Why A Social Strategist Should Be Your Next Hire

“Social (insert job title here)” has been a huge fad whose time is up. Just like “Tech” was big in the 1990s, “Social” took over in the late 2000s. In the mid-1990s, if you could set up a website for an organization you were a Big Deal- a tech guru. But by the early 2000s as webpages became easier to create and software companies began to standardize their programs, the “Tech-“ jobs began to dry up. Computer skills were assumed, and while setting up the wireless network still generates a fair amount of cursing by and large the IT person can handle it- no all knowing tech guru needed.

The same thing is happening with social media. There was a glut of positions incorporating the term “social”. Companies created social media accounts seemingly along the logic that more is always better. “Facebook”, “Twitter”, and “Hootsuite” were included on resumes where Microsoft Word and Excel has previously been.

Now in 2013, the hype over social media jobs has died down. Indeed, within many quarters, managing social media channels is the duty of the intern. A large part of this is because no one was able to figure out the ROI (Return of Investment) for a Facebook Page or Twitter account. So they downsized to an infrequently updated account with posts consisting of “We are excited to announce the rollout of [insert product here]”. And for most Twitter is just a mystery. Brands now have social channels because they know that are supposed to have them in the same way that you’re supposed to have a website. The direction is “keep things updated” in the same way that the front page of a website is updated. Investment is spent instead in integrated marketing campaigns- things that have a specific ROI tied to marketing. This is not to knock these types of campaigns- indeed they work very well. My point is that integrated marketing is just the tip of the iceberg of the potential of social media. It’s right to move away from the hyphenated job titles- the hype is over. But this does not mean that social strategy should stop.

A social strategist is empowered with the mandate to implement and execute strategy. A social strategist knows what social media can and can’t do. They are simultaneously big picture and detail oriented.

Several Brands have chosen to take the leap and invest in social strategy. By doing so they have generated a powerful network of advocates and influencers and also made a name for themselves within the social media community as innovators in their own right.

Casestudy 1: General Electric

GE wanted to communicate that they do more than create light bulbs. So they embarked upon the “innovation” campaign and included social strategy as a key component. A social media strategist knows that the power of social media comes from tapping into the pre-existing social media communities in a way that is keeping with the reason that individuals interact with these communities.
GE Facebook
GE utilizes Pinterest, Facebook, and Tumblr in their campaign but, and this is where the social strategy comes in, each has a specific type of content designed to maximize the outreach to the target communities in a way that will spark conversation. But all content revolves around the concept of “innovation”. Coming away from these pages that’s the word that you come away with. That’s why it matters and that’s the ROI. A social strategist will insist that you clearly define your goals and then create a strategy to match that.

Casestudy 2: Maesrk

Maersk decided that they wanted to be more than a shadowy shipping line. They’re a fascinating case because they are purely B2B. The average person is never going to give them money. But they recognized that in the age of faceless corporations there was considerable utility in generating a positive brand image. Other brands will want to work with you. The wisdom of this was borne out when one of their ships accidentally killed a whale. Of course the outcry occurred on social media. Since they already had defined social channels and had built up a community, they were able to genuinely respond to the situation with concern. They even created a Pinterest board in memory of the whale.
Maersk Norwich Whale Pinterest Page
Maersk specifically decided to “unmask” themselves and create a community. Every piece of content they create, every social channel that they use, works towards this goal.

If you do not have a clear strategy behind using your social channels you are missing a huge opportunity. As far as ROI is concerned, it’s best to think of it in terms of measurable projects with set goals just as you would for an ad campaign. Demanding a per-tweet or per-post ROI while the campaign is on-going is just like demanding a per-billboard ROI.

Hire a good social strategist, clearly communicate your goal, give a set budget, and watch them go. Your brand is already present on social. Even if, like Maersk, you are far removed from the B2C scene, you are only one accident or blunder away from becoming a trending hashtag.

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Why Your 2,000 “Likes” Don’t Mean Squat

Social media allows an organization to build a community that it can then leverage to accomplish its goals. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter offer new ways to directly engage with your target audience. The million dollar question, however, is how to efficiently leverage them. Everyone has a Facebook Page and a Twitter account. Depending on the organization they often have many “followers” and “likes”. They may actively solicit this as well. If you are on LinkedIn you have probably seen posts saying “follow me on Twitter” or “like my organization’s Facebook Page.”
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But beyond bragging rights these numbers in and of themselves mean diddly-squat. What matters is your rate of engagement. How often do followers “retweet” or respond to your posts? Similarly how often do you get replies or “likes” to your Facebook posts? Also important to both is the percentage of your followers and “likes” who are engaging. For example, If you have 2,000 “likes” but the same 10 people are the only ones engaging then your actual community is much smaller than your may think. In order to effectively utilize social media in your organization you must actively work on building your community and then maintaining it. 

Every organization must have a clearly articulated social media strategy in order to effectively utilize Facebook and Twitter. For small organizations this seems like a daunting task. It is highly unlikely that they will be able to afford a separate social media strategist, indeed, often they don’t even have a communications officer. But this is actually all the more reason for a clear strategy. The initial strategy is the lynchpin to successful subsequent social media use. The goal of the strategy, moreover, is to make sure that your social media use is as efficient as possible. Whether you are starting up a social media campaign or already have a Facebook Page and/or Twitter account it will be worth your time to spend times going through the following steps:

First you will need to create a community-building strategy: 

  • Niche: What will you offer? Why should people engage in your site?
    • Specialized news? Connections? 
  • Goal: Why do you want to build this community? 
    • Branding? Outreach? Event attendance? Fundraising? Activism? 
  • Target Audience: Who do you want to attract?
    • Women? Alumni? Americans? Minorities? 20-somethings?

Second, you will need to articulate a community maintenance strategy. Remember- there is a reason that someone decided to “like” your page or “follow” you. You have piqued their interest for some reason. But in our fast-paced world this interest is going to ebb unless you begin to engage them. This is something that the 2012 Obama campaign did very well. When an individual said that he or she would be interested in getting involved, the campaign made it a point to reach out to them within 72 hours. Obviously their goal was to reach people individually. But this is not feasible for most organizations. A way to make use of this principle, however, is to make sure that you are constantly engaging with your community by giving them something to DO.

  • Post something they will want to share
    • photo, quote, video, news story
  • Ask a question or write a thought-provoking post that is worded to facilitate dialogue 
  • Create events in which they can participate
    • online: live-tweets, live-blogging, storify, live-stream
    • offline: encourage invitation
  • For an activist community, create daily missions or “operations”

 So at this point I bet you are feeling a bit overwhelmed–“I thought you said a small organization could so this without a social media strategist!” is probably going through your mind. Yes I did and it’s true. Here’s how you take this strategy and turn it into action:

Get your hands dirty- EXPERIMENT! Once you know what you want to accomplish begin to post on that topic and see which types generate engagement and which do not.  Reach out to groups and individuals with similar interests by “liking” their pages and “following” on Twitter. Often this will generate reciprocity which will increase your overall reach. Track your progress using some of the free analytics tools to hone in on a concrete strategy. For some overall inspiration on what to post, check out Beth Kantor’s excellent blog and specifically her article: Content Strategy, Creation, Organization, and Measurement. She also discusses the way you can add a blog into your social media strategy mix.

Facebook Page Insights: Once you hit 30 “likes” on your page, Facebook begins to provide you with an analytics tool to help you figure out who is seeing your page and sharing your posts. It is not the best tool out there by far- BUT it’s free and will give you some helpful feedback as you experiment with posts. A year ago, Social Media guru Brittany Botti posted a great article talking about some of the updates Facebook made in their analytics. I like this because it gives you a sense of how powerful this tool can be.

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For Twitter analytics, my personal go-to tools are Tweet Stats and Twitter Reach. Tweet Stats allows you to look at the performance of your Twitter account for the past year. This is useful if you have had your account for awhile and are looking to increase its effectiveness because it will generate a baseline against which you can then compare.

Twitter Reach is a very powerful tool for assessing your engagement week to week. The picture below is the report for my personal Twitter account. The number is compiled based on who retweets you and how many times. This reflects the fact that a retweet from a person who has 30 followers is less significant than one from someone with 3,000 followers. 

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You can also search the reach of a particular hashtag or even tweet. This is very useful if you are liveTweeting an event and want to see how successful you were.

To conclude, utilizing social media in your organization has tremendous potential and if done with a clear strategy will generate a net benefit. However, all of this is contingent on your willingness to engage in community maintenance each day. If you are unable to do this then I believe you should delete your social media presence all together. This may sound harsh but an outdated account with your organization’s name on it may actually hurt you (think about your own reaction when you see a website that has an out of date event calendar).

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Your Twitter feed should have (5-10 tweets) throughout the day. You can make use of a Twitter Scheduler application. I’m a big advocate of spending a least a few points in the day retweeting so that you make sure to engage with other users. You should plan on posting something on your Facebook Page one to two times a day. I would mix it up a bit between multimedia and personal commentary. Consider sharing links to your page as well- this is a way to reach out to similar organizations or individuals and potentially generate some reciprocity which expands your reach.

Anyone can create a great social media strategy for their organization. The fundamental hurdle is setting aside the time to do so. I challenge you to set aside a weekend or two to really get into the basics of social media and to explore ways that it would help your organization accomplish its goal. You won’t regret it.

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