Help me become my organization's social media guru!
July 20, 2011 3:10 PM   Subscribe

Help me become my organization's social media guru!

Hi everyone,

I realize there are about 8 million websites/blogs/twitter feeds/etc. that I could read and digest to help me achieve this goal, but frankly, I’m too lazy. I don’t want to take the time to wade through all of it – I just want someone to tell me what the very best sources are for learning how to be a social media master. Or, if you want to one-up that, to give me the very best advice you can personally give. Here’s my deal:

I work for a smallish organization. We’re in the process of updating our website, and there’s a strong desire here to use social media. The problem is that no one knows what the strategy should be, or what the end goals are/should be. All of this falls to me and a colleague to develop, so we have quite a lot of leeway (which is both a lucky thing and a curse). Here’s some more background info:

• We don’t accept donations of any kind, so we’re not looking for money or volunteers.
• We have two separate programmatic areas. In each area, we’re working on initiatives that we think can help (people, communities, environments, etc.). We’d like to use social media to help us get the word out, get more folks supporting our efforts, and get more folks practicing what we’re preaching.
• We already have a Facebook and Twitter account, and we already understand the basic principles of social media. What we desperately need help with is strategy, goal setting, benchmarking, and how to measure our successes/failures (and understand how to improve based off this data).
• We’re open to other ideas about use, as well – what are some things that we haven’t identified as uses but could be potentially helpful or awesome?

And here’s one very specific question I’ve been struggling with – how do I amass a group of followers that will actually engage with the content I post? I’ve been told the best bet is to start conversations by asking for feedback (via questions or what have you), but so far, this approach hasn’t worked. We only have about 250 followers on Twitter and 150 on FB – what’s the best way to improve these numbers, with people who actually care enough to engage?

Help? What should me and the aforementioned colleague read/do? And in what order? And why? Please write our social media course syllabus!

And ps: we’d also be waaaay in to hearing how you’d set up Google Analytics to help us track our success. Don’t recommend GA? Please feel free to tell us how you’d track/measure.

Thanks so much, everybody! I can’t wait to start implementing your ideas/reading and studying your suggestions.
posted by binocularfight to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Based on my experiences doing social media in two very different types of organizations, you really need to understand why you are doing and what you're hoping to achieve. I didn't so my efforts were pretty aimless and random.

I've noticed that Twitter can be like a town square were dozens of random people are shouting at each other hoping that someone notices them. I've found that the best approach is to find streams that interest you and engage in some meaningful way. If someone writes about a problem they had, do a follow up and ask questions or anything else that shows you've read their stuff and that you are genuinely interested in what they are saying. On Twitter the fewer people you follow the better; there's just so much crap that the constant stream of thoughts will stress you out. How about reaching out to an organization that you work with IRL?

And here’s one very specific question I’ve been struggling with – how do I amass a group of followers that will actually engage with the content I post?

There are no shortcuts to this. You just have to post useful content. It could be personal stuff, it could be offers, it could be - just about anything that focuses on *your* audience. I've tried the whole "ask for feedback" stuff and got exactly 0 feedback. I'm thinking that it's a bad approach when you're starting with social media. Why? My guess is that you're unknown and no one wants to even invest 160 characters in you. Sucks, I know.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:37 PM on July 20, 2011

Warning: Creaky old, rusty advice from a creaky old rusty lady who has not had to do this sort of thing since before The Twitters and Such:

1. Go look around at trending and popular search terms in your domain to get an idea of what people are looking for. If you're very, very lucky, and in a specialized enough arena, you may even find some information people are looking for that is not readily available. (In fact, one thing I used to do was keep a running list of work-related topics I'd looked for myself that had too little info available, and write them up for my company's site to attract traffic/fill an actual need. This sometimes actually worked!)

2. Try to come up with some kind of quizzes or other interactive things. People LOVE taking little internet quizzes for some reason, and once they take them, they tend to send friends over to take them and compare results. So if you can think of some kind of cutesy angle, whether it's a test of knowledge, a 'personality test' kind of thing, or whatever, it might get you some attention.

3. This probably doesn't need to be said, but I've had a few cases where marketers have done this to me, so I will. Do not be hostile or stalkery. I've gotten emails from organizations I supported trying to guilt me about not signing some petition or something, and I even had some creepy hairdressing salon that seemed like they were almost stalking me with increasingly creepy exhortations. Like I said, you probably don't need to be told that.
posted by ernielundquist at 5:04 PM on July 20, 2011

how do I amass a group of followers that will actually engage with the content I post? I’ve been told the best bet is to start conversations by asking for feedback (via questions or what have you), but so far, this approach hasn’t worked.

I think this is incorrect. Rather than trying to start the conversations, you should join the conversations around your topic where they are already happening. And you should do it in a not "hey everybody we are [organization] and we know the answers!" way. IE, genuine, not marketer-y.

You do need to figure out some goals. You can always change them later, but you need to identify SOMETHING to work towards so you're not so scattershot. Who are you wanting to talk to? Why? How often? Do you want to be seen as The Expert in Topic? Do you want to be The Expert in a regional area? Do you want to be one of many experts? Do you want to have people engage with you or re-broadcast your own information? Do you want to grow a large base of followers or is consistent engagement from fewer followers more important?

Include your Facebook and Twitter URLs in all of your outgoing media - on your website, in your newsletter, in your email signature, etc. Are you using Facebook and Twitter to do different things? If so, use them to cross-promote each other as well. If one is rebroadcasting into the other, don't.

Take advantage of the unique qualities of social media to make your organization human. Post photos. Use hashtags. Retweet interesting stories that have nothing to do with your marketing agenda. Talk about the weather where you're located. Participate in #FF. Don't be afraid to show emotion, especially excitement, in your posts, but don't think that adding exclamation points accomplishes that goal.

In terms of tracking, I don't use Google Analytics. The analytics provided by Facebook are great - they tell me all of the information I would think of asking for. Just make sure that you note them at consistent intervals so you can track growth/improvement. For Twitter, there are a couple dozen third-party sites, like tweetreach, tweetscan, friendorfollow, that do different things. Google "twitter metrics" or "twitter stats" and you'll find a bunch.

Qualifications: I've run social media for two companies for several years, and I maintain two blogs with attendant social media.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:46 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

Okay, I have to admit that "I'm lazy please tell me how to do this so I don't have to figure it out" is not a terribly appealing request. But I was sort of in this position a few months ago and I guess I'm feeling nice today, so here's what I found most useful:

The Noob Guide to Online Marketing

This is like a bible. It took me a couple days just to comb through it all, and there's even a timeline and an infographic. I used a lot of suggestions on this list, with great results.

Creating Consistent Content - A Content Marketing Plan
I like the schedule laid out here - it's reasonable and manageable, and if you follow it you'll be set up in a sustainable way (as opposed to a massive flurry of unfocused activity for a month or two then nothing, which is what most people end up doing.)

And I think Google Analytics is great - no special setup necessary, just poke around in the data and start looking for patterns, then reinforce the ones that work for you. Their blog is very helpful if there's a specific metric you want to track.
posted by ella wren at 7:14 PM on July 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

peanut_mcgillicuty has it 100% right. I am the manager of social media for my organization and gradually carved out this role for myself over the years, to the point where it is now my sole responsibility.

1. Identify your goals
2. Identify your audience(s)
3. Go where your audiences are now
4. Start participating (Comment on their posts, join twitter chats, etc.)
5. Keep posting stuff on your pages
6. Show your personality
7. Don't just promote, promote, promote
8. Share stuff others have posted (RT on twitter, reshare on FB) with attribution and comment
9. Know the difference between social media monitoring (seeing what others are saying about you and topics of interest to your organization) and social media metrics (measuring the views, likes, RTs, etc of what you are posting on your sites). is good and free for the metrics part. Monitoring tools are rarely free but you can get by with simple twitter search. I use viralheat but that might be overkill for you.


10. Don't be "lazy." Social media is a very time consuming job, and is not an excuse to goof off on Facebook all day. It takes discipline especially if you're gonna be fairly self-directed on this project. There are so many social media guides out there. One easy way to find them is to subscribe to some social media blogs. I like Social Media Explorer, Brass Tack Thinking, and SmartBrief on Social Media.
posted by misskaz at 7:58 AM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the very helpful responses. There's so much in these posts that I've never heard of before, which is exactly what I was hoping I'd get out of this question. Also, thanks for responding even though I framed myself as a lazy oaf. (Saving-face/personal-pride testimony - this characterization is actually untrue! I've been working on this in whatever spare work time I've had, and I'm slowly gaining knowledge. But my spare work time has been decreased lately, so I thought I'd hit up the experts. Surprise! I totally fooled you guys.) I'm hoping to make strong strides in our social media campaign over the next few weeks, and I'll post back with anything that works particularly well.

Finally, just to add to the resource thread for the benefit of folks who might read this in their own pursuit of social media mastering, I've found the book "The Networked Nonprofit" very helpful so far, along with, Beth Kanter's blog and A. Fine Blog.
posted by binocularfight at 8:35 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is specific to health - there may be other resources in your field - but a lot of the strategy tips should apply: CDC's The Health Communicator's Social Media Toolkit [PDF]. It's helpful that they go beyond Facebook and Twitter to explore some of the other aspects and walk through the 'buzzwords'. They've also developed some great best practices for using social media tools from Facebook to Youtube and even 'virtual worlds'. And again, I think a lot of this stuff is relevant to other work - for example, this would totally apply to outreach around environmental issues. Again, look for the big leaders in your field - they may have developed topical guides to social media along the lines of the CDC's in health.
posted by pants at 10:42 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

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