Hello! I'm Chad Richards—Senior Social Media Manager at Firebelly, a full-service social media marketing agency. We do it all—content development, community management, contests, digital PR, social ad management and strategy consulting.
How and why did you get started in social media?
I knew I always wanted to me involved in media. I was the editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper. In college, I majored in Media Arts & Technology. After graduation, I produced a local TV show, then made a few films and founded film festival—this was before YouTube, but blogs, online forums and video sharing sites (like Atom Films and iFilm) were so crucial to networking with other independent filmmakers and finding films to showcase in our festival.
When I joined Firebelly 8 years ago, it was a traditional branding and marketing agency. I was brought onboard as the "emerging media specialist" to produce short videos for the web, write blog posts and manage Myspace pages for brands. Our CEO tells the story that one day I casually asked, "wouldn't it be fun if this is all we did?" I don't remember saying that, but it resonated with him and eventually led to Firebelly transitioning into an agency that focuses exclusively on social media marketing.
What do you believe the benefits of using social media for business?
The biggest benefit for businesses is feedback from customers. They know your products and services better than you do and freely and frequently share their opinions—both positive and negative—on social channels. We've worked with many brands who have implemented changes or improvements based on what people where saying online. An added bonus of people being so forthcoming with their likes and dislikes on social media is that these channels know so much about them—making it easier for businesses to target the right people with social ads.
What do you think are common mistakes business owners make when building brand awareness on social media?
Buying fans and followers! I'm not talking about via legitimate advertising means, I'm talking about the "buy 10,000 followers for $10" approach. We've had many brands come to us with concerns that their large social media audience was not engaging, clicking or converting. I'll do an audit or audience analysis of an American restaurant chain's accounts and find that 90% of their followers are from Bangladesh. So I ask them, "is there a chance you or a previous agency bought followers?" or "is their a connection between your American diner and Bangladesh that we're unaware of?" They're always embarrassed to respond. You then, basically, have to start over from scratch.
What qualities do you think social media managers should have?
The best social media managers are fluent in using both sides of their brains. They need to be creative when developing content and compassionate when dealing with customer service issues. They need to be analytical in their understanding a brand's social media marketing goals and strategic in their approach to obtaining them.
How do Business owners know if their social media campaign is working?
Don't work blindly. Every campaign should have goals and specific success metrics associated with each. Monitor those KPIs and you'll always know how a campaign is performing.
How do you see social media evolving over the next 5 years …what do you hope to see?
The "free ride" is over or coming to end. Brands will have to "pay-to-play" in order for more people to see their content. Social media channels have investors to make happy and employees to pay—advertising is how they'll make their money. Many of the social channels already have ad platforms in place—eventually all of them will. History repeats itself—so we'll probably see Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other channels throttle organic content visibility in an effort to push brands into advertising in the same way Facebook has.
What I hope to see is that this shift doesn't cause brands to think of social media as just another medium—like print, radio or television—for them to simply push marketing messages on.
What are your favourite platforms for social media marketing?
When it comes to social media marketing, I'm platform agnostic. The best platform(s) for brands is where their customers are. I do like Facebook's advertising capabilities more than any other platform's right now. They know everything about everyone—making it easier to target the right people.
If you could share one best practice about using social media to grow a business, what would it be?
Reverse engineer your efforts from your goals. Don't know how? Hire a pro :)