Friday, January 22, 2010

Time keeps on slippin'

Greetings, and a good Friday to you all.  Today's entry is one that I've wanted to post since day one, but there were so many other issues to get into, I just haven't had the time, which, ironically, is the focus of the post; time.

Before I get there, though, here are a couple of great articles you ought to read as you delve deeper into your social media campaigns, and continue to develop your PR efforts.

Social Media and Politics:

Today's first article comes from the Huffington Post and deals with social media's role in the Brown vs. Coakley battle for the open Massachusettes Senate seat.  It is a thoughtful and well-balanced article on what Brown did well, an what Coakley didn't do so well in regards to using social media effectively.

Learning Social Media Lessons from Brown vs. Coakley
by: Lauren DeLisa Coleman

A few analysts are wisely looking at the impact of social media on the recent Senate election in Massachusetts between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley. And by now certainly everyone and anyone who is interested has compared the Republican candidate's digital numbers over the Democratic candidate's numbers. Without a doubt, it seems the Democrats certainly missed many opportunities for harnessing the power of the on-line communication medium. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were, seemingly, used more effectively by state Senator Brown to promote his campaign and connect with supporters. In fact, a study conducted by the Emerging Media Research Council concluded just hours ago that Brown's use of social media also included boosting his name recognition from 51% in November to 95% in January.

If Kennedy was the first "Television President", then Obama was probably the first "Internet President" for his great use of online access and social media.  But like Kennedy, Obama was just the first, not necessarily the best.  Reagan was a masterful manipulator of the media, the best, in my opinion.  And now we see other politicians using the lessons of Obama and, in some cases, doing it better.  It will be interesting to see how social media impacts politics in the years to come.

Social Media, Small Biz, Customers:

Today's second article comes form an open forum site and focuses on a kind of specific market study.  It features how one small bag manufacturer is using social media in creative ways to connect with its customers and fans to build its brand name and client base.  A very interesting read for all small businesses.
How Social Media Helps One Small Business Connect with Fans
How Social Media Helps One Small Business Connect with Fans

Customers of Seattle-based bag manufacturer Tom Bihn are as passionate about the product as the company’s 22-person staff.
The company’s namesake has been designing and making bags for more than 20 years. He always has a sketchbook, regularly works on up to 10 designs at once and always sews the prototype of the new product himself, according to the company’s Web site.

A quick thought.  It's interesting to note that Tom Bihn uses multi-platforms for its social media, and is able to disseminate information across all of them.  But the strategy of attempting to not overlap information on the platforms is interesting.  What doesn't surprise, though, is that interactivity has been essential to growth.  Something to keep in mind when putting together your social media efforts.  Simply posting information doesn't do a whole lot, allowing customers to interact, though, is very effective.

Time Management:

And now to the point of today's post.  As I mentioned it deals with time.  Not the timing of pitching your story, or making your follow up phone calls or creating your PR campaign, although those are all important.

I'm talking about finding time to simply manage your social media efforts.  Taking the time to sit down, do your research and develop/create your social media campaign is a great start.  But once you have it planned out, and even implemented it, the real work begins.

I hear you already.  I've heard it every time I've spoken to small business owners and non-profit staff; "I just don't have time to manage my social media accounts every day."  I get it.  You're overworked, underpaid and stressed out dealing with everything from paying the electric bill, dealing with customers, handling staffing and still trying to find some time in the day for yourself.  Been there, done that.

But you HAVE to manage your social media accounts regularly.  Otherwise it becomes a non-factor in your overall publicity efforts.  Simply posting or updating a couple of times a month doesn't cut it.  You can't build a following, create a buzz or establish your brand and message with minimal effort.

What ends up happening, more often than not, is that small business owners or non-profit directors end up hiring a social media "expert" to manage their accounts for them.  That kind of defeats the purpose of this blog, since the goal is to find ways to help you save money by effectively handling your own campaigns.  Another danger to hiring an outside expert is that they aren't focused on your business.  Generally, these "experts" are handling multiple clients and your business receives a portion of their overall time.  They also may not be completely immersed in your organizations' culture, day to day activities and message.  This is a potential recipe for disaster.  

You want someone who is passionate about your organization, someone who lives and breathes your organizations' goals and culture.  You need someone who will treat your social media efforts with care and focus.  This isn't an "expert," it's you.

But the problem remains.  You feel you simply don't feel as if you have enough time to devote to successfully manage your own social media.  I say, hogwash.  You have all the tools you need at your disposal, you just need to start using them.

Let me say I'm not trying to tell you how to manage your time.  You know your business better than anyone, and you know your personal time restrictions better than I do.  But I know there are options that you probably haven't considered yet.

One of the biggest mistakes I see being made when handling time issues regarding social media campaigns is attempting to place the entire burden on the shoulders of one person.  For small businesses and non-profits, this is a bad idea.

It's a group effort:

As a small business owner, you have assembled what you hope is a quality staff.  You have allowed your staff to assume responsibilities that, at one time, used to belong to you.  Certainly you still oversee their work, and, as always, the buck stops with you.  The same is true of non-profit directors.  You delegate the work to be done.  

And yet, for some reason, when it comes to public relations or social media campaigns, owners and directors feel as if they have to either handle it all themselves or lay the work at the feet of one staffer.  Running an effective campaign is a lot like running your small business or non-profit.  

You have a boss, perhaps a manager and then staffers.  Why does it have to be different with a social media effort?  It doesn't.  It starts with the creation of the plan and continues into the implementation and management of the plan.  By allowing your staff, or a small group of staffers to participate in the creation and development of your social media plan, you not only allow them to feel like a major part of your organization, but you probably will end up with some really creative and unique ideas you might not have though of on your own.

This also has the added benefit of having several individuals in your organization being very familiar with the message, goals and tools of your plan.  This means more than one person is capable of effectively managing the campaign.  

A third benefit is that, once the campaign is up and running, your customers will have an opportunity to know several members of your staff.  Certainly customers or potential donors want to hear from the person at the top.  But they also want to feel comfortable with your staff and employees.  

Once you and your staff have created the plan and implemented it, start delegating.  Since everyone involved knows the overall plan and sees the big picture, they will be better equipped to manage a smaller portion of the campaign.  Give specific individuals responsibilities over different parts of the plan.

In other words, allow one to focus on the Facebook, give another staffer the Twitter, give another one, the blog responsibilities.  One gets video, one gets Digg, one gets Meetup and so one depending on how many you have involved in the process.  One staffer can also take time to handle more than one focus.  You should handle an aspect as well (I would recommend the blog since it is the most personal and therefore the most likely to meet with problems).  You as the owner or director, obviously need to approve their activities and oversee them.  A weekly lunch meeting to review and plan ahead will allow you to do this.

Allow the involved employees and staff an hour a day, or at night to focus on their aspect of the campaign.  Adjust for employee workload and responsibilities.  

Here are some tips to using your own staff to hep create and manage your social media campaign.

1.  Be inclusive - Allow staff and employees to participate, create and manage.

2.  Be clear in your goals and objectives - If your staff knows what the goals are, they can work together towards reaching those goals.

3.  Delegate - Don't try to do it all yourself.  Allow your staff to pitch in and help by assigning different aspects of the plan to individuals employees or volunteers.

4.  Oversee - While you have to trust your staffers, you're the one on the hotseat.  Make sure you regularly meet with your staffers to ensure you are all on the same page and going in the same direction.

5.  Communicate clearly - Make sure your staffers working with you on the campaign are talking to you and that you're talkign to them often.  Listen to their ideas in the beginning and even after the plan is in action.  Not communicating will allow your campaing to stagnate or, worse, fail.

This is just one way, and in my opinion the best way, to meet your social media needs.  Obviously you will find ways to make a plan like this work.  The bottom line, though, is that you can't take on the entire responsibility of managing your social media campaign yourself and do it successfully.  You have too many other things to deal with.  By delegating, you find more time in the efforts of your staff and employees.  Plus you harness the power of collaboration.  For small businesses and non-profits who work together on their social media efforts, the success will come much sooner than those who try to put the entire load on one person.

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