Small Business Strategy: How Much Social Engagement Can You Handle?

Photo attributed to Mike Krzeszak by a Creative Commons license.

Photo attributed to Mike Krzeszak by a Creative Commons license.

In a meeting with a potential PR company client this week, I was asked a question that stumped me.  And for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why.

“Do you do full social media engagement or do you only do posts and expect the client to do the follow-up?”

The answer is, “Heck yes we do full engagement!” That’s the point of social media – growing your audience, learning from your audience, finding out how best to fit your company into the needs of its customers and users.  But I stumbled all over myself, and I’ve been mulling it over ever since.

The reason I had so much trouble answering is that the particular client of theirs whom we were discussing was a client who only had a very small budget for social media.  They were unable to pay us our normal fee for twice a week blogging, but they also wanted us to maintain three social media accounts.  While we haven’t submitted a proposal to them yet, I’m a bit flummoxed about how to proceed.

What is Social Engagement?

Preparing and posting tweets, Facebook posts and pins on Pinterest is only the job of the community manager if that community manager is unsuccessful.  If they’re good at what they do, people will start responding, asking questions, arguing and posting their own work in your timelines.  And that’s is where you run into what could be a problem for a ghost blogger or social media manager for hire.  The happier your audience is, the more time you need to spend with them.

Being Big Has Benefits

Companies like CocaCola and Microsoft have PR firms that have specific teams of people watching CocaCola’s feeds all day and night.  If something goes viral, they have the people and the resources to deal with it.  But what about the mid-sized business that hires a company like ours (or a PR firm that hires a company like ours for their client) to post on their behalf?  Some of them have the budget to hire us full-time to watch their social media accounts, but many of them only have a limited budget.  What happens when they have budgeted for 1-2 hours of social media engagement per day and that works great … until the day their PR firm gets them an article in the New York Times and their audience goes through the roof?

Well, if their social media managers haven’t prepared for the explosion of interest that the article brings… their big success could get them nowhere, and in fact hurt them when their excited potential customers run into a giant wall of non-engagement.  Ouch!

The Social Media Manager and the Client Need to Be On The Same Page

The social media manager should know better than to sit on her hands and wait for the clock to turn over so she can re-engage with the audience.   A quick phone call to renogotiate terms for this new, higher-engagement world the company has found itself in should solve that problem.  But a lower level of that same situation is predictable on a daily basis.  People are going to respond to your posts.  How are you prepared to handle it?  And does the client have the same expectations as the social media manager does?  Preparing for the scenario ahead of time, and expecting engagement, is better than being surprised when your community responds.

Plan for Success

After a couple of days of realizing the pitfalls inherent in working with a client with a low budget, I’ve realized that the best way to deal with this client is to lay out the risks and rewards of social media engagement.  I feel confident that we can come to some sort of arrangement where we either direct them to start managing their own engagement on a limited basis if it goes past their budget (i.e. “Hey Sue – this article on pruning plum trees in the dead of winter is getting a lot of responses and it needs your personal attention”), or plan with them to expand our contract to more hours if the need arises.  Hopefully, with good planning, the world’s growing interest and enthusiasm for our client will be a happy event for all involved.

MJW LinkedIn photoMegan J. Wilson is a professional ghostblogger, commercial freelance writer and social marketing consultant.  She also blogs at Dirt Totem Productions, where she is an avid cheerleader for social media marketing for independent films.


  1. This is a wonderful link that talks about the time and costs associated with different types of engagement.!