Integrate Social Media … In Real Life

by Andrew Hanelly |

There’s often a gap between the idea of social media (what can happen in your head) and the practice of social media (what happens in real life).

Maybe your “social media engagement strategy” seemed more solid in the PowerPoint presentation. The “monitoring station” seemed to work better during discussion meetings. And the enthusiasm has vanished from the honeymoon that followed your organization’s marriage to social media.

In other words, the ideas all sounded good, but getting the organization to change overnight was more difficult than it seemed it would be. No one actually wanted to digest a pie in the sky social media initiative so we just sort of took a bite, smiled, then spat it out when no one was looking.

Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but to say the least, our organization didn’t immediately “change” and apply a social media perspective to everything it does. But we actually shouldn’t want or expect them to.

It’s Not the Party It’s the Hangover

After the champagne toast on a social media campaign reality sets in and the daily activities required of a campaign go from being “fun things to do at work” to “just another chore I do at work,” the novelty wears thin along with people’s patience. You’re stuck at an awkward space between “getting started” and “getting traction.” (It is a sentiment best summarized in This is Why I’ll Never Be an Adult.)

Maybe we were asking too much. Or maybe what we’re asking isn’t being articulated clearly enough. The chasm between ideality and reality is caused by the fact that in real life, social media can’t be the center of attention in every scenario. In fact, it often has to take the back seat.

The trick is to embrace this reality and find smart ways to integrate social media into your organization’s real life. Here are some things to consider:

1. Many hands make light work

Image: photographybycalvincropley

Integrate social media components with other daily tasks done by the staff. Find people that are interested in getting involved and acquiring a completely new section in their skill set (it is marketable for them to get involved too, so don’t be afraid to spell out the benefits of their involvement in terms of increasing potential for success in their own career).

Find opportunities where social makes sense. Can your receptionist Tweet the answers to commonly asked questions received via the phone or website contact form? Does it make sense for your events staff to track down previous attendees on Twitter and connect with them? Would posting videos of your board meetings actually be a good idea for YouTube?

Different interaction points will make sense for different goals and priorities, but they are there to find at every organization.

2. Authenticity means everyone (or at least more than the Marketing Dept.)

Authenticity is when more than the marketing department joins in. Marketers are supposed to get it. We should be testing out new things, it’s our job to be communicating with the outside world. But that doesn’t always mean we have the best stories and perspective. Our challenge should be to find those people within our organization and give them the microphone.

In other words, the best marketing blogs aren’t exclusively the domain of marketers, they are open to the entire company, so tap into different departments across your organization and assemble a team with unique ideas, insights, and perspectives.

3. Remove anxiety as a barrier to entry

When people feel unsure as to how they are able to act, they tend to stay quiet to avoid unknown punishments. There is likely more perceived risk than reward, so employees may shy away from the opportunity.

To address this, provide written guidelines that allow people to easily understand company policy. Not only does this force you to go through the important exercise of thinking about what a company policy ought to include, it also develops a framework of decision-making that is void of vagueness and provides clear “what if” scenario navigation.

4. Take attendance and inventory

Once your team is assembled, take inventory of activity, accounts, and benchmarks of metrics. Take count of all involved accounts, even if it’s only someone’s personal Twitter account that promises to Tweet a handful of times per month. Make a list of the entire “team” of contributors.

These will be the people you contact when you’re looking to spread a message. Treat this information as you would your email subscriber information.

5. Set up social media monitoring stations and give everyone access

Map out all of the terms that your organization wants to pay attention to and list all of the pertinent blogs and news sources you and your colleagues need to follow. Organize them in a useful way and make them easily accessible to necessary parties (like using Google Alerts and Google Reader).

Individuals involved should tag, share, and save content. Archiving streams relevant to your industry can create a concise, personalized search engine of content particularly useful to your organization.

6. Create an editorial calendar and begin sharing content

develop an editorial calendar
Image: Yandel

Provide best practices and tips for creating Tweets, posting on Facebook, answering questions on Quora, uploading videos to YouTube, etc. Circulate your organization’s written social media guidelines and begin posting in regularly scheduled and random intervals. Try using Google Docs to manage any documents that might be helpful to anyone involved..

Have consistency in your social media interactions (weekly blog posts, daily Tweets, etc.) but also leave room for arbitrary, unplanned interaction. Make sure your content is edited for context, style, voice and tone and has been through a copyediting review if necessary. Your social media content should remain as high-quality as possible, as it offers a taste of what people can expect from the rest of your organization’s offerings.

Post regularly and monitor results, learn, and continue to explore new ways your organization can connect with people through social mechanisms.

The idea is not to take over all activities related to social media, or have social media revolutionize your company.

The idea is to connect your organization with social media at key places in ways that make sense and are realistic given your resources.

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About the Author

Andrew Hanelly

Andrew is SVP, Strategy for McMurry/TMG and for one semester in college, was a sociology major. He writes at Brain on Digital, as @hanelly on Twitter and here on Google+.