tearing hair out

Knowing how and when to manage your activity on social media channels is one of the biggest headache's a business will face. So, I have put together a comprehensive guide on how you could not only manage your time better but (as an agency) also cost it better so that getting involved in social media doesn't need to cost your business either.

So as I've said, you need to put the hours in to build a sense of belonging and nurture relationships with the faithful few who are interested enough to stick around whilst content is thin on the ground, but who still want to interact with you in some form or another.

So you've managed to persuade a senior manager to give you a bit of leeway on time here, but then, the community demands more of your time - different types of content and they want it any which way they can get it - but you need to source the content first.

Writing blog posts isn't your day job, but then again who else will do it? The studio has been sat on the photo-shoot files for days now, and the outreach activity you did a while back has already begun leaking into the mainstream - where's your exclusive...but hang on, your other client's email campaign needs to go out and a press release needs approving...I could go on.

With several years’ experience, conceiving and delivering social media campaigns one of the most common problems we see is just how little understanding there is of how much time you actually need to invest to meet the needs of your community - wherever it is.

It's actually a pretty tough job being a community manager. Whilst the community manager is an increasingly popular (and completely relevant) client-side role, it is still a tough business case to justify these days. It is an even more challenging situation for agencies. In many cases, the agency will only have exposure to certain aspects of the client’s business or social media is only a bit-part of their overall client portfolio. How then, as a business, with shared resource and a finite budget can you plan your social media activity to ensure that you are where you need to be, when you need to be?

The following is a guide or at the very least, a collection of ideas on how you can evaluate the requirements of your audience and assign time (maybe even cost) to you community management activities. Once you understand these factors, you can then understand how much time you need to spend on it and run a better business whilst keeping everybody happy.

As a caveat too, some of this is very basic social media strategy, but all roads lead to Rome...

1. Assess your marketplace 

 Understand the basic volumes of conversation taking place about:

  • You
  • Your Products
  • Your Competitors
  • The Sector

Understanding the volumes and nature of discussions relating to you gives you an indication of the scale of the task ahead and help you work out:

  • How long it will take to read through all the mentions (monthly/daily)
  • How many are mentions, how many are more valuable threads of conversation
  • How many people you need to respond to
  • How many people you need to follow

Delving deeper into the actual nature of conversations then allows you to understand the very nature of what is being said, thereby allowing you to understand what back-office workflow needs to exist.

Estimated time (monthly): 1 day to review all findings Estimated time (daily): 2 hours per day (6 times per day in 20-minute bursts per hour)

  2. Clarify your commercial objectives

 Be clear on what it is you want to achieve. Each objective has its own “rate of change”, and pace at which the audience will tolerate your intervention:

  • Increased sales - can happen quickly, but audiences are hyper-sensitive to forced selling messages. Typically a slow-burner.
  • Improved customer satisfaction - answering questions quickly can rapidly increase satisfaction but should be done little and often
  • Raise Awareness - a quick-win which can work well in a short-term burst
  • Help Understanding - again, can be done quickly with assistance little and often

Understanding the “extent” of your objective(s) helps you to put a realistic timescale on how much you can achieve in any given period. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that you can carry out a “trial” period of activity - if you start solving people’s problems, disappearing can be inflammatory and make people doubt your motives.

Estimated time (monthly): ½ day to review performance against activity

3. Find a middle ground - the meaty strategy part 

 Finding the middle ground is the place where commercial objectives meet acceptable approaches to audience. This is where the strategy is put together. Spend time on this. Use insights, use common sense, but make sure you plan with your ears. There is no hard-and-fast rule for how long a strategy *should* take to build, but it needs to ensure that all areas of the business are aware of how the plan affects them, and in due course, how they need to be available to facilitate the creation of content or assist with enquiries.

Estimated time (one-off): 5 days to ensure all areas of the business are covered in “the masterplan”

4. Channel Assessment

Strategy defined, you now need to look primarily at two areas:

  • What channel KPI’s meet the commercial objective
  • What proportion of your time needs to spent where

As rules of thumb go, you should look to spend an appropriate % of time in each channel as your media type split shows, i.e. if your media split looks like this, you probably need to reflect that in your own media mix and time management Total number of monthly mentions: 5,000

  • Blogs - 20% - 1,000 mentions: 250/500 (posts/comments)
  • News - 25% - 1,250 mentions
  • Facebook - 10% - 500 mentions: 84/416 (posts/thread comments/likes)
  • Twitter - 40% - 2,000 tweets: 1300/125/500/75 (mentions/@/RT/lists)
  • Video - 5% - 250: 240/10 (views/comments)

Take the 100% of your budgeted time and divide it up according to the media split... From a time management point of view, here you are looking to determine:

  • How frequently you need to post and to which channel
  • When you need to post (day and time)
  • How many people are needed to create the content

5. The strategy vs budget calculation

So, you’ve started at one end of the line - this is what you would LIKE to do in an ideal world, but reality sinks in and you’ve now got to think about how you can squeeze all of this into the client’s budget which is based on little more than a hunch and what they could slice off the PR retainer. How do you make it work? One way is to work backwards form the sum of money up for grabs (on retainer) and balance that with your media split. i.e.:

  • £2,500 per month budget
  • = 5 days work
  • = 35 hours
  • daily rate of £70/hr

Now take your media split:

  • Blogs - 20% - (of £2,500) = £500 (1 day)
  • News - 25% - no action needed
  • Facebook - 10% - £250 (1/2 day)
  • Twitter - 40% = £1,000 (2 days)
  • Video - 5% = £125 (1/4 days)

So, in your insights-guided content strategy you have:

  • Blog posts that need writing per month
  • Facebook comments/likes that need responding to/creating
  • Twitter posts that need creating and responding too (and don’t forget may need investigating behind the scenes too)
  • Video comments need moderating

In which case, let’s assume that:

  • Blog posts will take 3 hours to create (1 hour to research, 1 ¾ hours to write, ¼ hour to review)
  • Facebook comments/status’s/links take 2 minutes each to post
  • Tweets will take 1 minute each to respond to/create
  • Moderation video comments takes 1 minute to review and confirm

This gives us a total resource allocation of:

  • Blogs - 20% - (of £2,500) = £500 (1 day) = 2/3 blog posts per month (including comment moderation)
  • Facebook - 10% - £250 (1/2 day) = 105 status updates/likes/posts created/responded to per month
  • Twitter - 40% = £1,000 (2 days) = 840 tweets created/responded to
  • Video - 5% = £125 (1/4 days) = 100 comments reviewed and moderated.

So, in short, for your monthly RETAINER, Client X gets:

  • 3 blog posts (i.e. 1500 researched, media-rich and linked-out words)
  • 105 Facebook items posted/interacted with
  • 840 tweets created/responded to
  • 100 video comments

Doesn’t seem much...or does it? The biggest caveat to add to these working is the natural ebb and flow of content - looking at these base figures, one can guarantee that the flow of content on Faebook for example will mean that something will need sacrificing elsewhere if you are to stay on budget.

Blog posts may become very popular and be RT all over twitter compelling you to spend more time on Twitter than you’d estimated. Equally, the popularity of the blog post may mean that more content is needed - but where is THAT going to come from? Images need sourcing, product needs finding, staff need interviewing, videos needs shooting or editing...you get the picture.

6. Spreading your time

The next natural dilemma is now when to spend your time doing what. Given that we have (in our retainer example anyway), got a potential maximum of 28 hours of community management to create (7 hours is allotted to time-controllable blog posts), and we are now looking at how we spend our time throughout the day. Blog posts can be planned, community management less-so. The trick is to do, in most cases, little and often, with monitoring running in the background at all times. Use the workflow system in most tools to alert you to particularly urgent issues as and when they arise, or assign the issue to someone who can help directly with an issue/sale query.

Whilst the idea of contributing 20-30 minutes per hour may seem a little challenging, the reality is that this amount of time is actually really practical to manage (an amount of time on which the much-respected Pomodoro Techniques is based) and still provides you enough time to complete something of value - and is probably as good an excuse as any to not have to attend those other time-drains of your time, meetings!

7. The Harsh Reality

At the end of the day, we all want to do a great job for our clients, but even for a pretty average retainer value such as this, it is likely easier to go OVER budget than to stick to it. However, understanding from the very start, the scale of discussions set against your objectives gives you a platform for deciding, if budgets are indeed pinched, how and where to prioritise your time so that it is used more effectively.

Once this realisation has been made, it is then far easier to break down the channel activity by content, then people, then time. Whilst some of these guidelines appear quite strict and almost military in their thinking, as an agency owner particularly, time is your product and you owe it to yourself and your employees to manage that time as best you can. Humans are, if nothing else, unpredictable, so to live your online community management by at least some of these guidelines ensures that you will be around helping customers and their customers for many more years to come.

 

So there you have it - what's your take? How do YOU split up your time. Does anyone feel like contributing to an ebook on the matter?