Digital Marketer or VA – Who To Hire For Online Marketing

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Recently I’ve seen quite a number of Virtual Assistant businesses offering digital marketing services… well it looks like that on the surface… so much so that as a Digital Marketer I started to think that a lot of the promotion I was seeing was blurring the lines between the two roles. Two roles which I had previously thought were vastly different were suddenly appearing to offer very similar services to clients.

This made me wonder that if I was thinking this about the offers on display, what is the perception of other people in my network… Do they recognise a difference between the two? So I asked the question:

What do you see is the difference between a Virtual Assistant (VA) and a Digital Marketer?

Some of the responses were:

“Everything”
– Dani Tamati, Consultant at Resourceful Women

“An online marketer is an expert and focuses on online marketing. A VA has broader tasks.”
– Elaine Mallette

They are two completely different skill sets. Digital marketing in and of itself is so diverse that no digital marketer will know everything in this space! While a VA could potentially assist with tactical execution of some digital marketing tasks, the strategy and planning is a specialist skill set that is honed over years.”
– Paula O’Sullivan, Digital Strategist at Possum Digital

Paralegal vs Lawyer
– Shalini Nandan, Legal Mentor at Legally Shalini

I see one as a doer and the other as more a consultant and advisor as well as possibly a doer.”
– Narelle Sheill, Counsellor at Narelle Sheill

The responses were clear, concise and obvious that there actually is an awareness of the difference between a digital marketer offering social media or SEO services and a virtual assistant offering social media or SEO services (for example).

In my quest for answers I also sought out Aerlie Wildy, the business organisation coach behind VA Prep School. Aerlie knows the ins and outs of working with, seeking out and hiring virtual assistants, so I asked her opinion on the subject.

What do you see is the difference between a Virtual Assistant (VA) and a Digital Marketer?

AERLIE: From a business owner’s perspective, it all comes down to what your needs are. There are Virtual Assistants that have a huge range of skills, and some that specialise in certain areas – which can typically include digital marketing.

An online marketer would no doubt be involved in creating the campaigns and strategies required to achieve the business and marketing goals. Traditionally, a Virtual Assistant’s responsibility would be to implement the strategy.

When would you recommend hiring a Virtual Assistant and not a marketing specialist, and vice-versa?

AERLIE: Again, it depends on the goals of the business and requirements of the business. If you need help creating the overall marketing campaign – deciding which media, what content to create, the timing, the branding etc, then I think a Digital Marketer would rock this. If you have the strategy down and just need help to get it out on time, and to spread the load so that you don’t burn out during your campaign, then a Virtual Assistant would be perfect.

What can an employer expect (generally speaking) from a Virtual Assistant that can manage their online marketing or parts of it?

AERLIE: When you hire a Virtual Assistant, it’s really important to be clear about what you need, and to set up expectations about communication, availability, as well as knowing and understanding what skills your VA has. If they are expert online marketers, then they will be able to create content, schedule it on all of the platforms that you have decided, and report back on the results, so that you can both review and adjust if necessary.

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Each campaign naturally has specific elements within it, but including your VA in the whole process so that they understand your goals will allow them to provide you with prompt feedback about successes or fails, as well as keeping all of their deadlines that you’ve set.

Essentially, your Virtual Assistant should be delivering on all of the tasks that you’ve set them – so it’s important you are really clear on your expectations of them.

If a business owner is seeking to hire a Virtual Assistant to manage some of their online marketing should they learn applicable marketing strategies from a professional marketer first BEFORE hiring a VA so that they have the knowledge to better instruct their Virtual Assistant on how they would like their copy edited, social media managed, emails sent etc?

AERLIE: I do believe it’s important to know what you are asking. In my experience, if you’re not sure on the strategy, it can lead to unclear instructions, miscommunication and even missed deadlines. It is the business owner’s responsibility to be clear about what they expect and the strategy.

Going in to a campaign with a clear map of key dates, content to be created, branding elements etc will help the campaign flow much better, and allow the team to work together as a strong unit if there is a strong base to work from. When there is uncertainty, hesitation and lack of clarity, it’s really difficult to communicate effectively and get into the flow of the process, so yes – I do recommend that the business owner be confident in their own strategy and outcomes first before hiring a Virtual Assistant.

How can a business owner prepare for a Virtual Assistant to manage some of the online marketing?

AERLIE:

  1. Be really clear on the set of skills that you need, so that you can find the best matched VA for your business.
  2. Allow yourself enough time in your schedule to work as a team with your VA – this includes time for meetings, providing feedback and giving instructions.
  3. Get organised early, so that you can be really clear on what you need, and when. Setting clear deadlines as well as providing your VA with all of the information (for example – online access, passwords, branding elements etc) will help you have a really successful relationship with your VA.

In summary, Aerlie’s perspective is similar to my own. As a digital marketer offering some done-for-you services it is obvious now where the cross-over between the roles lie; however it is also clear that as the marketer completing the task it involves a higher level of brand awareness, project and long-term strategy, analysis and optimisation, and campaign management to ensure all pieces of the marketing puzzle fit together seamlessly for a client.

What do you see is the difference between a Virtual Assistant (VA) and a Digital Marketer? At what point or for what roles would you seek each of these specialists for your business? I’d love to know your thoughts, let me know in the comments below.

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SEEKING A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT?

If a Virtual Assistant is definitely what you need to grow your business, then click here to download Aerlie Wildy’s: How To Hire A VA Checklist.  Plus she has a bank of great tips about working with, hiring and preparing for a Virtual Assistant that you can check out on her website: www.aerliewildy.com

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Aerlie is also running VA Prep School – A step-by-step program that helps entrepreneurs prepare for and start outsourcing so that they can focus on their business. Get the details on VA Prep School here.  Early Bird entry closes 3 February!

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SEEKING A DIGITAL MARKETER?

If you’re thinking you need a digital marketer on your team as well, or to analyse and consult on your strategy before you work with a VA, let’s have a chat and see how I can help you optimise and grow your business 🙂

Robyn.

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Comments (2)

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Working out what help you need is difficult because of that feeling that you might as well do it yourself BUT having someone who gets what your doing is priceless, (and of course I realise I can’t do it all myself) what a very informative and interesting article! Thanks.

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Hi, I’ve just come across this article and was pleased to see it. I’m an online marketing virtual assistant specialising in social media management, email marketing using ActiveCampaign and Mailchimp, content marketing, social media advertising and keyword/phrase/SEO research.

I worked in marketing for over 20 years in corporate roles as a PA. I ran 2 businesses of my own utilising and learning about internet marketing (as it was called then) and have done certified online courses in social media management and internet marketing as well as several of other complementary add-ons.

I don’t regard myself as being a digital marketing strategist but I’m able to design a strategy for small businesses as well as being the ‘doer’ implementing the work as required.

My website states that my company isn’t a digital agency but then it’s not a home hobby business either. I sit in the middle. I’m an affordable option for the small business who is serious about growing their business and don’t have the bucks for a big digital marketing strategist. Also, I have a team of VA specialists from web development to copywriting to social media management that I can call upon for additional support.

The world of VAs is transforming from basic administration to more specialised offerings. Lots of VAs held very responsible positions in their employed life so are bringing some great skills to the table. Also, there are many excellent ways to upskill with quality online courses, webinars, and specialist events. The opportunities and ability to work from home is a growing industry solving many a childcare problem for lots of families.

So, in my opinion, whilst I don’t wish to compete, or even be aligned, with digital marketing agencies I do a great job for my clients optimising their online presence and visibility. Perhaps you could consider my services as being a stepping stone on which small business can grow until they’re able to afford, or have the desire to use bigger agencies.

Thanks for the great post. It’s given me more food for thought as to how I can market my business.

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