Since the pandemic started, we have been looking for ways to attract new customers. Since direct sales has been limited because all of our shows have been cancelled, we are all looking to social media to connect with customers.
However, social media, even though free, comes at a cost. It is difficult to come up with compelling content that attracts visitors. The posts that I make on Instagram and Facebook start to run together after the 100th post. I just want to make stuff in my shop and leave the social media to someone else.
I started doing some research on social media managers who say that they will take over our social media engagement and create compelling content from their library of content and our product pictures to increase customer awareness and following. These services range dramatically in costs depending on what you want to include. Since we are a micro-business we don’t have a budget for some of these big commercial firms.
One company that we happened upon was 98 Buck Social (www.98bucksocial.com). For only $98 bucks a month, they would be your social media manager. For only $49 more, they will do Instagram too! This sounded very promising. After talking with Monica (my wife/business partner/girlfriend/dog wrangler), we decided to commit. We also decided that we had to give it at least six months to see real results and determine if the investment was reaping rewards. We were in.
They promised to make a facebook post 5-6 times per week in order to promote our product and attract followers. They would use unique content from their library to create compelling posts. They would do hashtag research to reach potential customers and followers.
Note that they never made any commitment to gain followers or sales. This is a good thing. If anyone does promise to increase followers, they are probably not real followers. There are services out there that will “sell” followers, but they will not engage with your content and add no value to your social media.
The on-boarding process was relatively painless. There was a questionnaire to fill out regarding our goals and brand story. And they wanted passwords – all of them for all social media. We aren’t very engaged on Facebook or Instagram but even less so for LinkedIn and Twitter so I had to go look those passwords up.
Once they got the passwords and assumed control of our social media, they were set to go.
Our first post from 98 Buck Social showed up just a day or two after we got it all set up. It was product picture taken from our photo collection that we shared with them. It wasn’t bad and was was something similar to what we would have posted.
Over the next few days, posts would appear every day as promised. Most of those were product images with a few “lifestyle” posts as well. The posts were simple and mostly reused the hashtags that I had been using for the past six months or so. There were no product links to our product catalog and just kinda “meh”. The posts were very similar to posts that we would have done.
It was about 10 days into our service when my opinion went from neutral to “oh hell no!”
On about the 10th day, I think it was a Monday. I was in the shop making stuff and took a break around 4 PM, sat down and checked my Instagram for the day’s post. I don’t remember precisely what it was but it was a stock photo with a boring caption. What struck me though is that the photo was watermarked. It had the watermark from the Dreamstime site. I know this because I have used Dreamstime for years as a source of stock photos for my old job. I still use them to this day when I am looking for graphics or image.
I put my phone down as I contemplated what I just saw. Over the course of a couple of minutes I went from being humored at the amateurish post to being really irritated. I realized that I was paying 98 Buck Social to represent my business. While I could afford to be humored over an amateurish post by someone else, this post would be seen by potential customers who would spot the watermark as well. What would they think of my business then? Also, this use of a watermarked photo meant that we did not have a license to use the image and could open us up for a copyright infringement claim.
Just a few minutes later, I removed the post and all remnants of it ever existing. I went back to work allowing myself some time to compose an appropriate response and assess whether or not I had over-reacted. I sent an email expressing my concerns to my dedicated account manager and the operations manager later that day. Her response was that she would add this feedback to our file.
My response to this was this was not “feedback” but a contractual violation and potential lawsuit against us for copyright violation. While I seriously doubt that Dreamstime would go to that extreme, this is my business at risk.
Over the next couple of days we saw more posts by them that were back to the “meh” quality of posts. Nothing exciting nor compelling.
On day 13 or 14, I was alerted to someone logging into the Instagram account from a place I didn’t recognize. With the rash of people getting hacked lately, I immediately went and changed my Instagram password. Right after, I notified my account manager at 98 Buck Social of the password change. She confirmed that she updated the file with the new password.
After that, there were no more posts from 98 Buck Social. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. During our first 30 days with 98 Buck Social, we saw about 10 posts, including the one that I deleted. Not quite what I had expected.
By day 20, I told Monica that I wanted to cancel our agreement with 98 Buck Social. Her response was “It’s about damn time!”.
So we didn’t make it to our 6 month commitment with 98 Buck Social to see if it provided any value. We didn’t even make it a month.
I think its obvious that my opinion is very negative, but your experience may be dramatically different than mine. Remember that you get what you pay for.
I think the concept of 98 Buck Social is absolutely brilliant. Getting someone to do social media posts on a daily basis would be a real time saver IF they could capture the essence of your brand. However, that takes a brand manager and is usually a little more expensive than 98 bucks.
In addition to the issues that I laid out above, there are some other concerns. First and foremost, there is a very limited feedback mechanism. If I have feedback for a post, I have to communicate with the account manager. There is no online account management to enable me to, well, manage my account. Passwords are emailed or texted. Feedback has to be emailed or texted. None of this seems secure to me.
Second, there is no solicitation of feedback. With such a low-cost service, this may asking too much, but it would have been nice to have someone reach out and ask what I thought of the service and if the direction of the posts needed to be adjusted.
I also noticed that I have been seeing ads for “98 Dollar Social” that seems to be totally separate from “98 Buck Social”. Is this run by someone who bailed on the Buck and started the Dollar? Is it someone who just saw a great idea and is trying to make it work? Or is it someone just taking advantage of the marketing confusion? I don’t know.
What do you think? Should I try the Dollar too?
Thanks for reading and I will see you at market!