Alisa Meredith is the co-owner and inbound marketing strategist at Scalable Social Media, an inbound marketing agency in Wilmington, North Carolina. I (Corey Eridon, the editor of this here blog) hopped onto Facebook Chat with her for a conversation about whether it's really possible to ever scale social media marketing.
Me: Hi Alisa! Thanks for joining me today. We're going to be talking about scalable social media ... mostly because that's your agency's name, and the topic's interesting. So tell me, how'd you get that name?
Alisa: Well, honestly, it was chosen before I started with Scalable. The company was started by two people who owned franchise locations of Home Instead Senior Care. So, they decided to make something specifically for franchise locations that would be easily duplicated and customized. Or, "Scalable"
Me: Oh that's fascinating -- I used to work at HQ for a franchise organization, and I've always found some franchises have a hard time with certain inbound tactics, because you have either too much control over the franchises, or too little. How do you coach franchises on that?
Alisa: I know it can be a challenge for many. What I suggest is that they carefully review the franchise policies to see if they will have the leeway they need to make it work. We would get in touch with the corporate office to get a feel for their guidelines and make sure that we are working well to further their overall goals, as well as each individual office. Some will also have a home office telling them they needed to utilize social media, and it needs to be personalized -- but all the solutions they looked at were very expensive.
Me: So like many things, it can be uncomfortable at first, but with corporate buy-in social can work really well at the local level?
Alisa: Absolutely. It's true though -- some franchises want to know EVERYTHING that will get posted before it goes up, and that can be really difficult. We have also found that, of course, the corporate offices want to promote corporate content. Makes sense! However, we are more interested in promoting at the local level.
Me: So let me ask you a question about scaling social media marketing ... is it really possible? Today, everyone wants to scale things so it's efficient. And I get that. But social media seems to want to run in the opposite direction -- personalized, one on one conversations. What do you think about that? Can we have both?
Alisa: Yes and no. There is some limited value to having identical generic Facebook updates sent to many pages at once. I've seen this with home care agencies and independent pharmacies. It's better than not doing anything at all! However, to really take advantage of social media's strengths -- relationship building, networking, and customer service, you really need to get personal. So, we've moved to a modified version of "scalable."
Me: What do you mean by that?
Alisa: Well, we do find that it can be cost-effective for us and our customers when we focus on certain niche businesses. That way we have some knowledge of what works well going into it. We'll work with lots of different types of businesses, but when we have several similar businesses, we are able to charge less for start-up and are able to show them good results faster.
Me: So when you talk about scaling social but staying personal, is it about metrics-based decisions on where you spend your time on social?
Alisa: Partially, yes. We have a better idea of what is going to work for them, we have people familiar with the industries right from the start, and we're able to share ideas from client to client without making them carbon copies.
Me: Do you ever have a hard time explaining the value of social to these businesses? Do you ever have clients that tend to think it's just a waste of time?
Alisa: Oh sure, but then I can just send my case study over, or tell them about my pharmacy customer who now gets more visitors from Pinterest than any other referrer. It's also so important to stress that social media is not a miracle cure. If they have a sub-par product, bad customer service, or even a website not optimized for lead generation, it is a waste of time.
Me: Wow, pharmacy customers rocking Pinterest? What's your secret?
Alisa: You "sell" the lifestyle, not the product. You watch what is popular, you network with complementary businesses on Pinterest, you make sure every page and post has a pinnable image, and you keep the great blog content coming. Oh, and group boards. Those help.
Me: So if someone was just getting started with social media, and hadn't found the opportunities to scale that you have, where would you tell them to start? Are there certain social networks that are easier to scale than others?
Alisa: Well, that's a tough one. It really depends on the audience of that particular company and where they go for their information. All things being equal though, I'd say Twitter.
Me: Yeah I agree. Why do you say that?
Alisa: Well, it's so fast! You get almost instant results because it's so easy for people to follow, retweet, and favorite. You can make it so easy to tweet your content from your blog. Also, because you can share the same content multiple times (perhaps changing your comment) because things move so fast -- so you get more for your efforts.
Me: Totally -- and frankly, it's way easier to scale content publishing and monitoring with Twitter. There are so many tools out there (Social Inbox, yes, but others too) that help people with limited resources bucket their time more wisely
Alisa: Plus, people who are too big and important for you on Facebook or offline are much more likely to give you a look on Twitter.
Me: Any other advice for people trying to scale social?
Alisa: If you are trying to manage social media, and especially if you are doing so for more than one company, schedule your updates. Not all of them, but enough so that if you ended up not being able to post for a day or so for some reason, you wouldn't leave things looking like a wasteland. But, if some local, national, or global news happens -- remember to go in and adjust.
Me: Yes, it's those timely updates, supplemented with the evergreen posts, that make social media accounts look dynamic and human-run to me.