In the social media courses I teach, I hear from a number of people who are the only person who manages social media activities at their company, or in their department. If you read my articles, you know my opinion that social media should be integrated into an organization's other marketing and customer service efforts. Social media should not be a separate thing, managed independently by other staff. That said, many organizations simply don't have an integrated approach. While this is more frequent in smaller organizations, it happens quite frequently in large organizations as well. A large organization may have a focused marketing team that pushes out content on social channels, but leaves community management and customer service to members of different departments or product teams. So that leaves a lot of solo social media strategists out there who have to do their jobs without much help. In this article, I'm going to try to give you some. I'll give you tips and show you tools that will help you do your job better, manage your daily tasks more efficiently, and find help -- both inside and outside your organization.
The challenges below are the ones I hear about most frequently from social media professionals in this situation:
- Responding to comments on social media posts. This includes thanking those providing positive feedback, and trying to respond effectively to those with negative feedback with a goal of turning that feedback positive.
- Coordinating with customer service teams. This includes addressing customer service and product issues that arrive through social channels.
- Creating content. This might include blog posts, pictures, or whatever is on the social media plan.
- Creating follow-up content. Even if the marketing team is pushing out great marketing content, follow up content is often necessary. When the social media community asks for clarification or additional information it may be the single community manager who has to respond.
- Knowing what to do in difficult situations. This is when something happens in an online community that is larger than a strategists sphere of responsibility. Something they, or the brand, must respond to. For example, a product issue that may necessitate a recall, a customer who claims that their privacy has been breached by actions of the company, or an advertisement for a product that is poorly timed, off color, or perceived as offensive. These types of situations can have public relation and brand health impacts far above the pay grade of the social media strategist whose job it is to respond. Moreover, a poor response can go viral and make a bad situation much worse. This is the point where the solo social media strategist really needs help from their organization.
So what can you do as a social media team of one to help yourself? See below.
1: Get tools to manage your daily tasks.
There are many social media management tools out there). You can see this comparison of 10 tools from Blue Fountain Media, and our comparison of Sprout Social, Buffer, HootSuite, and Rignite, as well as our comparision of DivvyHQ and CoSchedule. Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Buffer are some of the more popular ones, and they are on all of these lists. At CTC we use Buffer and Rignight. When you're considering tools look for the following:
- Platforms they connect to: You need tools that can connect with, monitor, and post to the platforms that you use.
- The ability to manage company pages: This is sometimes call posting and monitoring "depth." Some tools can monitor and post to accounts, but not pages associated with accounts. This is especially important if you're managing company pages on Facebook, LinkedIn and so forth.
- Robust and easy content creation: Your tools should allow you to do everything you want to in your accounts including composing text, adding images, embedding videos and so forth.
- Scheduling: It's nice to be able to schedule content to post at the best times for the best fan and following interaction, we strongly recommend a tool that supports scheduling.
- Automation: Lots of tools have different automation features such as automatic favoriting of retweets and auto-replies for following and so forth. Some things can be automated, some things should not be. Our recommendation, look into automation capabilities, but make sure to spend time interacting with your community, or your community will notice, and disengage.
- Built in analytics: The tools should provide analytics that are at least on par with the analytics offered by the platforms you're using. Look at the analytics provided, and information the tool can provide that will make your job easier.
- For more on this, see our 10 keys to finding the right social media tools for you.
When you're considering tools, get the free trials and see which ones work the best for all aspects of your job. Test connection, content creation, community management, scheduling, automation, and analytics.
2: Get and use web analytics.
There are lots of web analytics services out there. We use and prefer Google Analytics, but services like Web Trends are also great. If your company uses a web analytics platform, get access to reports so you can analyze data that is relevant to you. If it doesn't, consider implementing Google Analytics. If you're not measuring traffic generated by social media activities on your website, you can't see the impact your social media activities are having, and you can't optimize your approach.
And don't forget, once you get access, or get Google Analytics set up -- use it. Look at reports that show referrals from social media sites, and conversions from social media sources.
3: Know and follow your social media policy.
All organizations should have a social media policy. It protects the organization because it defines what is allowed and now allowed on the organization's social media sites, and accounts. It protects social media team members because it describes what they can, and cannot do as part of performing job related social media tasks. Remember those difficult situations I mentioned earlier involving brand image or product defects? The first thing you should do when you're attempting to navigate uncharted social media waters is consult your social media policy. It will tell you what you can and can't do, and, hopefully, give you guidance on how get help from other people in your organization. If you follow the policy, the organization will have a difficult time blaming you, even if you've made a mistake.
If your organization doesn't have a social media policy, create one. See our post 3 Places to Start When Creating a Social Media Policy - And a Secret to Making it Effective.
4: Stay plugged in and know your internal contacts.
Both you and the organization have to accept the fact that everyone needs help now and again. Even if you're a one person show. If you're in a large company, know who your contacts are in the marketing, PR, customer service, and legal departments that can help with social media related issues. When new marketing campaigns are launched, find out who the key points of contact are for the campaign, the technical points of contact for any products or services being marketed, and the key customer service contact related to the products and services being marketed.
If you're in a small company, have a simple discussion with the leadership team. Ask them what types of social media related issues they want to be informed about urgently. By urgently I mean outside of normal reporting routines (yes you need to have a normal reporting routine, and no, annual reporting is not acceptable - go for bi-monthly at the longest). After you figure out what the leadership wants to hear about, make sure that you have the authority to seek help from them whenever you need it, and especially if you feel like you're out of your element.
5: Put process in place.
Document what you do, how you do it, and how long everything takes. List any file, image, or knowledge base repositories that you find useful. Be thorough and comprehensive. Because, if you ever do get help, it will make it much easier to plug newcomers into social media activities. At a minimum you should be creating social media editorial calendars to schedule social media activities.
6: Get help form your team.
One of the best ways to help yourself when you're a team of one, is to work at not being a team of one. Ask technical staff, executives, or marketing staff to write a blog post. Reach out to the head of product marketing or technical staff if you're getting questions on a product or service. Consider having a product chat in your communitiy with internal specialists sitting in. Document questions and answers to create a database that you can pull responses from in the future.
In all cases, make it easy for your fellow employees to help you. If you've done a good job with number 5, this will be easier for you. Ask their managers if they can devote a little time to help you out. Tell managers and employees how much time you'll need from them, and then give them a generous schedule to complete their tasks. They still have a whole other job to do, so don't make your tasks put a strain on other duties. Help them along the way as best you can. Be persistent, but easy to work with. Finally, thank them when they're done. Buy them coffee, take them to lunch, find a simple way to say thank you.
7 Get yourself some interns.
Interns are great. These red shirts of the social media playground can be really helpful (don't know what a red shirt is? Click here). I always recommend paying interns, but some organizations' don't. Even when paying, they be very inexpensive. They can create content, and take on other social media related tasks. They can also provide skills you don't have in-house such as graphic design, and videography services. These new skill sets might allow you to add graphics to your content, publish a few infographics, or even create some videos. If you have interns doing public facing tasks such as community management, make sure to train them well, and have them follow triage charts and policies you have in place. Interns can be an easy and inexpensive way to expand your team.
If you're a solo social media strategist, these tips and tools should help make your life easier. If you have other tools or strategies you use, let me know in the comments.