Social media occupies a paradoxical position in the lives of many small business owners. On one hand, your personal account is a tar pit that envelops your time. On the other hand, your business account is almost completely neglected. Many is the small business Facebook page where the last post dates back to the iPhone4. Legion is the Twitter feed that has been silenced for vast stretches of geological time.

Ignoring social media is a risky proposition. Social media is an increasingly crucial channel for marketing businesses, products, and services; yet many small businesses underutilize it. Social media is not just about marketing; it is the face of your company and often the first interaction people will have with you or your business.

Social media content creation is not easy. Unlike your social media account, where you can tweet your bon mots, post a somewhat profane clip from your favorite comic, or display whimsical amateur photography, business social media is goal-oriented. It’s much more difficult to generate content that will interest your clients, promote your brand, or catch the attention of commentators in your industry.

A virtual assistant is often a good solution for managing a social media account. While your small business does not likely need a full-time digital marketing specialist, it can use somebody who can generate content and interact with current and prospective clients. Delegating day-to-day social media responsibilities can benefit you and your business in a number of ways:

1.  You can focus on the big picture. You can set the goals you want to accomplish—Identifying your target audience and the message you want to convey. When it comes to implementing that strategy, however, it is rarely cost effective to shoulder the painstaking work of building a social media following and managing day-to-day posting. Fortunately, there are discrete projects that a VA can handle in your stead:

  • Drafting posts: A substantial social media presence often requires numerous posts a week. Your VA can make sure you post frequently enough to have an active presence.
  • Research: A lot of social media activity involves sharing the contributions of others. Building connections with potential clients, business partners, and influencers often means reposting others’ material. Your VA can monitor relevant individuals and identify material for reposting.
  • Creating blogs and other materials to share with your online community: Sharing is good, but it has its limits. You can only post so many inspirational quotes and links to others’ content.If you’re trying to educate an audience about your business or engage your audience in a more complete way, you’ll need to invest more time in getting your message across.Your VA can help you by drafting a blog or designing an infographic to get your point across visually.
  • Interaction: If your social media efforts are successful, followers will comment on your posts. Your VA can engage with these followers and ideally build a relationship.
  • Reporting: If you’re going to set goals for interactions via social media, you’re going to need reporting to see if you meet those goals. Have your VA generate reports on a weekly or monthly basis to track progress.

2.  You can have someone who is strictly focused on keeping up-to-date with social media platforms and how they should be used. Social media platforms are constantly in flux. New platforms become popular and new features are added to existing platforms. Having someone on your team who is paying attention to these changes will help you (and your company) stay current on trends and reduce your risk of breaching social media etiquette.

While these benefits are great, you can’t just throw your VA the keys to the social media car. You’ll want to collaborate in building the right strategy, educate the VA about your business, verify progress, and monitor progress. Here are some guidelines for facilitating a smooth working relationship with a VA who takes charge of your social media presence:

1.  Be clear about your goals. No matter how skilled your virtual assistant is, he or she will need your vision. Regardless of which platforms and campaigns you are delegating, the direction your company’s social media takes is ultimately up to you. Do you want to use social media to educate your clients about your various product offerings? Do you want to build brand loyalty? Do you want to interact with customers to figure out how they’re responding to your latest product offerings?These are strategic questions that should be answered before you decide on the tactics that you will implement. Once you have determined your objectives or targets for social media, make sure you clearly convey them to your virtual assistant so they can work towards what you have envisioned.

2.  Educate your VA about your business. As talented and experienced as your VA may be at using social media, she will not have your knowledge of your business, your clients, or your industry. Don’t expect your VA to pick up all this information by osmosis. Take the time to explain to your VA how your business works, who your clients are, and how the industry works.

3.  Facilitate collaboration with the right tools. To make communication with your VA easier and more organized, use social media management tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, or Tweetdeck. These tools are meant to organize all your social media in one place. They allow you to post on multiple platforms at once, draft and schedule posts, and track statistics. Not only will these tools help your virtual assistant, but they can help you keep track of the work they are doing without having to directly ask or oversee duties.

4.  Delegate, but oversee. Finding the line between completely passing off a project and micromanaging can be tricky. After you have trained your VA, give him or her the opportunity to handle your social media platforms themselves, but make sure you periodically check in to ensure your posts still reflect your vision.

5.  Keep raising the bar. It’s easy to get complacent with social media and to eventually let it run on autopilot. Your organization, however, should constantly be seeking to expand its audience and to identify new ways to interact more intensively with that audience. When you set benchmarks, think beyond increasing your number of followers or likes. How many people are clicking on your posts? How many are reading your blog? How many of your website’s visitors are referred from social media? Dig deeper to set goals that are meaningful to your business.

Social media is undoubtedly a critical building block for a company’s marketing, advertising, and customer service efforts as well as for its public appearances, brand recognition, and interactions; so handing it off can be daunting. However, with the right VA, you can retain control of your company’s message, while leaving the business of conveying that message through social media to somebody else.