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What Social Media Marketers Actually Do


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Becoming a social marketer (BASM) takes years of effort and self training. Contrary to what most people (on Fiverr too) think (some of the prejudice is justified) SMM is NOT about follower counts, botting, clicks, screenshots or just ‘posting’. This conception of social media marketing and social media marketers has led to a vicious cycle where SM has seen itself spiral down and hit new bottoms everyday; a vicious cycle initiated by self proclaimed or improvised SM marketers and fuelled by those who put their money in their services, get disappointing results and give up looking for value in this industry altogether. Since I have been paying a price for this misconception myself for too long, in this thread I want to share information that will help anyone spot a professional SM marketer from a scam artist. To be as exhaustive as possible, I will discuss first the process of becoming an SMM and then discuss my current routine.

BASM Step 1: Create Presence

This is undeniably the most challenging part for anyone wanting to enter this world today. Before I could start offering social media services of any kind (promotions, PR campaigns), I spent almost 4 years of my life as a social media addict. It all started (2009-2010) when I as a teenager who had turned to Twitter to kill time, observed that some accounts grew faster & some tweets got more retweets/favorites than others. Fascinated by the charm of popularity, I started experimenting myself with different growth strategies on different accounts. Trying to get my profiles as big (follower count) and active (engagements per tweet) as possible I learned,

  • how to stay on top of & use trends to grow accounts;
  • the importance of engagement and how to craft engaging tweets;
  • the importance of continuity;
  • how to engage with followers in private to build loyalty.

BASM Step 2: Expand, create margin

Expansion is crucial for my sustainability as an SMM because clients ask to promote all sorts of products/offers. Some of these can be particularly spammy so a social media marketer must be prepared to lose a lot of followers to meet a business target. It is crucial here to have some space for manoeuvre so that you don’t sacrifice the core of your social capital which can take years to build again. But expansion also means diversifying one’s portfolio which is also crucial to reduce social capital erosion. If I promote an erotica book on a comedy account I might lose 1000 followers per hour per 100k exposure, but if I promote it on an adult themed profile I will lose only those followers that see it as spam and are annoyed by it.

At some point, in summer 2010, I recall counting my accounts and at some point I was managing over 40 of them (all for myself) while creating new ones every day. Only 4 of those profiles had over 10k followers though. These 4 included comedy accounts and one about inspiring quotes. This is how I figured out, back then, that comedy and quotes work and turned a lot of my minor accounts into quotes/comedies. In less than 4 months I found myself with a dozen accounts with over 20k followers, the biggest being a comedy with around 60k followers and getting over 50 interactions per post on average. From there on I started diversifying my social portfolio as I saw new accounts from others emerge and be successful. So I created profiles about fashion, cars, movies etc. I was on social media 24/7, creating new accounts and using these new accounts to promote my older, bigger ones while growing them. For this I used different twitter account management and tweet scheduling web applications and I was doing all this for my own pleasure, with no profit in mind. All I worried about was getting hacked or suspended as it sufficed that a handful of people who didn’t agree with something posted reported a profile to get the account suspended. Hackers on the other hand use(d) more elaborate methods that relied mainly on malicious pages, phishing and social engineering. I lost tens of accounts in a Twitter suspension spree in 2012 just because I forgot to include ‘parody’ in the Bio and I have gotten hacked twice (last time 2013).

It is in this way that I found myself with a vast network of accounts, whose reach exceeded 2 million and could engage, in aggregate, more people than Justin Bieber’s profile in 2011. It was around this time that I started expanding to other emerging platforms like Instagram.

BASM Step 3: Delivering Results, Managing Expectations

Drawing a line between what I can and cannot do is important to manage my customers’ expectations. If I don’t I will find himself in a situation where I have worked my socks off but haven’t met my clients’ targets who now want their money back.

Around 2011 I started receiving messages from other accounts in my biggest profile (200k+ followers) asking for shout outs and promotions. These were mainly artists (musicians) and average people trying to increase their popularity. In the beginning I always refused to post anything that could be seen as spammy since I didn’t want to lose followers. As I moved to college though I got close to giving up on social media altogether and still recall debating with a friend how irrational it was to spend all these hours on Twitter only for retweets and followers. Eager for an extra buck and with not so many alternatives at hand I set up a paypal account and started monetizing my peripheral twitter profiles. By peripheral I mean accounts I wasn’t attached to, they had plenty of followers but the activity was dying down. The quotes trend for example lost momentum in 2010-2011, mainly because now everyone was creating quote accounts and it was impossible to find a quote people hadn’t heard of before (originality/novelty is crucial in maintaining high engagement rates). I had over 200k followers (100+ retweets per tweet in aggregate) locked up in quote accounts, considering that the quotes trend was dying I decided to monetize these accounts first by granting people shout outs or by promoting their songs (as in by quoting their song lyrics). Even though I started losing followers quickly, most of my clients were happy.

I hadn’t heard of Fiverr until one day I came across a buyer who wanted to promote a song and asked me to use a trackable link so he could monitor clicks. When I posted his link from my promo accounts it received around 200 clicks/plays in the first day. To my surprise the client was extremely unhappy protesting that he had bought a promo on Fiverr for only $5 (I had charged him more) and gotten 2000+ clicks in 24h. When I asked him for proof he sent me a link to a Twitter account which had no relevant tweets but only ads with trackable links and no interactions whatsoever on these ads. These ads who had received no retweets or favorites still managed to attract more clicks than my tweet who had also engaged a dozen people. Hard to believe, but apparently true so I had to issue him a refund. Few days later, a friend noted how those clicks on the spammy account were probably just bots. At that very time different apps were released that audited twitter accounts for fake followers. I went to audit the competitor account and found out that most of the followers were bots too. At this point I was kind of certain that those 2000 clicks had been faked. Now, at least, I was in peace with myself and just let it go.

Very soon though I started receiving inquiries in very specific patterns such as “how much for a shout out?” first; and then “how many followers will I gain?” and when I told them 50-100 (shout outs were much more effective back then) most would walk off cursing at me saying “I can get 10000 for $5 on Fiverr”. People promoting links started doing the same thing and when I gave them a realistic estimate of the click count to expect from a single tweet more and more would walk off in the same way thinking I was trying to take advantage of them by overcharging. Word was spreading like fire and most people, gullible to big numbers, moved on to Fiverr services. In few months though the tide turned, the same people who had cursed at me before were cursing at Fiverr now and the ‘scammers’ it was filled with. It was then that I saw an opportunity and decided to sign up to test the market here myself. Considering that I had to sell for ‘only’ $5, I picked a not-so-active 80k account to test the waters with for my fiverr tweets. Since then I have been working exclusively on Fiverr.

What I had learned at this point though was how to manage my customers’ expectations & why to never overpromise in spite of unfair competitive pressures. When buyers were willing to listen, I limited myself to explaining why my service was fundamentally different from what they were comparing me to and in the long run with my services’ results improve exponentially while with bots they are always the same.

BASM Step 4: Social Media Marketer Routine

After having built a presence, expanded and diversified their portfolio and learned how to use their accounts to increase the presence/popularity of other people, websites, brands etc., SMMs face one last challenge, that of ensuring that their network keeps growing and remains vibrant and active in spite of the promotions they are involved with.

Social media marketing is a 24/7 job that has nothing to do with ‘just posting’, bots, clicks, screenshots. Copying and pasting ads doesn’t suffice. If all we (I) did was copy and paste ads into the feed of my existing accounts then I would soon find myself with a dead network, with zero followers and no value whatsoever to offer my future clients. Unless the accounts are maintained, if one only posts ads in the long run one would have to start botting followers & clicks to maintain an image of efficacy. Beware that for every ad posted I lose 30-50 followers per 10k exposure, which is the equivalent of 2 man hours work (smaller profiles, if well designed grow much more quickly).

Instead, we have to stay on top of trends, curate content, design engaging posts and schedule them for a peak time. We have to be writers, designers and even educate ourselves about new niches.

Trends can be of two types: short term such as a discussion topic which typically last few months (eg. kim k’s the dress, alex from target, damn daniel, dj khaled etc) or long terms such as a particular theme which can last even 3-4 years (eg. quotes, comedy, personal, travel, adult, psychedelic, retro, challenges etc). I try to create accounts for each trend, curate content and grow them. Once the trend goes cold I have to use those accounts to promote core, general niche accounts, to preserve as much of the capital as possible.

Personally, I spend 16h per day in my desk scouring the web for fresh, original content for existing accounts. Then I have to design posts that are shareable and appealing to ensure the maximum number of engagements to help amplify reach further.

In the meantime I also have to run promotional campaigns (for Fiverr buyers), do maintenance on accounts that have recently been involved in a campaign (recover follower and engagement rate loss) and communicate with existing and prospective clients on results, expectations, strategy and costs. I also have to deal with bitterly unsatisfied customers, 80% of which are people used to bots. I haven’t seen another professional social media marketer on Fiverr to this day, most of my competitors are scam artists who basically sell screenshots not even traffic (one is a top rated seller) or people who offer traffic services repackaged as social media (I don’t resent them, just stating a fact). As result though I find myself having to deal with bitterly disappointed buyers who compare the real humans & leads I deliver with my competitors’ bots and accuse me instead of having ‘bot followers’.

If you (the reader) want to witness the power of genuine social media marketing just monitor my newest niche account: https://■■■■■■/5XFrJA (if you are a well reputed seller not working in SMM I can show you more unique accounts I own in private); Created 3 days ago it already counts 1750 real followers with hundreds/thousands of engagements per post (I promote it of course). It will grow faster and faster every day. Compare that to CNN’s official Twitter account with 24.9M followers. Unfortunately CNN is not an exception (also Fiverr’s Twitter is very inactive) and although I’m sure that whoever is running CNN’s account is a good meaning marketing professional, I cannot say they are good at social media marketing.

This happens because businesses world wide turn to traditional marketing agencies when it comes to social media marketing. They end up paying premium fees just for someone to tweet their blog articles or make spammy posts with useless hashtags. What most people and businesses haven’t realized is that the story of social media marketing is being written today by anonymous people who are extremely jealous of their craft and power, whom you have never seen but whose Twitter/Instagram account you probably follow.

I wanted to share this information because there are no books talking about it (I have bought many out of curiosity and all are out of touch with the reality of the industry) nor professors who can hold a lecture about this. SMM is an extremely dynamic world impossible to formalise and very difficult even for those like me to stay in tune with. Most are outsiders and very, very few (even among those who put SMM in their linkedin bio) understand it.

I love my job and I’m extremely grateful to Fiverr for having allowed me to cultivate this passion and take it to another level unthought of when I started. Right now though, as a seller who offers an extremely unique service (my main gig) starting from only $5 I feel marginalised. I find myself working in the shade of people who have nothing to do with SMM. More and more buyers come to me with a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ attitude after having tried misleading gigs in my category that are granted top positioning in Fiverr searches. I understand that it is not easy for Fiverr’s Editors to tell a real SMM marketer from a botter, so I do not blame them for their choices. Nevertheless, considering Fiverr’s reach among businesses & professionals who need genuine social media services and my capacity to deliver I find it very hard to just sit on the sidelines and just watch how people who have nothing to do with SMM abuse with the ignorance that surrounds my industry to mislead buyers and damage the reputation of the industry as a whole. I just wish I could work with a greater portion of Fiverr’s client base so that everyone could experience what an invaluable and magic tool social media is when done professionally.

P.S.: I never disclose my bigger accounts for safety reasons and refrain from writing down my account names because I do not want them to be Googleable. Viral accounts have a life of their own, associating them with a persona, business or account chain exposes a modus operandi that jeopardizes the account’s authority, that of the whole network and the perception of viral accounts as such by ordinary users in general.

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This is a great post and rant! Educational, insightful and intelligent. I don’t think there is any way to combat unhappy buyers who don’t educate themselves–even a little bit–into the realities of the vast majority of SMM. They see big numbers and expect mass traffic, followed by $$$ in conversions. That’s ludicrously unreasonable, and I have a feeling that in your niche, buyers are all too used to getting their $5 back if they start complaining, which feeds into this mess. I’m not quite sure how you could go about fixing this, though.

As for the stigma, it may well go away as the industry and its main power players mature. What are your thoughts on #AskGaryVee?

I am wondering though, what is BASCM? I googled it but got some link to the Turkish stock exchange.

Anyway, I just write long-winded copy and only have a basic idea of how SMM works, so this was a great read. You should write more!

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Thank you Emma! In my post BASCM stands for “becoming a social media marketer”, an acronym I created while typing in order to avoid being cacophonic. I realise now that the ‘C’ is out of place though so I have edited it off.

As for the stigma, it is spreading quickly and has been under the spotlight of magazines such as The Economist where I have read several pieces covering fraud in digital marketing.

There is very little awareness about this in the public opinion and among cash strapped small businesses that often operate in reaction mode, do not strategise and, from what I have seen, consider social media a tool for ‘crisis management’. In other words, an option to consider when sales hit the bottom or, as it is typically the case with crowdfunding campaigns, for a ‘quick boost’ few days ahead of deadline when nothing else has worked. Ignorance about this issue and the lack of people capable of providing a genuine service (there are very, VERY few of them) has created a massive blind spot filled by con artists of all types. They create a toxic habitat of misrepresentation & fraud and will even, as I experienced first hand myself when I first joined Fiverr, attack you by hiring others to leave negative reviews under your gigs if they feel threatened. The situation became much easier to manage when I figured out what was going on, but before that I was very close to giving up altogether working on Fiverr.

I do not blame small business owners for not understanding social media, I’m sure they have a lot to worry about already to find time to educate themselves about SMM. But whenever I have had a chance to deal with one on Fiverr I have always provided detailed explanations of the reasons behind a certain outcome and the ways to optimise it. 90% of the time very bitter buyers went from cursing to profusely thanking me. Some of those have become very loyal and important customers of mine while others, I’m sure, still thank me somewhere and somehow for saving them a lot of money they would have wasted otherwise in services that were futile to their business goals.

As for #AskGaryVee, I learnt about it only earlier today in a rush so I might have a superficial understanding. Honestly speaking though, I think Gary will benefit more from this initiative than the small businesses & sellers of Fiverr. Personalities of his tenure are used with deep pocketed corporate clients, they can be inspiring but they cannot offer much actionable advice to small, cash strapped businesses that don’t have access to, say, venture capital. Go to Gary’s wikipedia page, ctrl+F type “venture” and he apparently started a $25M investment fund (2014). Scroll up and you will see how his first successful venture boosting his father’s Liquor Store cash flow from $3M to $50M (1998). Probably over 90% of businesses on Fiverr cannot afford to spend more than $50 per month in marketing though.

So I don’t really think Gary or people of his tenure can be of actual help. I don’t think it helps Fiverr either, because our scope as a platform should be to focus on success stories for small businesses, stories showcasing the excellent quality price ratio Fiverr has to offer. In my case, to attract SMEs (small and medium enterprises), free lancers, comedians, actors, musicians etc. To prove to people that Fiverr is an actual growth hacking tool, where you can grow your business. The catch is that if my customers grow with me, I grow as a seller too. I have had a buyer who once placed only a $5 order from me, he was sceptic, I recall him complaining even threatening to report me to Fiverr for the low quality of the service provided (he received very few clicks, and he was used with bot gigs). I issued a refund but reviewed his business (an app) and sent him a lengthy and factual explanation of how things work, what to expect and what to do to get real results in his case. In a couple of weeks he placed another order with extras, and after that we negotiated a monthly fee which was probably what he was already spending on useless SM gigs per month. He has been a loyal customer of mine ever since, now and then he also messages me just to say thank you whenever his business goes a notch up (downloads and search engine/app store/google play positioning as result). Again, for me this all started with a $5 gig and turned into a 3 digit monthly purchase which helps me a lot both psychologically and financially. I need more customers like this and #AskGary doesn’t increase Fiverr’s appeal in the eyes of people like my buyer. Most small business owners actually don’t even know who Gary Vee is, let alone be influenced by him or turn to him for help. So I don’t see how Fiverr is benefiting from this other than telling the world that we can afford as a company to hire Gary Vaynerchuk for a PR campaign. For Gary though it was a smart move, I’m sure a lot of small businesses owners who didn’t know Gary before will know a lot more about him now. So if anything Gary should be on the spending side in a collaboration like this and if he is the one who has actually hired Fiverr I fully endorse the campaign.

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Smart move with the follow-up explanations with a difficult customer. Very few sellers–including me–would be prepared to do that (my writer’s ego won’t stand for it!). Kudos, man.

I’ve been speculating over in the ranting pot about this whole campaign, and I think Fiverr is the one financing it, but as you said in your OP, they’re not terribly active on SM, and as far as I could tell, Gary’s not really doing too much, as it seems to be just a part of his regular show, which makes me think Fiverr paid for the visibility to his audience. Whatever the truth is, I do agree with you that Gary’s the winner in all this. There’s plenty of people desperate to make money online, and he does represent an archetype (alongside the classic American rags-to-riches story, but that’s a whole other debate)

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Several of the professors in the Marketing and Management Information Systems departments where I got my degrees were experts on SMM. We also had a lot of guest lecturers from some of the leading SMM companies. Insightful lectures re: SMM are about as common as dirt on campuses these days.

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Who, though?

Who do you rate, so I can take a look at their various feeds and follow them if I like their walky-talky ways? Would you say that they saved their most insightful comments for their lectures, or also share them via their social media channels too?

I’m genuinely interested–social media started to boom after I left university. We had to make do with email , SMS, and horrific home-grown systems. Or just meeting down the pub.

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see my response below.

It seems to me that an SMM course isn’t possible. Marketing, sure, as the principles stay relatively stable, but the world of memes, in-jokes and everything else that makes up social media? How do you keep up with that while also creating a course that may well be outdated before the year’s out?

Of course you can tweak it on the fly as a lecturer, but I think this is an example of an industry where doing and IRL practice is better than book learning.

As for the who do I think pays for their research–well…I have very strong opinions on the commercialization of education. If a prof is doing sidework with Facebook, SnapChat (or whatever), then there is a conflict of interests.

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SMM wasn’t my field of interest, so I don’t follow my old profs or those of the guest speakers. If you do a google search, I’m sure you’ll find a few of interest to you. You might also enjoy some of the research papers that are out there. Those do tend to be outdated because of the publishing process though. Also, I must agree that most of the SMM profs probably aren’t very popular on social media because many of them are “stuffy”.

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Switch focus a little: how many scientists have written papers that support whatever their funder wants? It’s simply not ethical. Too many, by the way.

The very fact that these same profs make bank and get that extra bank… lol.


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Well yes, the publishing process doesn’t help in such a fast-moving industry.

My main point, however, is that you are extracting one sentence out of what another poster described as an ‘ebook’ and are unable to provide pointers to a good lecturer you wouldn’t ask for your money back.

I like stuffy academics–I used to have a great line in shocking them. They’re great fun if you know the rules of the game.

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Most make 6 figures as professors. Many of them own businesses as well (if the university allows it). The research money goes to the university. The peer review process reduces corruption. One of my professors was actually rather unpopular with other professors because he wrote a paper busting them for various unethical practices. I had to love him. 🙂

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As explained in the OP my opinion is based on books in press I have read and on my own online experience with digital marketers and ‘leading’ SMM companies. The latter either don’t get social media marketing at all or have a very simplistic understanding of it.

You’re right on one point though, they are banking on it in spite of their incompetence. To convince yourself that they are incompetent just have a look at the profiles of their associates, affiliates and clients. If you are a ‘leading’ SMM company charging top dollar for your service but post bitlys (to ‘monitor’ clicks) from your client’s profile and send automatic DMs to new followers you are harming their brand by alienating and pushing away prospective clients and collaborators. If you are a ‘leading’ SMM company but cannot deliver 1 single download via organic social media promotion you should refund every single cent to your clients.

Factually speaking, last year a London based marketing agency (20+ years in business) reached me on Fiverr for a SMM plan for one of their clients, a very talented artist. After reviewing the artist’s website (which contained no links to her social media profiles) I came up with a plan where I basically advised to exploit the artist’s art potential to go viral and build impersonal, themed social media profiles around it with an attribution in the bio (name + surname).

For those who purchase ads (Twitter Ads, there were no Instagram ads last year) viral means placing a tweet that is very likely to be shared so that the initial interactions you are charged for (platforms charge you per each interaction that happens on the actual ad) serve as a trigger - assuming that the ad is well designed - for a chain reaction that drives the price per interaction down.

It was a very good plan considering that they were working on a small budget, the reply I got back though was along the lines…“Are you kidding me? Is this all you have to say? We have already created social media profiles!! Issue a refund before I take this elsewhere to expose your incompetence”.

I located the social media profiles of the artist via a direct SM search, on Twitter she had less than 200 followers, was following like 150 of them. It was obvious that not one single person had followed her because of her art, all the tweets started with “Check out… + link + hashtag”; “name of work of art + link + hashtag*” with the same 2-3 people retweeting and favoriting. [Chances are your professors’ profiles look like this too, correct me if I’m wrong.]

I replied to my buyer saying that I would gladly issue a refund but the job of a social media marketer is not that of creating profiles for their own sake. Why couldn’t I find any link to her profiles in the website? And why were they considering their job ‘done’ even though their client’s social media presence was practically null? Because she was an artist and her SM profiles were supposed to be something to ‘show off’ on her homepage to create an image of high desirability for her art on one side (for those who landed on her site directly from a search engine or business card) while serving as PR engines on social media (Twitter, Pinterest). He accepted a refund and never messaged me again. These are the people who lecture on SMM in private colleges today and who manage the SM accounts of 95% businesses out there.

Ask your professor how to build an account with 1000 targeted followers and 0 following in 10 man hours at 0 cost. If he can’t answer then he has no clue about social media marketing, he shouldn’t be lecturing about it, you shouldn’t be listening to whatever he has to say. And no business on earth should ever spend a dime on his services.

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