Photo above: Escobar-Gonzalez Photo by Scott Robertson
By Scott Robertson
When one thinks of using social media, one generally imagines oneself staring into a monitor, tablet or smartphone. But for Valentina Escobar-Gonzalez, founder of Beyond Engagement, being a social media consultant is all about face-to-face connections.
It may seem ironic, but Beyond Engagement was built on offline networking. Escobar-Gonzalez says that when she moved to Tennessee six-and-a-half years ago after her husband was hired at Eastman, “I started off doing Chamber events, going to everything I could think of. At that time, Chamber events were free. You went to breakfast ones and after hours. So I did a bunch of those things, as much as possible. And then I did a lot of volunteering. I was in 40 Under Forty within around a year of moving to the area because I had done a lot of stuff with the United Way, with the Gray Fossil Site, and with Second Harvest.”
For Escobar-Gonzalez, networking offline and utilizing social media are very similar activities, “because you have to build a relationship. When you do Facebook, you have to do three types of campaign: A light campaign – and it’s the same thing when you go to a Chamber event. When you first go up to someone, you aren’t going to say, ‘Hey, hire me to do your social media consulting.’ You kind of get to know them so you kind of get to like each other.
“Then the second part is engagement. I amplify the reach of a specific post. Currently Facebook organically reaches only one to two percent. So when we create a Facebook campaign, we create new likes. We want new types of people liking your page – someone that you want to niche target. Then we have an engagement campaign so we do pay-to-play. We pay $5, $10, $20 – whatever your budget is to actually get people to see your post.
“Then finally we have a call to action. It’s the same thing when you do something with someone when you meet offline. You get to know them, then you’re like, ‘Hey, let’s meet up for a cup of coffee and talk about what you do.’ Then finally after a couple of months, or maybe three to six months, you say, ‘Hey, would you like to be my client? Would you like to know more about our services?’”
In the six years she’s been a social media consultant, Escobar-Gonzalez says in some ways the job has become easier – clients already consider social media part of their everyday lives. In some ways, however, it has become more challenging.
“I did a really big virtual conference last week,” she says. “Over 200 people attended last Friday. But Thursday night Facebook had this big update…the reach is now less. There’s more priority on friendship posts. Facebook is reducing the business posts if there’s not a lot of comment and engagement. They’ll penalize you if you’re doing clickbait and that sort of thing. It was stuff we already knew, but everyone was panicking.
“So I’m getting ready for this huge opportunity to brand myself online to bigger audiences and then this thing just blows up the night before. So the hardest thing is just staying up to date. I have to just always immerse myself in new things. Every day there’s something new, and you just have to know about it. I feel like it’s a treadmill I’m constantly on.”
Because she wants to keep that face-to-face working relationship with her clients, growth is not an overriding goal for Escobar-Gonzalez. “I want to stay small. I don’t want to grow too much because it affects the quality of your work. I want to be that person you can call if you need to talk to them.”