Just a few years ago, you could launch a successful social media campaign as a joke.
Just look at Warby Parker. In 2012, back when the multi-billion-dollar company was still a startup, it broke the internet with a prank: Warby Barker, a fake line of glasses for dogs.
The company used a social media campaign to launch Warby Barker on April Fool’s Day — and for the first three days of April, it’s widely reported that the Warby Barker site got 2.5X more traffic than the actual Warby Parker site.
Turns out people love pictures of dogs in glasses.
Paid social media marketers used to be able to learn about consumer preferences on the fly like that. Almost sans social media strategy — though there was also some customer input and search engine optimization (SEO) behind Warby Barker.
But in online advertising, things change fast. The rise of new social media platforms and the latest changes in paid social attribution mean that for marketers, 2012 might as well be a different century.
It’s harder to stumble on success today.
For one thing, Facebook’s ad placement algorithm has become more sophisticated since then, with more automations that only a professional would understand.
For another, Facebook in particular has more advertisers than ever, which means more competition — not just for your target audience’s attention, but for ad space as well.
There’s only so much an amateur can do with paid social ads these days. Even if they’re using high-quality creative — like dogs in glasses.
So how do you know when to hire a paid social media advertising expert? We asked three professionals about signs it’s time, and how they approach the hiring process.
- Marc Barraza, director of paid media at MarketerHire
- Ashley Elfend, a paid social media consultant
- Sabrina Reid, global integrated media manager at SAP
Why it’s worth investing in a social media advertising expert
If you’re only spending spare change on paid social each month, “it doesn’t make sense financially” to hire a full-time employee or a marketing agency to manage it, Barraza said.
But it often makes sense to hire a social media marketing expert on an hourly or part-time basis.
The the average small business owner won’t always have an intuitive grasp of how to benchmark performance or when to increase or decrease spend.
If a campaign’s underperforming, “sometimes you need to just be patient,” Elfend said. “Give that ad time.”
Without years of experience, it’s hard to know how patient to be, though. Or when to be patient.
Paid social is full of judgment calls like this — sand an expert freelancer will have the digital marketing instincts to make sure you’re spending efficiently.
Plus, their hours can grow as your ambitions for your online presence do.
5 signs you need a freelance social media advertising expert ASAP
Not sure if it’s the right time to hire a paid social expert? Here are five signs you should start rearranging your budget to accommodate a new hire, now.
1. You’re relying only on word of mouth — and it’s slowing down.
Nowhere is the law of diminishing returns more obvious than with word of mouth.
It can get you a game-changing number of new customers when you’re starting out, but after a while, your growth will start to plateau.
“[It] essentially just stops at a certain point,” Reid said — especially if you don’t have well-publicized referral incentives in place.
"[It] essentially just stops at a certain point."
As your company scales up its operations, its marketing and customer acquisition efforts need to follow suit.
You can do that by investing in a lot of different channels, including email marketing, influencer marketing to Google Ads — but one great, quick way to do it, especially in the e-commerce space, is by hiring an expert to scale your paid social spend.
2. You’re spending more than 20% of your paid social budget on retargeting. Regularly.
There’s no shortage of advertising “rules,” and most of them merit those air quotes. But one rule of thumb in paid social seems to really hold water: the 80/20 rule.
- 80% of paid social ad spend should go towards prospecting, or reaching brand new customers who’ve never heard of you.
- 20% of paid social ad spend should go towards retargeting and reengaging people who’ve already expressed interest in your brand.
The experts we interviewed cited this rule independently of each other, and unprompted.
If you have a paid social media buyer on your team who ignores this rule, “you'll have a really high frequency and then all the metrics get very skewed,” Reid explained. “Stuff like CPCs and click-through rates — you can see it go down the more that you spend on retargeting.”
Maybe it’s worth departing from this rule sometimes, but if your paid social lead ignores it completely, it might be time to hire someone who won’t.
3. You rarely (or never!) A/B test your ads.
On the surface, social media advertising may seem like a field for creatives. It involves graphic design, copywriting and thinking outside the box — but it also takes quantitative skills, especially when it comes to testing.
Paid social experts rely on A/B testing, a form of user testing where two variations of the same ad are shown to the same (ish) audience at random, to see which version converts better.
This lets them fine-tune your ads for your audience, iterating towards the most effective designs, fonts and call-to-action phrasing.
“It's a hybrid of being creative and also analytical,” said Elfend. “Looking at the data and being like, ‘This is working really well, but how can we make it better?’”
"It's a hybrid of being creative and also analytical."
It takes analytical skill to understand the results of an A/B test, and hypothesize about the “why” behind them. But of course, there’s a creative element to A/B testing, too — because paid social media advertising experts have to decide what tweaks to test.
They also have to communicate and collaborate with copywriters, content marketing experts and graphic designers to get different ad versions and landing pages across the line.
A true paid social expert knows how to own every aspect of multiple A/B tests — all running simultaneously. (DIY social media managers, not so much.)
4. You already have a decent organic social following.
A strong organic social media marketing strategy boosts paid social efforts. “It's not going to be a make-or-break, but I would definitely say it helps,” Elfend said.
On a basic level, it builds brand awareness. If customers enjoy your organic social media content, they’re more responsive to paid social ads, Elfend said.
Most social platforms also allow you to target paid campaigns to your followers — or use them as a seed for lookalike audiences.
“[An organic following] helps with retargeting those people and it helps with engagement,” Elfend explained. “It gives you even just a pool of people to look at and use for future audiences.”
“[An organic following] helps with retargeting those people and it helps with engagement."
You can also turn organic social media posts that perform well into paid ad campaigns. You’re already investing in social content creation — why not try to boost the ROI on that?
Engagement from organic followers makes your ads look more legitimate to people who haven’t heard of you before — plus, Elfend noted that a substantial organic following looks trustworthy to anyone who clicks through to your social media account before buying.
So if your organic social media presence is solid and, but you haven’t invested seriously in paid yet — there’s no time like the present.
5. You’re spending over $10K per month on advertising.
This isn’t a hard minimum. At MarketerHire, we recommend spending $5K a month before clients start an engagement, but even businesses spending less than that should learn the ropes from a short-term engagement with a pro.
“Pay them for a couple of weeks or a month to get you off the ground, teach you some stuff,” Barraza advised.
Once you’re spending $10K a month, though, you should get an ongoing engagement with an expert up and running.
“You need some type of expert to be advising you,” Barraza said.
Facebook Ads make it easy for amateurs and DIYers to “blow a bunch of money,” Barraza warned — and if you’re spending five figures on paid social each month, you should have a professional keeping an eye on it.
3 expert tips on hiring a paid social media advertising expert
Deciding to hire a paid social media manager is just step one. Next comes finding the candidate that’s a good fit. But if you don’t know the subtleties of running your own social media advertising, how do you find someone who does?
For that, you can trust our panel of marketing experts. Here are three tips that they shared for hiring a social media advertising expert.
1. Prioritize seniority.
Especially if you’re making your first paid social hire, Elfend said, look for a candidate who has worked with multiple brands.
They should already know what tactics or strategies work best for your industry on the social platforms you’re prioritizing.
Often, the same target audiences can perform well for multiple brands in a given space, Elfend said.
For instance, when it comes to Facebook marketing, targeting women ages 18-25 interested in major fashion influencers — think Kendall Jenner and Victoria Beckham — can work wonders for fashion brands.
“If you're just [buying paid social] ads on your own, maybe you'll find [that audience], but it’ll just take longer,” Elfend said.
Senior experts have hard-won insights they can apply right out of the gate.
2 . Screen for data analysis and critical thinking
Here’s a pragmatic tip for hiring a paid social media specialist: Make sure they know how to analyze and aggregate data — and how to apply the findings going forward.
This isn’t always evident at first glance, so you might need to dive deeper during the interview process.
“I like to see how a candidate will respond to a data table and provide optimization recommendations,” said Barraza.
That’s not just for senior hires, either. Barraza gives entry-level candidates a quick rundown of different paid social metrics early in the interview process, and finds they usually retain it.
“Things like metric formulas and pivot tables are extremely teachable,” he said.
Just as crucial as understanding paid social performance metrics, though, is knowing how to apply performance data to future campaigns. That’s where the critical thinking comes in.
“I care less about someone knowing the formula for CTR and more about how they think about the relationship between CTR and other metrics, and how to improve it,” Barraza said. “Analysis and critical thinking are harder to teach.”
“I care less about someone knowing the formula for CTR and more about how they think about the relationship between CTR and other metrics, and how to improve it."
3. Connect with the candidate.
As much as we like to pretend it isn’t, at the end of the day, business is personal. Working with people you connect with yields better results for individuals and teams.
“Being able to connect with [clients] and feel like this is going to be mutual for both of us, that's my biggest thing,” Elfend said. “I want to make sure that my client is benefiting from working with me.”
In that sense, choosing the right paid social expert involves more than just comparing resumes. You should see if you get along with them as a person.
So you want paid social to kickstart your growth...
Hire a freelance social media expert to manage your advertising in a part-time or hourly capacity.
It’s a great way to meet your business goals and accelerate lead generation without over-burdening your budget. And who knows — they might help prove out the need for a full-time hire.
At MarketerHire, we can match you with an experienced candidate within your budget, who’s experienced in your industry and preferred social media channels. Fast.
Just fill out our five-minute brief, and we’ll match you with a marketer in 48 hours. Get started with MarketerHire today.