Managing Social Media In A Small Shop

by Jason Falls |

My first director’s position as a public relations pro was as the Sports Information Director at Georgetown College, a small, NAIA-affliliated, liberal arts college in Kentucky. While my job was primarily to publicize the school’s athletics athletics teams, being a sports information director is so much more than PR. You are the official historian, web master, graphic designer, photographer, statistician, event manager and sometimes facilities supervisor on top of the media and public relations duties. While each institution has varying degrees of staffing, support and responsibilities relative to those areas, the smaller the school, the more responsibility the SID has.

I spoke at the annual convention for SIDs last week and presented them with a series of ideas I had around opportunities and challenges social media presents for their specialized profession. My five-plus years away from the press boxes, press rows and team buses allowed for a different perspective on my former profession. I think my thoughts got their wheels turning.

Many people don't see the sports information staff behind the coaches they normally focus on.
Many people focus on the coaches, like Louisville's Rick Pitino. The SIDs (like lil' ole me ... lower left ... in younger days) work behind the scenes. Photo by Ashley Fleming.

While my ideas were applicable to any level of college athletics communications, there are always differences in the landscape when you move beyond the big-time, big-money NCAA Division I institutions. Sports Information and athletics communications professionals at the NCAA Division II and III and NAIA levels are some of the hardest working and most versatile communications professionals in the world. They have to be.

At the suggestion of Jacob VanRyn, Assistant Commissioner for Strategic Communications for the Northeast-10 Conference, I thought it appropriate to follow-up with some ideas to help the time-crunched, resource-limited communications professional (not just one in sports, but any field) leverage and manage social media to stay connected and in command of the social landscape.

Pull It All Together

You can’t keep up with anything when your time is limited. Fortunately, there are tools out there that, once you figure out the technology, can help you keep tabs on news, blogs, websites; what people are saying about you and your organization; and proactively stay on top of at least the major social channels.

For reading your daily papers, trade mags and even top blogs or message boards in your industry, get a Google Reader account and learn how to use RSS feeds. I browse the content of over 400 websites every day … in less than 30 minutes. I don’t surf the web. The web surfs to me.

For keeping tabs on what’s being said about you, hone in on some keyword searches in both Google Alerts and on Learn a bit about Boolean search so you can add qualifiers to your searches and weed out the junk. Then subscribe to those search results in your Google Reader. Set aside these feeds in a priority folder since what is being said about you is a bit more important than headlines from The Onion.

For both posting and reacting to your organization’s various social channels, sign up for HootSuite or TweetDeck. Both allow you to connect your various Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and even Foursquare accounts and post, schedule posts, reply, follow/friend and more. And it all happens in a columnar dashboard that keeps it all in front of you. No more browsing to one or other other, unless you have to do something fancy.

Become Master of Your Domain

The most critical weapon in a digital communicator’s modern arsenal is a strong understanding of their own website’s analytics. Get access to your website’s Google Analytics, Webtrends or other analytics package reports. If none exist, insist whomever is in charge of the site install Google Analytics properly and make you a user so you can login directly to see the reports. Watch the Google videos that explain how to read and even manipulate Google Analytics to set goals, delineate reports on where traffic comes from, what keywords people use to find your site and the like.

Now start thinking of your job as using that website to drive business. Sure, your job is to populate content, but the site’s job is to do something else — whether it’s generate sales, leads, applications or downloads. Make that your job, too. Find ways within your content to compel readers to push those buttons and you’ll soon find people are happier with the site’s performance, and yours too.

Establish Expectations

The biggest mistake a small communications shop can make is trying to be everything everyone else wants it to be. While lack of staff and budget is an easy crutch to fall back on, it makes people think you’re lazy and unmotivated. Proactively tell, even publish, what services you will and will not provide (stress the will). Prioritize your responsibilities and do what is within your limitations, but do it as well as anyone can.

With regards to social communications, determine the channel or channels that allow you to connect with the majority of your most important audiences and limit your communications to that platform. If your audience is mostly on Facebook, then automate your blog or news RSS feed to Twitter, put in your Twitter bio that it’s a news feed but you can be found on Facebook and let it be. You can’t be a jack of all trades. If you try, you’ll disappoint everyone, rather than taking care of at least a few of the important ones.

But communicate to your audiences what channels you’re using, why you’re using them and what they can expect from you there. Then deliver that in spades.

Report Your Success, And That Of Others

Now that you’ve defined what you’re going to do, you’re doing it and measuring it appropriately, report to your higher-ups what you’re trying to accomplish and how far along you’re getting. But also tell them what your competition is doing. Estimate what they’re spending. Research how many staff members they have doing it. Your best chance of getting more money, more staff and less pressure is to let your direct reports understand what you’re up against. They’ll either lay off or get penis envy and you’ll start seeing some help.

We Are Smarter Than Me

Those are my ideas. What are yours? For those of you who operate with small staffs, small budgets and not enough hours in the day, how do you do it? How do you afford, manage, prioritize? Your feedback in the comments may just help someone break through and figure this whole thing out. Please … the comments are yours.

About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).