Pick Your Fights: The Right Social Media Platforms for Your Goals
Too many communications departments are focused on providing real time responses.
It’s a 24/7 world that we live in. Our customers/supporters come at us any time of day, from multiple local or global locations with their accolades/issues/complaints/questions. Supporters using multiple channels of communications especially online further complicate this scenario. As a result, businesses and organizations react by trying to be everywhere at once all the time. Even with a strategy this is unsustainable for those of us without bottomless pockets.
So what is there to do?
First, let’s accept that there will always be outliers, posting in places where we do not have a presence and complaining about things we would rather were kept locked away. This will not change and given how quickly people produce and sign up for new online platforms, their options will grow.
Second, we all also face limited resources. You may love those employees that never turn off their cell phones, are sending updates around the clock, and seem to reply to every post/email/phone message. They’re great and they’re burning out. Those twitches aren’t normal and the more fluorescent liquid they pour down their throats the faster they’ll crash.
So you have your strung out “web people” as your board refers to them and you feel like you’re being attacked from just about everywhere. Many of us feel this way, even the big companies. So how do you respond?
Step 1: Pick your platforms – If you’re like me then you sign up for every new beta test that presents itself. I don’t know how many logins I have but I know which ones I use every day. This is key and an old lesson: pick your medium. The public will choose which platforms become the most popular however that doesn’t mean that you have to be on every one. Believe it or not, Twitter is not made for all brands. Neither is Facebook. Some organizations have incredible success using LinkedIn.
You need to be where you need to be. Which platform is tailored most closely to your goals? Which one is second, third, and so forth? How many resources can you assign leaving room for responding to those pesky outliers?
Step 2: Be present – So now that you have your list of where you can be, go and be there. Create content blending a newsworthy style with your marketing speak and see what works. There isn’t a formula for this. See how much of each you should mix together until you find the right mix. Don’t worry, your fellow users will help you along the way.
Step 3: Lead – As you gain trust and attention, how about you lead the conversation? You aren’t just another organization like all the others, right? You have something no one else offers, right? If not you should revisit your business plan but that’s for another post.
Mine your data, identify trends, and put them out there. Make your content as unique as your products and let people know. Stop always trying to please your followers and take the reins. Be confident enough to lead the conversation. You won’t always be the most popular but social media really should not be a popularity contest, if you disagree you may be doomed to being the online equivalent of the tag along no one wants around.
Step 4: Steer – Don’t forget those outliers. Go ahead and meet them on their own turf. Let them know they are being heard and, this is very important, steer them back to your platforms. Be honest and let them know you can’t be everywhere at once. Tell them where you can be found and how they can best receive a response. I know that some people will say, “You need to have a presence where people are.” While this is true, I would hope that you still monitor the biggies out there to avoid a widespread crisis. However you also need to know how to prioritize platforms and content. Everything is not as important as the next.
Step 5: It’s nothing new – Everyone got all crazy with social media. It’s not a mystery if you can put it in your terms. Sometimes it helps people to think of each platform as a gathering, a party with different guests speaking a shared language. If that helps, then great, good for you. Find your own way to conceptualize platforms. But remember that each is nuanced and cannot be put in a neat box. There are shades of grey and you need to be aware of them because these shift continuously as the party conversation ebbs and flows.
Step 6: Stop trying to be popular – Seriously, stop. Remember when your mom told you that it’s not a popularity contest and that you should be yourself? And then when you were older you understood exactly what she meant? Well, why did you forget that bit of advice when you went online? People love authenticity. Be real. It sounds lame but be proud of who you are and what you have to offer. There will be bumps along the way but if you stay true to yourself you will avoid the worst pitfalls of online communications.
So now that you have these wonderful six steps to being awesome online please realize that you need to learn more. These are my opinions and they work for me, sometimes. Other times I try different approaches and have tremendous successes. I read what others have to say and pick what I want to use next. I admit to myself that I don’t know it all and that there are people out there that are smarter than me, much smarter than me. I ask them questions and I listen to their responses. I’m social, and you should be, too.
Brian Adams (@brianadamspr) is the US Communications Director @WildAid. He also consults with nonprofits, including Komera Project and Samahope, regarding communications strategy. Brian was previously Senior Director of Communications at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and the head of Media and Community Relations for the MSPCA-Angell. A version of this story first ...