How to hire a freelance social media manager

A guide to hiring the very best social media managers

Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are where your customers talk about the products or services you provide. It's where they go to ask for help and where they go to research their next purchase.

A well managed social media presence is a must for every business. But managing social media the right way takes experience, creativity and a considerable amount of time. This combination of experience, creativity and time means it's often a wise decision for small businesses to outsource their social media management to a trusted freelancer.

In this guide, we'll cover:

How to hire a freelance social media manager

What makes a good freelance social media manager?

The skill required to effectively manage a business' social media presence is often under-appreciated. There is so much more to managing social media than scheduling tweets. Good freelance social media managers will display the following traits:

Research skill & audience empathy

A major part of a social media manager's job is to engage an audience - to motivate them to pay attention and to take action. Key to generating engagement with an audience is being able to discover what's interesting to them. A good social media manager should be able to use research techniques and tools to uncover opportunities to say something interesting.

A knowledge of the channels and formats

There are two aspects to consider:

  1. Each platform has a unique culture and etiquette.
  2. Each platform has unique technical requirements.

Culture and etiquette

Each social media platform has an unofficial code of conduct. For example, LinkedIn is strictly for business and professional discussion. Snapchat is for sharing short, disposable, entertainment. It would not be wise to confuse the two!

A good social media manager should be able to advise you on the correct strategy for each platform.

Technical requirements

Each social media platform has specific technical sweet spots for content. For example, Twitter and Facebook have different optimal image sizes, and different minimum requirements for video content.

A good social media manager will be able to help you to create content in the right format for each of the social platforms you use.

Proactivity & Responsiveness

Social media moves unbelievably fast. This means a good social media manager will need to be both proactive and quick to respond to new developments.

Good research and understanding of an audience will enable a social media manager to spot trends and opportunities to create engaging content early. However, there'll always be something unexpected that gets people talking, so it's important a freelance social media manager is quick to respond (and has a contract with you that allows them to do so).

Writing a brief for your freelance social media management project

Briefing a social media manager is actually a lot more difficult than it may seem. The key is to try and avoid ultra-specific deliverables and, instead, concentrate on describing the outcome you want. For example, "we want to create a LinkedIn audience of 1,500, which can be used to help our sales teams generate leads", or "we want to generate £2,000 incremental ecommerce revenue a month through our Facebook page".

Provide background and context

In addition to describing the outcome you want, it's important to provide your freelance social media manager with as much background and context as possible.

'Influencers', in social media terms, are noteworthy people in your industry whose opinion carries weight. They could be celebrities, expert speakers or industry analysts. Providing your social media manager with information on the influencers in your industry is an example of useful background information.

A good social media manager will ask questions very early in the briefing process to help guide you on the background information they will need.

Define the rules of engagement

As mentioned above, proactivity and responsiveness are important when keeping pace with social media, so a good freelance social media manager will work best with a degree of autonomy. Having to seek approval on every post or engagement will slow them down and, in the worst cases, make them ineffective.

A more effective way of collaborating with a remote freelance social media manager is to provide rules of engagement - a set of general principles and guidelines they should adhere to. For example, "do not create any posts relating to topic X", "make sure you retweet everything our product team post".

You can also provide the freelancer with an FAQs list to help them respond to common customer queries in real-time, along with an escalation process to help them deal with more complicated questions or complaints.

Questions to ask your freelance social media manager

Selecting the right social media manager ultimately comes down to trust. You need to believe the freelancer will understand your audience and is capable of engaging them with interesting content.

To help decide on the best freelancer to manage your social media accounts, there are some simple open-ended questions you can ask:

Do you have a portfolio?

A good freelance social media manager will have a portfolio. However, rather than focusing on the big brands they work with, ask to see examples of work where they've worked with companies of a similar size to yours. It is arguably easier to work with a big household name, backed with big advertising budgets. Instead, look for examples where they've worked with a challenger brand or dealt with a tricky topic or event.

Have you worked in my industry?

Industry experience will obviously help with background information and knowledge of competitors, etc. However, don't discount a good freelancer if they haven't worked in your industry. It can be extremely valuable to have experience of what works in another industry as it may present an opportunity for you to do something different and stand out from your competitors.

What social media tools do you use?

Asking this question helps you establish two things: Firstly, the freelancer uses social media monitoring or publishing tools, which gives you an idea of the quality of the research and planning they will do. Secondly, it'll let you see how easily the freelancer will be able to integrate with existing social media tools or software you use.

How and when do you work?

Social media management requires the freelancer to be working at the same time as the majority of your audience, especially if you provide customer service through your social media accounts. Whilst the freelancer has complete freedom to choose when and how they work on your brief, you should consider looking to hire a freelancer who prefers to work around key times in your business' operating hours.

Hiring a freelance social media manager: Summary

In summary, there are three main considerations when hiring a freelance social media manager:

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