How I spend my professional day has changed more in the last two years than in the preceding 15. Social media has played a critical role in leading those changes.
In fact, according to the "Summer 2011 Social Business Report" -- a 12 million person study by NetProspex -- marketers lead the pack right under recruiters for social influence. This should come as no surprise to those of us in the marketing discipline. But how are we keeping up with this new workload? Let's face it, when social media hit the ranks, our other responsibilities didn't shrink. If anything, the advent of social media made many of my former duties more urgent.
"Today, social media has become a marketing imperative. Getting started in a routine can be the biggest barrier to success with social," Maribeth Ross, VP of marketing for NetProspex, said.
Indeed, Ross said it best -- social media is a marketing imperative. But even those of us lucky enough to hire dedicated social professionals must address the increasing burden to create content, listen to the market, and respond within shrinking windows of acceptable feedback cycles.
Social media professionals play an important role in coordinating and education function, but they can not replace everything marketing professionals need to respond in the social media world. Yet, no one has taken work away to make time for this new demand. So how does the already-overworked marketing professional make time for social media in a meaningful way? This article outlines five social habits that all marketers can find time to adopt.
Schedule it! (Two 15-minute increments per day)
The nature of social is fluid, and so we fool ourselves into thinking to be effective we must be engaged all the time. As a result, we rarely get social listening to the top of our priority list. Instead, we find ourselves postponing Friday post-work drinks in a desperate attempt to meet self-imposed weekly social metrics. It is true social is fluid, but it is also true that unless you are working for a breaking news network, scheduled social listening (and responding) is perfectly acceptable. Interrupt-driven models don't scale. We all have great intentions of proactively engaging with the community, but unless you actually put time on your calendar, it gets put to the bottom of the list. Physically block two 15-minute sessions on your calendar to do nothing but monitor priority social channels at least three days a week. Your next natural question might be "what time of day is best?" Social is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week medium. I've learned the only good time of day is the one you will actually keep! Pick times that work for your schedule, even if it varies from one day to another. Just make a routine and stick to it.
Pass the baton
If engaging with your community via social channels is a race, stop thinking of it as a marathon or daily sprint. Instead, consider it a relay race. Many organizations think of social media as marketing's to-do. This isn't a scalable model. Instead consider your role as a coach. This is particularly important when it comes to existing customer engagement.
Justin Pirie, cloud strategist at Mimecast, pointed out the most important thing you can do is, "Monitor your brand! And at a minimum hourly if you care about delivering outstanding customer service."
But wait, I know what you're thinking. You just told me to schedule social check-ins twice a day. And I meant it. Here is where you pass the baton to customer support. Your role should be to educate and tool customer support, not do the engagement for them.
Maribeth Ross shared a great example of how social coaching is done at NetProspex:
"Our director of buzz sends emails to the entire team, we call it 'buzz yourself,' with compelling content for the team to tweet, "like," and share. We've found that by providing content, people become significantly more comfortable with social media activity and begin doing it on their own."
Collide social and "non-social" work
You know the old building adage -- measure twice, cut once. Well, the opposite is true with social marketing. Everything you build can be leveraged across many places. It's true -- the format for Twitter is different than your email nurture database. And Pinterest needs a more visual approach than LinkedIn. However, you can and should re-use content. In fact, the busiest marketing professionals I know do exactly that. So by now you're saying, "Duh! I'm in marketing; I reuse offers, teasers, and ads all the time." But I find it surprising how many marketing professionals plan for reuse in traditional channels, but approach social as a distinct effort. In fact, one of my frustrations is that most marketing automation and monitoring tools do a poor job of integrating social and non-social activities. So instead, manually make those worlds collide. Each week I take a look at my to-do list. I carefully evaluate what needs to get done, and I toss to the bottom of the list items that are only to be used once. I physically write down what can be connected.
Here is an example from my own recent work that shows social and non-social worlds can and should collide. In the example below, I was attending an industry conference hosted by IDC called "Directions 2012."
Before, during, and after the event I connected my physical and online worlds. I shared learning across channels including LinkedIn, my blog, Twitter, and even hallway and session meet-ups. Lesson learned: Forget the notion of "separate" disciplines of marketing. There is no social vs. traditional, there is only marketing. Plan to maximize integration.
Lower your expectations
I gave this tip to someone the other day, and I swear they looked at me like I had three ears and a nose the size of a bread stick. What? Lower your expectations? But social media is the nirvana of engagement with our peers, customers, and prospects. This is true, but social engagement is a process, not an event. When we expect instantaneous results, we disappoint ourselves and take focus off the outreach. Instead, set realistic goals and celebrate success. In the example above, my blog link was retweeted by two IDC analysts. One I knew, another I had never met before. Everything else aside, I considered that a win!
If I only looked at blog comments as a measure of my effort (something a lot of marketers measure in isolation), I'd be sorely disappointed. My blog in general doesn't get a lot of comments. However, I do get a fair amount of engagement on my blog posts via Facebook, Twitter, and often through email and in-person engagements. Would I like to see increased commenting activity on the blog itself? Sure, that is something I'd like to work toward. But is the lack of comments an indication the blog has no value? Absolutely not. I have lots of other ways to measure the role blogging plays in my career. Not everything we do is going to go "viral," and that's OK. Accept it, and instead focus on developing an audience over time. Small victories really do count.
Have fun with social
There is a reason these communication channels are called social networks. People engage through networking because they enjoy spending time connecting with other individuals who share common interests. If you think of it only as "another to-do on my daily list," you're missing a tremendous opportunity to expand your world in new and exciting ways. Let yourself enjoy it by celebrating company wins, giving sneak peaks into your unique corporate culture, rallying around client causes, and showing your sense of humor. Trust me -- people want to know you, not just your company.
Social engagement is only going to grow in importance to the marketing profession. What other social habits will we learn? If you have other tips, let's start sharing!
Samantha Stone is the founder of The Marketing Advisory Network.
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