How important is experience for social media management?

A LinkedIn connection of mine (who incidentally has about a year of experience as a freelancer) pointed out that experience is meaningless. After all, You could have a super talented (hopefully literate) freelancer with a year of experience, or you could have one person who has 20 years of experience working within one business.

There are many things to consider regarding experience when looking for a social media or marketing freelancer.

If you have talent and luck, then experience can only enhance your abilities, not diminish them. The same freelancer will no doubt be better with 10 years experience if they also have the skill of evaluating their own work and improving it critically. However, I’m sure there’s one thing I lack in my late thirties (not taking physique into consideration of course) that I did not in my late twenties, and that thing is called energy.

There’s a survivorship bias at play here. Many inexperienced social media managers are touting for business on the internet. Many have no portfolio to mention, never mind one with a significant client base and good results. Out of the thousands that begin each year, statistically, 60% will be gone within the first three years. Although I think it’s probably higher than that — as there is little barrier to entry and there are lots of scammy social media courses offering cushy careers for extortionate fees. Easy come, easy go.

So finding a talented young freelancer is a great find, particularly as they may also be cheaper. But finding a good one proves to be a needle in a haystack. If you find one, let me know, because I’ve been looking for a long time. The internet is abundant with freelancers who are a bit longer in the tooth, their business has taken a few bashings, and they’re still all in one piece and trading happily.

But I defend that my ten years of social media experience hasn’t been a complete waste of time (I have managed to learn from my mistakes, after all). There are plenty of hard-won lessons. So many mistakes have been made and rectified, including those made by myself and the agencies I have taken over from. Things I don’t need to Google, because I just know. Things that make me say to a client ‘nope, I won’t do that’ or, ‘if you don’t increase budget here… you’re going to need to explain yourself!’

Stuff like…

  • If your ad campaign doesn’t pick up pace after the first couple of days on a low-ish budget, then it probably won’t work at all, and we best try something else quickly.
  • If your ad campaign IS doing really well and you are making a good return. For heaven’s sake, increase the budget. Don’t bring in a consultant. Don’t have a meeting about it. With a ratio of 1:5 for every pound spent, the more money you spend, the more you will make. Sadly, this has fallen on deaf ears in the past and a consultant was called in, who promptly squashed the return on ad spend from 1:4 to a ratio of 1:1, and then swiftly disappeared. Sad for my client but also sad that I clearly don’t look like someone who understands a ratio.
  • Make sure the young, trendy Instagram girls understand your business—or any business—before you hire them. Or at least is trying to get their head round it. Many people understand Instagram but not business. And you can’t sell without understanding what it is you’re actually selling. Although, I’m sure there’s a few SaaS companies who would disagree. (IT joke)
  • Most businesses in the world are not super important to their customers. Most sit in the backgrounds of our lives totally unexamined, apart from the odd weirdo who’s completely obsessed with it. Personally befriend that weirdo. I’m friends with my old clients freakishly obsessive customers years later. It’s important to manage the clients expectations and let them know that their concrete brick company probably isn’t going to get 10k followers (and doesn’t need to!). Not everyone needs social, and some people just need social so they look like a real company that isn’t going to rip people off. Yeah there are some ‘dull’ businesses who are absolutely smashing it on social media, but you don’t know what their advertising budget is. You may actually be better off investing your marketing budget in other ways, that aren’t social media.
  • If the client overcomplicated the product or service, it’s because they have a highly detail-oriented brain (like mine) and can’t see that customers need a bite-sized, straightforward, repetitive message. I used to complicate things a lot, so now I know what to go after. One of my biggest objections is ‘our customers are smart-they already know this!’ Trust me at least 50% don’t. First rule of marketing is the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) and honestly, I didn’t really get it as a part of me was in denial.
  • If you have a big, old Instagram account, I’m not going to be able to titillate it into action, and you will need an advertising budget. This is because these audiences are floppy and contain high amounts of inactive accounts. You’re honestly better off starting from fresh, if your account is getting very little engagements (no one ever does this).
  • Yes, I can get you thousands of TikTok followers, but you will either need to give me at least £100 in ad budget a month, or wait patiently.
  • Every social media job ad in the world mentions knowing about ‘the latest trends’. If you are getting all your cultural information from TikTok, you need to get out of the house, speak to real people, look around, visit art galleries, concerts, and museums, and understand culture for reals. You need taste levels, you need to understand the difference between a good and bad photograph (a lot of people don’t). You need to understand fashion beyond moving your hair to a central part and wearing a black puffer coat and leggings.
  • Sometimes I’m completely wrong. This is something I would have been horrified to admit in my early twenties, but it’s true. I know. So I now accept that if a client has an idea I think is completely nuts, I go for it and try it, because in this crazy world of online marketing who knows what’s going to pop off and what’s not.
  • People act like algorithms are a mysterious ghost. But it’s really just maths and categorisation, just like SEO. The first key to making algorithm-friendly content is creating stuff that is apparent for an AI to put into a category. If you make a TikTok ranting about your ex, it will show that TikTok to people who like watching videos about people ranting about their ex. However, you will need to make it clear that this is the case by speaking or writing keywords. The algorithm will then show it to people it knows like this kind of content, and measure how much they like it by watch time and frequency as well as other engagement markers like comment keywords, likes and saves. It’s not really as mystical and complicated as like, electricity or how my TV works (I have no idea how that works). Just like with any other marketing, having a brain that categorises quickly works out great.
  • The best thing you can do for your business is make vlogs or blogs. I always recommend doing this before you do social.

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