In this four-part series on Social Media for Small Businesses, Social Media Consultant Alison Cummings and Marketing Technology Consultant Phil Gerbyshak talks about social media opportunities for small businesses.
Part 1: “Must-have” Qualities to Look for When Hiring a Social Media Consultant
Part 2: Why Social Media Challenges Small Business Owners and Consultants
Part 3: Why Twitter Works for Small Businesses
Part 4: How to Partner Social Media With Offline Marketing Strategy
Watch Phil Gerbyshak in action, and you see an outgoing, energetic, funny guy. Phil is an experienced speaker and trainer. He is also the author of three books.
One subject this Milwaukee consultant is serious about: The value of social media for small businesses. And you don’t have to be in the hospitality industry to benefit from the compelling success stories he and co-authors Joe Sorge and Scott Baitinger share in #TwitterWorks Restaurant 2.0 Edition.
Meet Phil Gerbyshak
Alison Cummings: I would try to put into context what it is you do and what you’ve accomplished, but it’s pretty broad. So if you wouldn’t mind doing that, I’d really appreciate it.
Phil Gerbyshak: Sure. Boy, so let’s see. Where to begin? I guess, let’s talk about what I’m most passionate about and that is I like to help people, which is why I’ve written books.
I wrote 10 Ways to Make You Great back in 2006. I wrote a book on how to be a better help desk manager with Jeff Brooks called Help Desk Managers Crash Course in ’08. And then in 2010, wrote #TwitterWorks to help small businesses and restaurants embrace Twitter, and see that it’s not as hard, and as mysterious, and as mystical, as people make it out to be.
And then right now, as of June 1, 2010, I am full-time marketing technology strategist helping organizations either tell their story, understand how to use tools, or develop strategy, typically around social media.
Prior to that, for the past 10 years I was an IT manager at a financial services company based here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. So I’ve done lots of stuff. I was in the Navy for four years. I went to school to be an elementary school teacher, and I’ve written a couple thousand articles. I like to play with computers and love to work with people. So does that wrap it up pretty good?
Advice on hiring a social media consultant
Alison: Yes, it’s great! And actually leads to my next question. You said a lot of things helped you get to where you are now, working in social media. For someone interested in entering this career or wanting to hire someone as a social media consultant, what do you think are the most important qualities that the consultant should have?
Phil: Well, as it is social media, you have to have a very strong social background. You have to understand people … help people, and have a big heart. That’s hard to measure in an interview, but I think you can tell people that have a big heart. I think that’s important.
If you’re a company and you’re hiring someone, you need to understand what you want them to do. Is it outreach or is it customer service of inbound stuff? Is it finding new customers for you? In which case, you’d need more of an outbound sales mentality. Maybe you need someone who is in real estate or someone who is a hunter and gatherer. Or someone who’s just going to tend to the people that are already your customers. And if that’s your case, then you can go with someone who’s more into customer service.
But you definitely need someone, if you’re talking about the whole strategy, not just Twitter. You need someone who understands the whole strategy. So if they have a marketing background, that’s good, but certainly an IT background is helpful too, because the tools change really fast. And a lot of IT people have a good grasp of how to learn a new tool quickly once they understand your strategy.
So they might be working with you, first, to get that strategy. And that might take a little bit. Just like, on the other side, you can train people to use the tools. But I really think that blend of the two typically is someone who is in IT who has more drive, more initiative, who’s willing to kind of go the extra mile to help customers. And not just IT for IT’s sake, but someone who will align themselves with the business.
It could be someone on a service desk or a help desk, a manger who typically spent time embedded in the business. It could be someone who did a really great job of writing concise memos or sending crisp e-mails inside a company. So communication is another critical skill.
Alison: I think it’s fair to say that you’re an extrovert. You’d agree?
Alison: Okay. What about someone who’s an introvert that has those qualities? Has the big heart, is customer service-oriented, and a good communicator with some IT knowledge. Do you think that (being an introvert) would hold them back?
Phil: I don’t think so. To me, the definition of an extrovert is someone who gets energy from people. If someone’s an introvert, that means they don’t get as much energy from people and often they need to be alone.
And in social media, you need some alone time. You need to be able to kind of put your head down, write an article and maybe build some back links. You need to put your head down and actually do some of the work. It’s not all social. So I would say being an introvert definitely would not hold someone back as long as they possess the other skills.
I’ve had customers who have said, “Hey, I’d really love it if you’d just run our Twitter account. All I need you to do is send 20 tweets a week.” Well, that’s not really how Twitter works. It’s not like 20 tweets is “enough.” Ten tweets might be too many.
Alison: You mentioned you’re entering this full time. Do you have any certain company profile that you’re focusing on?
Phil: I specialize in the smaller business, so someone who has under 25 people who typically doesn’t have a full-time marketing department. They might have a marketing person, maybe even two marketing people, but someone who knows that they need a Web site with a blog probably.
They probably need Twitter. They probably need Facebook … maybe their Web site hasn’t been updated since 2001, or they signed up for Twitter and it completely failed because they didn’t devote any time to it.Or they set up a Facebook Fan Page and they didn’t really do anything to cultivate it. So coming back in to reinvigorate a smaller company to help them get going.
It could be they outsource that to me, to create the content. And then eventually, I bring them back in to show them, ”Hey, it’s not that hard. You can do this. If you spend an hour or two a day, you can make a big impact on your social media.” Because ultimately, people want to interact with the company.
For smaller businesses, it’s about helping them know a little bit more about what they want, and eventually teaching them how to transition to doing it themselves.
Certainly, if you hire someone and give them the business knowledge, you’re going to be paying them for much more than just sending 10 tweets a week. I’ve had customers who have said, “Hey, I’d really love it if you’d just run our Twitter account. All I need you to do is send 20 tweets a week.” Well, that’s not really how Twitter works. It’s not like 20 tweets is “enough.” Ten tweets might be too many.
And by that, I mean you have to interact with your customers. If you have people that are interacting with you, you have to interact with them. It’s not numerical. That would be just like if you opened a business and said, “The only people I’m going to serve are the first 20 and the rest of you, I’m going to make it look like the door’s open, but I’m just going to ignore you.” That’s ridiculous.
But that’s often the tact that businesses take. They’re looking for some sort of hourly quantification on that, or some numerical quantification where they say 10, 20, 50, whatever, tweets. It’s very difficult. You can do that when you talk about blog posts. You can say, “I’d like to write 10 articles a month.” That’s possible.
So typically, for those smaller businesses, it’s about helping them know a little bit more about what they want, and eventually teaching them how to transition to doing it themselves.