Social Media and Community Management Advice from Andrea Vahl

Andrea Vahl is a social media coach, speaker, and strategist as well as the co-author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies. Before becoming an independent consultant, Andrea served as a community manager for the Social Media Examiner. In addition to providing products, services, advice, and free educational materials through her website, Andrea presents social media tips in the guise of an old woman through The Grandma Mary Show on YouTube.

Below you will find Andrea's insights on what it takes to stand out as a social media expert, common misconceptions about social media marketing, bad social media tactics, measuring ROI, lucrative professional ventures, and establishing rates as a fledgling consultant and coach.

What do you think it is that makes you stand out as a social media expert?

Andrea VahlI provide a lot of in-depth content. I think that helps people stand out tremendously. Many people write blog posts with very high level information, but if you can go deep with a lot of examples or an exact how-to that really helps someone, your posts are shared more. I used to worry that I was giving too much away, but it has actually been great for my business. That, and not being too boring. Grandma Mary is unique and interesting and she has opinions. Not everyone likes her and that's ok.

As a social media coach, what are some of the most common misconceptions regarding social media marketing that you must repeatedly dispel?

Many people worry about privacy. While social media has issues with privacy, you can control a lot of what people see. On Twitter, everyone can see everything (except for DMs). People should never post anything that is too private anyway. I post pictures of my kids on Facebook, but I carefully control my privacy settings. Social media works better when you are willing to have conversations with people as you (not just your brand) - this is how you show up to networking events, why not show up that way online?

Of all the popular social media marketing tactics and platforms being used, do you see any as being a complete waste of time?

This is a terrible tactic anyway, but I see a lot of people posting on people's pages to come and Like their page on Facebook. That is spam. Other types of spam include tweeting to someone in particular to go visit their website. Think about how you can be helpful rather than asking someone to do something for you as your first connection with them.

How do you teach clients how to determine whether their social media ventures have a positive ROI and are making a significant impact on sales or profits?

ROI can be challenging to measure in social media because the benefits can sometimes be intangible (top of mind awareness, positive sentiment), but there is a lot you can measure. I teach people to track their progress before and after a significant social media push - how many website visits are you getting, what is your engagement level, what are your sales, etc. Then make sure you have the goals and tracking in place - you can use Google goals, or Google Analytics to measure sales or just ask people how they found you.

Many people hoping to follow in your professional footsteps have no idea which ventures are actually worth the effort. What is your most lucrative source of income? Speaking engagements? Webinars? Consulting work? Product sales? Book sales?

My biggest source of income comes from working with some of my larger clients over a longer period of time - assisting them with a launch, or a Facebook ad campaign, or working with Social Media Examiner. My products also provide a big source of my income - I have the Social Media Manager School which I'm re-launching in September and then I have e-books and mini-courses. The one-on-one coaching and speaking comes next, although I'd like to ramp up my speaking more in the next year.

What professional benefits come from the Grandma Mary Show? Is it a significant source of ad revenue, traffic to your website, or new clients?

I don't do ad-revenue; it's mostly used to send people to my website and sign up for my updates.

How do you determine prices for your products and rates for your services? What pricing strategies would you recommend to someone who is just entering the field?

Pricing can be a combination of determining your expenses, what your experience level is, and what the market will bare. For people just starting out I suggest somewhere between $35-50/hour for one-on-one consulting depending on how you will bundle your services. As you gain experience and gain more clients, you can raise your prices.