I get it; social media requires a lot of time and investment to manage. It’s one of the biggest drawbacks to using platforms like Facebook or Twitter. It’s really an all-or-nothing prospect, right? Facebook’s algorithm in particular encourages constant uses, where a sufficiently long gap makes it much harder to keep in touch with your audience.
You can save yourself some time in a lot of different ways. You can hire a social media manager to do everything for you, though that can be quite expensive. You can invest in tools like Buffer or other social media management platforms, but they all have a learning curve and, of course, they cost money as well.
One area where I see a lot of businesses start, at least when it comes to saving some time with social media, is hiring a writer to draft up social media posts for them. Believe it or not, some companies pay writers to write their 100-character Facebook and Twitter posts. Even if the writer has no interaction with the back end of a social media dashboard, they can still write compelling posts, right?
There are, of course, pros and cons to this method. Let’s talk about it and determine if it’s a worthwhile investment for your business, shall we?
Let’s start with the arguments in favor of outsourcing your social media posting. I’m looking at this from the perspective of a brand that just wants to hire a writer, not someone looking for a total social media management package. Obviously, you can go as far as you want with it, but just be aware that the more you want to outsource, the more you need to trust the manager and the more you’re probably going to have to pay.
First up, you save a lot of time and mental energy when you don’t have to write posts. There’s a lot more to a Facebook post or a Tweet than just writing a dozen words and hitting submit. You have to have some idea of your audience, you need to know character limits and display quirks. You have to know when to use hashtags and when not to. You have to have a keen awareness of the language, so you don’t accidentally choose improper words, homophones that don’t quite fit, or just loaded words or phrases.
To a certain extent, hiring a writer to manage your social media is an ideal situation for brands whose management are largely foreign. Whether you naturally speak French, German, Farsi, or whatever else, a native English writer can be a huge benefit for social media. A lot of customers will have a better impression of a business if their social media posts are fluent, even if there’s no tangible difference in the product or the business itself.
A good social media writer also has a lot of room to grow. They might start out by writing your posts for Facebook, Twitter, and what have you, sure. Then, as they grow more familiar with your brand, you might feel like giving them a bit more responsibility. Maybe you have them write your ad copy, or hire them on to write landing pages or blog posts. Or maybe you take it in the other direction and give them dashboard access to post for you. It all depends on if they’re willing, of course; many writers don’t want to be involved in the technical side of things, and will decline such an opportunity.
There’s also the matter of costs. Hiring a writer directly just to write your social media posts is going to be pretty cheap. Most writers are paid on a per-word basis, at least when you find them through a content mill or a writer market like UpWork. A typical Facebook or Twitter posts is going to be well under 100 words, so even at $1 per word, it’s a cheap price to pay. Plus, you can encourage a lot of loyalty and attention just by offering to pay a bit more, which won’t increase your costs nearly as much as it benefits the freelancer.
If you’re hiring a social media manager to do everything from run your accounts to running ads to managing a blog for you, it’ll cost a lot. Some of that cost is in administration, and building up a slate of people to do individual elements of your marketing for you will cost less if you manage it all yourself. As always, it’s a delicate balance: do you spend more money to save the time and energy and draw from the talents of others, or do you put your own time to use to save a few bucks? There’s no right answer, it all depends on your in-house talents and your budget.
Now let’s look at a few reasons why hiring a writer for your social media might not be the best option. The first is, easily enough, the cost. I know I just talked about how little it costs to hire a writer, but that’s still more than nothing. Even if you’re only paying $5 for a Facebook post or a tweet, that’s $5 times, say, 7 for Facebook and 14 for Twitter per week, which can round to about $100/week. For many small businesses, even that might be more than they’re willing to spend.
Secondly, individual writers aren’t always going to be exclusively available. Take a look at the link to Writer Access above; their freelancers list how many clients they work for. Their other clients might not all be active, but those writers are splitting their attention between anywhere from 50 to 1,000 different clients. It’s easy enough to mix up details or fail to gain enough familiarity to really put the best spin on social media.
More than that, individual writers might have other commitments. Freelancers are generally not beholden to your business needs. A writer might go on vacation right when you need a big social media push, and you probably aren’t paying them enough to cancel their plans. Other clients with more valuable content might take priority as well. You’re not able to make demands on the time or schedule of a freelancer. If you want to, you need to hire them as an employee, which carries all its own risks and benefits.
It’s up to you to decide which is worse: spending the time to manage social media or paying for a writer who writes competent but generic posts. Generic content isn’t exactly going to get you to go viral, but at the same time, it’s heads and shoulders better than not having any social posts at all.
If you’re hiring a writer, you also might need to hire other people as well. You’re going to need to post the content according to a schedule and target your audience appropriately, something that takes up time. You also will need to create or license images to go with your posts, and that might mean paying for stock photos, hiring a photographer, or employing a graphic designer. Most writers, after all, just want to write; they don’t have the tools or experience necessary to make your images for you.
You also have to keep a close eye on your writers. A site like Textbroker, Writer Access, or UpWork is going to monitor the work their writers do, and will help you catch attempts at plagiarism, which can hurt your brand. The writers, therefore, tend to avoid such dangerous techniques. On the other hand, if you’re hiring writers through Fiverr or another small-time gig site, you might have more of a problem with it. Most writers are honest, but a few bad apples ruin the bunch.
Even large brands with money to spare need to worry about their writer loyalty. You might have a large budget, but even so, a freelancer isn’t going to see that whole budget. They’re often managing multiple clients at all times. Are you willing to put your entire brand’s public face in the hands of someone who is only partially motivated and who is splitting their attention among several different brands?
On top of all of this, there’s the analysis. Writers alone aren’t going to want to dig into your analytics and present reports about your success or lack thereof. If they wanted to do deeper data analysis, they’d probably be working as consultants for a much higher fee. That means you need to effectively communicate with writers about what has and hasn’t worked, AND you need to be able to do that data analysis yourself.
Voice, Authority, and Responsiveness
There’s one more major concern for hiring a social media writer that deserves its own section. Your social media is a public face for your company. It’s perhaps the most important public face you have. Plenty of folks these days turn to Twitter for customer service issues instead of emailing, calling, or otherwise communicating with your employees directly.
Whenever you post on social media, one of your primary responsibilities is to be available to respond to comments and answer questions. Interacting with your customers is a huge part of a good social media presence. Keeping those conversations going increases interaction which, on Facebook at least, is a primary factor in keeping your posts visible to those fans.
When you hire a writer for your social media posts, there’s going to be a turnaround time. You give them an assignment and they might complete it in an hour or two, or it might be a day or so later. It all depends on how you’re hiring them and what the contract is.
Almost invariably, the turnaround time is far too long for social media responses. If a user leaves a comment, you can’t hire the freelancer to respond, it would be much too slow. So you have to write your own response, and therein lies the problem.
If you have a different level of fluency in English, or if you tend to write in a dramatically different tone of voice than your freelancer, there will be an obvious disconnect between the post and the responses. This can make customers wonder about why that disconnect exists. If they feel like you’re not the one making your posts, or you’re not the one making the replies, they can lose trust in your brand. You lose the authority of your own voice, because part of your voice isn’t actually yours.
The solution here is to either be fluent enough to mimic the ghostwriter, or to hire someone to do total social media management rather than just writing. The first requires more effort and more time on your part, while the second requires more money and brings us all the way back to the initial point of determination between writers and social managers.
At the end of the day, you have a handful of different options, and it’s up to you to choose between them.
- You can do it all yourself. It’s the cheapest option, but the most time consuming, and if you have English as a second language or another communication barrier, it can hamper your growth.
- You can hire a writer for your posts. It’s cheap, but it has a lot of potential drawbacks, and you might have to maintain several writers and/or churn through several before you find a good one.
- You can hire a social media manager. It’ll be more expensive, but if you keep the scope limited, this can often be the best option for a balance between cost and effective marketing.
- You can hire a total marketing manager. Wrap your blog, your PPC, and your on-site SEO all into one package. You have plenty of free time to grow your business in other ways, but this will be by far the most expensive option.
Which one is right for you? Let us know in the comments below. We can’t decide for you, and there are too many factors at play for one sweeping generalization to apply to everyone.