Take a Deep Breath… and Organize

Starving lions.

Once upon a time social media seemed so easy.

Open a Facebook page.  Tweet out a link to a press releases.  Set up a LinkedIn profile.  Throw a video up on YouTube.

It’s free!  It’s easy!

But that feeling of ease is quickly replaced by trepidation and later by a disbelief that you ever thought creating content and managing it on social platforms was easy.  Publishing content is like feeding a starving lion a steady diet of raisins – one raisin at a time.  The lion simply never gets full.

The fact is creating content is hard work.  Creating compelling content is even harder work.  And getting people to notice it, interact with it and share it with their own social circles is even harder than hard.

And that free thing?  Well, opening up the channels was free.  But if you want custom designs, applications, multimedia and interactive content – well, then that can be expensive.  And why didn’t anyone warn you about all of the staff time it takes to do all of this?

Suddenly social media seems difficult.

But it doesn’t have to be.  The answer is what you’d expect: Be organized and get organized.  Strategy should be the driver of all things in social (just like it should in communications and marketing), but here are a few practical tactical tips:

  • Set up listening posts.  Sounds boring, I know.  But listening is the best first step.  Find out what your customers, employees, partners and the media are saying about you, your products, your services and discover the news and trends that are driving conversations in your area.  There are many ways to listen (in fact there’s enough monitoring and measuring tools to devour that hungry lion we talked about earlier).  I’ve tried and Radian6 and Sysomos.  There are also desktop and mobile solutions like TweetDeck and HootSuite.
  • Get your personal social media channels in order. This can be time-consuming and it feels a lot like cleaning out your closet.  But trust me – it’s worth it.  Go through your channels and optimize – even shutdown the ones you aren’t using (because really why have a channel you don’t use?).  Think about your own content.  What value are you providing?  What is the purpose for each channel?  Is one personal?  Another professional?  What goals do you have for each channel?  Next go through your fans and followers – those following you and those you follow.  Why are you subscribing to them?  What’s the value? Are you following too many?  Not enough?  A good tip is to then create Twitter lists of your most valuable sources – media, customers, co-workers, competitors, friends, prospects, etc… (you can keep your lists private) and then set-up columns for them on TweetDeck. Both Google+ and Facebook also allow you segment your contacts.
  • Do an internal audit of your company assets.  You might need help from a professional on this one, but again it is well worth it.  Most companies – especially large ones – are struggling with the decentralized communications model that erupted during the social media explosion.  As a result, companies have lost control over their social media assets.  There’s a guy in engineering blogging.  PR has a Twitter handle and so does a branch office in Los Angeles.  There seem to be two Facebook pages and neither knows the other exists.  And who opened up the Google+ page?  Time to figure out what your company owns and who is managing it.
  • Develop a standard playbook for social media content.  This is another place where the help of a professional comes in handy.  Every company should create a customized playbook that outlines how to produce, syndicate and manage content and conversations on the company’s social media channels.  This playbook can include everything from the correct spelling of every product to engagement guidelines.  It should spell out the best ways to manage channels – from how to organize a content team to how to use an editorial calendar.  A playbook isn’t about trying to censor those who create content, but to help them optimize it through best practices.
  • Create a content creation organization. By far the most difficult aspect of maintaining a vibrant presence on social channels is consistent content.  This means streamlining content teams and integrating content from PR, advertising and marketing through a single social media editorial calendar.  Visibility is crucial.  Knowing what is coming and when – and in what format the content is in makes planning easier.  If there’s a new release on a new product going out at a trade show then the sooner the social media content creators know the more time they have to create Facebook tabs, videos, status updates and other content.

Social media isn’t easy, but with organization you make it less difficult.

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