keep up to date with that, you can’t be effective in your job.
TIM: So how do you keep up to speed? Do you tinker, or do you go to a course or read a book?
GAYNOR: I find Twitter fantastic, and following certain people on Twitter, for different information. I sign up to newsletters of blogs that offer social media advice.
And also I think a lot is tinkering with the platform and learning, just taking it apart, testing different strategies, different timings of when I’m posting things. Than at the end of the month, analyzing the statistics, and then I’ll fine-tune it, re-test. Yeah, I’m borderline obsessive with that. But that’s how you learn how to get the most out of each platform.
TIM: Would you do that within the context of a normal part of a business day, or is that something you play around with in the evening over a glass of wine?
GAYNOR: I’m very structured in my approach to breaking it down for the Modern Woman’s Survival Guide. I have 2 days a week that I work on that, and the rest are for my clients. Traditionally, on a Monday, that’s when I’ll do my social media scheduling; it’s when I’m generating all my content – well, not all of the content on a Monday – in terms of quotes and images that I’m putting out across social.
And then once a month, then I will look at, analyze everything, and then once a quarter I also do a quarterly review of everything, all my marketing and what’s getting results and what’s not.
TIM: Okay, so Platform A announces a brand new feature.
TIM: Just came out yesterday.
TIM: Where do you find the time to sit down and tinker with that and work out the implications of it and just technically how it works? What buttons and what processes you’ve got to go through, the work flow.
GAYNOR: I’ll jump on anything like that, whether it’s right there and then or later that night. For me, because I have my own business and work for myself, I will sit there at nighttime while I’m watching TV with the phone, looking at Twitter, reading new things. That’s the time that I do that.
For other people in social, I think whether they’re working for someone else, I think they begrudge doing that in their own time. So yeah, I think in terms of the education process and staying up-to-date, it is something you really have to do a lot in your own time.
TIM: Yeah, because I’m wondering, boss walks by and says “What are you doing?” You say, “I’m just having a play around with this new feature.” I mean, surely you’d be out there generating business or leads or doing more constructive than playing around?
GAYNOR: Yeah. Even when it comes to – for me, it’s about taking the brand platform and the marketing messages, and for me when I’m scheduling, sometimes I actually feel if I’m with a client, I actually feel I don’t want them to see me doing that. Because it doesn’t look like I’m actually doing anything, but I’m actually deep in thought and researching what I’m actually going to put on that social media schedule for that publishing schedule for that month.
But I think when I walk out at the end of the day, what have I got to show? I’ve got “Oh, here’s the schedule for the month.” But they don’t understand the actual time that goes into really generating content that’s going to have cut through and that people are going to engage with.
TIM: Going back to the new feature, it’s great for you because you’ve learnt how to do it, so you can now apply that knowledge across several clients.
TIM: Which is good economies of scale. But I’m thinking it’s going to be quite time-intensive for somebody inside an organization to tinker around, work out how it works, have to do it not just once, but multiple times on that platform, and then times that by all the platforms they’re on.
GAYNOR: Oh, absolutely.
TIM: (laughs) I mean, it’s overwhelming.
GAYNOR: Yeah, I definitely think it is. I can only speak for myself, and let’s be real, I work long hours.
TIM: Social media manager working long hours? Who would’ve thought?
GAYNOR: Yeah, how novel, hey? How novel. I think you have to be very passionate about social media to be involved in it. And as well as these things being pain points, I guess, they’re also very exciting. I love finding out about something new on social media.
TIM: Do you think there would be social media managers, marketers, whatever out there that are actually doing a lot of this work on their own time? Not because the boss has asked them to, but because they are really excited about understanding how it works better?
GAYNOR: Absolutely. I think especially in terms if we talk about responsiveness – you’ve put out a campaign or even just the content that you’ve put out on social, because you spend so long creating the content, you want to see the engagement level. And then you want to engage.
If that happens to be happening on a Saturday or Sunday, I’d respond to it. That’s the thing; there is this expectation that you need to respond to people within a certain time when they’re communicating on your networks. I think just the way that social people are, yeah, they are dynamic people, they are committed. They want to see that result. That’s the exciting part of it: seeing people engage with it on social.
TIM: Do you think there’s an expectation out there that social media managers, marketers, should be at work around the clock because you never know when a question or a comment’s going to be made on one of their social media platforms?
GAYNOR: Well, I think that in some businesses, it’s not there – it is an expectation, but without being known. It’s that age-old “People that are really committed to their roles, they’re the ones that stay and do overtime. They just do it naturally.” And I think that social media people are very dynamic people. We go to all this time to create the content; we want to see the results. For us, someone not being answered that left a question on our social media platform we couldn’t help picking up the phone and responding to that.
I think that there’s an education process that needs to take place with senior management in that I really don’t believe that they understand what’s involved in social, and I think some of them – I think that leaves some people having to justify. They’re doing all this work, but then justify what they’re doing to management, and therefore they’re not giving the resources to it, so we’re left with burnt out social media managers who are spending their time on the weekend or their evenings responding to their social media marketing.
Larger organizations, they do have dedicated teams, but you’re going to have small businesses where there may even just be one person doing the social, and I can see a real disconnect in terms of one, like what we’ve just been discussing, what’s involved, but also how long it takes to create that content, and then what’s involved in the engagement and the community. I just think there’s a real disconnect between the two.
TIM: Come on, how hard can it be? Just crank out a blog post, couple of pictures.
GAYNOR: Let’s go back to “cranking out” a blog post. Predominantly I started out in writing, so for me, writing comes naturally to me, and I can do some things quite quickly, but there’s always an editing and a refining process. And if you’re writing for an organization and it’s a corporate model, for example, there’s a lot of research that goes into it. It can take up to 3 hours to generate a really good blog post.
TIM: And that’s assuming, I would imagine, that you’ve got access to the expertise in-house, that people are prepared to sit down and share some stuff with you or co-write it with you.
TIM: Whew, okay. So content. When I think of content, I think of text, images, video, and audio.
TIM: Do you think that organizations or individuals naturally gravitate to the content media that they’re most comfortable with, or that decision is driven by the platforms that they choose and what the demands are of that particular platform, whether it be Facebook or Pinterest or a blog?
GAYNOR: Me personally, obviously I will pick the platforms that will work best for that brand for their return on investment, what they’re wanting to get for those platforms. But there are definitely people out there that just think “Oh, got to be on Facebook, got to be on Twitter.”
And I have seen brands doing it wrong – that’s not the right word – doing it badly, where they’re not using the right platform. They’re using short form on Twitter when really, they’re a visual brand, and they really should be having, like a hairdresser, should have on Pinterest.
But I think there’s a lot of people also that fall into the trap of trying to be across everything, and that’s just not possible. It’s not possible to do all of that across so many different platforms, and it’s a waste of time as well.
TIM: And certainly not possible, even if you gave it a crack, to do it well. So blogs require the ability to write.
TIM: If you don’t have access to a writer in-house or to get somebody external if they’re an organization, or if you’re not a good writer, then maybe a blog’s not the way to go?
TIM: What about other content? Video for example. Pretty powerful, rich media. Have you used that as well?
GAYNOR: No, I’ve not done video, and I guess for me I’m more comfortable behind the scenes. But there’s a lot of value in video for a lot of businesses, so that’s something that I think for a lot of people, myself included, would be outsourced.
TIM: What about images?
GAYNOR: Images, obviously you can use Creative Commons.
TIM: In terms of sourcing them, you mean?
GAYNOR: Yes. Then you can also obviously take your own photography, which I think is a definite way to connect your audience better, because then you can – for example, I work with a brand that’s lifestyle homewares, so I’m not just going to put a stock image of that product on social media; I’m going to put it in context.
I’m going to put it in context as to how it solves a pain point in their life or create a match between their lifestyle, and then I would use either Photoshop or I’d use – there’s some great online free photo editing tools.
TIM: PicMonkey is a good one.
GAYNOR: PicMonkey, yeah. That’s better for when you’re doing single images. You can do collages on there.
TIM: Okay, so now there’s another technical skill set here. You’ve got to work out how to manipulate images and how to crop, re-orientate the position, compress the file size, text on top – how do you learn how to do that?
GAYNOR: I’m know Photoshop on a basic to intermediate level, so that comes in handy. I think as well, it’s not just being able to do it, but it’s actually making it look professional. Because there’s nothing worse than something that’s been created and then it just doesn’t look good. It’s quite damaging for some brands. Again, that’s something that might have to be outsourced.
But then people within small businesses or larger organizations may be expected to be doing all of that. The companies don’t want to have to keep outsourcing everything. And if you’re a small business owner, you can’t always afford to outsource, so you’re having to learn those skills yourself.
TIM: Would you find that content is one of the biggest challenges for you in terms of driving your social media initiatives? I mean, these platforms all need to be fed. They need to be fed with content.
TIM: Is that a challenge, or does that come fairly easy to you?
GAYNOR: I think for me, the content generation in terms of what to put on there comes very easily. I’m very particular about the images that I do use, so there’s a lot of time – it’s more the time involved in sourcing them.
I could spend a whole day just scheduling – for example, a week’s worth of social media content that I’ve pre-scheduled can take me up to 6 hours to schedule it all, and that includes sourcing all the images. That’s not including the content that’s actually got to be written as well.
So yeah, the content generation – for some people, coming up with what to do, “What do I write?”
TIM: I wrote a blog post the other day, and I swear I must’ve spent an hour just to find that one image – I use Creative Commons through Flickr – to kick the blog post off. I can justify that to myself because I work for myself, but I’m wondering what somebody upstairs would say if they found out you spent 1 hour to find a great image for your blog post.
GAYNOR: Absolutely. But it’s so important, though, as well.
TIM: I know.
GAYNOR: Because there’s nothing worse than when you see a blog post with a cheesy image. And it’s also important, not just from a branding point of view, but it’s what people connect with, because on social, images are very powerful. It’s what they’ll connect with before they go to your copy.
TIM: Okay, so we’ve got our post up; how do you know what’s working and not working? You’ve got obviously access to your Onboard Analytics for the different platforms, and you have Google Analytics. How much time would you sit down analyzing the numbers?
GAYNOR: Oh, probably far too much. At first I was really obsessive about checking it all the time – this is when I started, way back years ago. But now it’s a weekly, monthly process. And even daily, through some platforms, because Facebook I can see straight up. I can see what the reach has been on a particular post.
But each week, I’ll let things run for a week with what I’ve scheduled; then I will have a look at all my Insights in Facebook, and then once a month I’ll do that again just to get a broader overview, and then once a quarter I’ll look at that. I obviously get reports sent from Google Analytics regularly.
But I think for most of us, we’re using those insights, but we can see as it’s rolling out, and we start to get a feel – we know what’s working and what’s not by the response. On Twitter, how many people are engaged with it, how many people you’ve been talking to. The more you work in this field, you start to get a feel for what’s working. But the data’s really important to take a step back.
TIM: That begs the question, define the notion of what’s working? What numbers, for example, does a boss or a client want to see in terms of they’ve invested time and energy into paying a retainer or a salary or whatever it may be? What numbers are going to please them?
GAYNOR: Well, this is another area that’s a bugbear for me, and again, it’s an education process that needs to take place. I think there’s two sides of this coin at the moment – the management that just want to see the big numbers, so they see a Facebook page and they want to see 10,000 or they want to see 20,000, “We want to get the big numbers,” but their “talking about this” rate is so low. But they’ve got no idea about that.
Then you’ve got the other end of people who are working in social, where they are reporting to a manager that yes, they understand it’s about the engagement and the community. And yes, there are insights you can use within the different platforms, but there is still a lack of real metrics to be able to effectively really measure your engagement of community.
What I do have at my disposal, I use really well. In terms of management, in Facebook I can report on how many people commented on a post, I can report on the likes or the shares, I can see in Google Analytics how many people were sent to a website from the platform. But then can I drill down as to whether that link led to a sale? No.
So different clients are going to have different measurables that they want to measure, and within each of those, there are some really effective ways and some not.
TIM: How do I prove to myself, or how does anyone prove to anybody else, that it’s working? I mean, we’re involved with social; I’m on board. I find it an incredibly powerful way to reach out to people and engage in a meaningful sense. But if you asked me to provide a spreadsheet demonstrating that, I think I’d struggle. Is this just some sort of article of faith that you’ve got to sell to somebody else that it’s working?
GAYNOR: Yeah, look, like I said, there are definitely some measurables, like “talking about” – like if you run an advertising campaign on Facebook, you can see exactly how many people are from the coupon. But where the gray area starts to come in is that inability in Google Analytics to see – yes, you may have driven people to your page, but you can’t see where they went after that.
But it depends on your end objective. For me with my magazine, my goal is to get them from Facebook to a hit on my blog, and therefore that’s success. I can measure that. Other things that you can’t measure always are the community and the brand that’s being built just by having the eyeballs on the page.
So yes, in response to your question, yes, there is a leap of faith. But hey, let’s look back at old advertising, like the billboard. You couldn’t tell – you just spent X amount on that billboard; the advertising agency couldn’t go back to them and say “You got this many sales as a result.” They just looked at sales going up in general.
TIM: Or the number of cars that drove past it.
GAYNOR: Yeah. So I still think that social does provide a lot more measurables in that sense, but at the same time there is going to be – there’s still a leap of faith in advertising as to what led to the sale.
TIM: That’s the attribution problem.
GAYNOR: Yeah. But I think for me, I’m very big on brand advocacy and brand loyalty and branding in general, and it’s about what leads to a sale is engaging people with your brand on an emotional level or on a practical, solving a pain point level. If you can see you’ve got people commenting and talking and you’re having a conversation back with them, that has to be good for the brand. It just has to be. And you didn’t have that opportunity before, with traditional advertising.
TIM: So this notion of community and engagement, now we’ve got an extra time sack, and you’ve actually got to engage people. You’ve got to respond, at a minimum, or be proactive and reach out, ideally. How much time is that going to involve?
GAYNOR: That just depends on how many people respond. What you were just saying, it is important, because social’s not broadcasting. Old advertising was broadcasting; social is a conversation. People want to communicate and they want to engage, and that’s the whole point of everything that you’re doing.
But as to how long that’s going to take, you could have 80 responses to something, comments on a Facebook post. So it’s going to take as long as that’s going to take to respond.
TIM: It almost seems that the more successful a brand or an individual organization becomes in social media, the greater the burden that’s put upon them to manage that success.
GAYNOR: Yeah, true.
TIM: Be careful what you wish for.
GAYNOR: Yeah, exactly. But I thrive on that. I thrive on the community, I thrive on the commenting and the responding back. And at the same time, those people who are talking about your brand on their page, all their friends are seeing it. So for me, I’ll drop everything – I could be in the middle of pre-scheduling something; if I’m seeing a campaign and I’m seeing comments, that’s where I’m at.
I guess we’re looking at all of this and how do we do it all – it’s a continual process of prioritization and dropping one ball and picking up the other. But there are things you can do to make some of those areas easier, like pre-scheduling posts. You do that on one day, and then you’re just left for the rest of the week to engage. So it’s not like you’re constantly running around trying to schedule and respond at the same time.
And it depends how much content that you actually do need to generate. Some brands will have a lesser need than others, and being smart about what you’re doing so that – it’s better to have maybe – if you’re in a position where you are time-poor, doing one amazing post rather than three or four ordinary ones – you have to be really smart with your time, for sure.
TIM: Yeah. I’m wondering if some organizations are getting to the point that there’s just too much for one person. There could be an existing marketing manager, and he or she is being told “Now you’re in charge of social,” they by default become a social media marketing manager.
But it gets to a certain point that that one person can’t pull it all off, that maybe they need a dedicated resource or an extra pair of arms and legs, whatever it might look like.
GAYNOR: Yes. That comes back to the problem of being able to justify that to management, and they don’t understand all of what we’ve just been talking about and how much time it takes, not just to do it, but to do it well and to do it effectively, and for it to connect with your target market.
I’ve been thinking about this myself for awhile, and the only answer I can come up with is there’s an education process that has to take place. But also what we said before: what you can measure, do measure. If you start giving the measurements to management, they’re always motivated by the bottom line. It’s a horrible stereotype, but obviously true.
TIM: Just make sure it’s a big number, right?
GAYNOR: Yeah. So I think the more that you can show what you are doing and measuring it, then that’s going to open up. But there’s obviously a whole new conversation to be had around it’s not the numbers; it’s the quality of the people engagement, of engaging with you and the community that’s being built.
TIM: Maybe, to sum all this up, it has to be a labor of love for a lot of people, because the demands are fairly intense. Social obviously never sleeps, it’s constantly changing, it’s new, there are competing demands with another organization for resources. Gosh, it seems like quite a juggling act.
GAYNOR: Yeah, but I think at the same time, it is your marketing. That’s what you’re in business for, is to market yourself and sell what you do, and I think you’d be crazy not to take full advantage of that.
TIM: I agree. Okay, we’re going to wrap this up. Thank you so much for coming in.
GAYNOR: That’s okay, Tim. Pleasure.
TIM: Let people know where they can find you.
GAYNOR: Yeah, www.gaynoralder.com is The Modern Woman’s Survival Guide. That’s the best way to actually connect with me there.
TIM: Thanks, Gaynor.