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This article was first published in the September 2018 issue of British Dealer News.

If you want to punch above your weight in the social media arena, you’re going to need help to last the distance.

I’ve covered a fair bit of ground in this column over the past eight months. There was why it’s crucial to engage your audience on the social networks they most frequently inhabit (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), and integrating your activity across all those channels along with your website and email campaigns. We’ve looked at some basic tactics for building your social media audience, the importance of monitoring performance and adapting your approach, and ideas for creating shareable content with some specific tips on producing social media-friendly video. I’ve also recommended leveraging the trust people have in what your staff and customers have to say about your products and services.

With luck and a following wind you’ve found at least some of all that useful in developing how you tackle things. But when’s the right time to seek specialist help with content production and social media marketing, how much help do you actually need, and how do you get the most value from such a relationship?

Assuming you’re sold on the potential benefits of social media and you’re putting effort into making it work for your business, sooner or later you’ll hit a bottleneck that’ll slow your progress. Whether it’s you alone looking after everything, or a team collective, your available time is likely to be the first, and most significant issue. Your familiarity and comfort level with different social networks and how best to use them might also be a limiting factor. Once you get to the point where your ability to properly service your social media activity is overwhelmed by the skills or amount of work involved (and ideally before you reach that stage), it’s time to call in some outside assistance.

How much help you need will depend on what you’re already capable of handling and what you want to achieve beyond that. You might just want someone to take care of content production (words, photography and video) and leave you to deal with your social channels, or vice versa. Perhaps you’re on the case with Facebook, but don’t know where to begin with Twitter or Instagram, or maybe you’d like someone to manage the whole shooting match on your behalf. Another possibility is that you need an extra pair of hands to deal with social media coverage of your presence at a major event like Motorcycle Live. Whichever style of help suits your situation, don’t assume a third-party service will cost the earth. There’s every chance that just a few hours of specialist time every month could transform what you do.

When you set about trying to choose the right agency or consultant to work with, there’s obviously a strong argument for them already being intimately familiar with the motorcycle market, particularly if they’re to have any kind of autonomy in representing your interests on social media. Above all else, however, follow your instinct. The reason I say that is because you need to have complete faith in the person (or people) you entrust with access to your social media accounts and website, and who’ll be, at least in part, your voice online.

Be crystal clear about what you expect from a third party, and allow them to be equally clear with you about what’s achievable and the level of contribution they’ll need from your team. With a view to longer term goals, agree some realistic short-term objectives and review progress at regular intervals. Keep it simple to begin with.

Among other things, you should be able to rely on a specialist to co-ordinate the production and distribution of original content, to come up with fresh ideas, act as quality controller of your social media output, and to maintain consistency in your online tone of voice. But don’t expect them to be mind readers. Two-way communication is the probably the most vital ingredient of a successful relationship. Your agency will rely on you to keep them informed about what’s going on in your business so they can respond in real-time or plan ahead as needed. Help them to help you and they’ll have your back.