7 Tips For An Under-Resourced #SocialMedia Team

As social media becomes a necessity for brands and grows, the teams don’t always grow with the demands. Pretty much every professional I know in the social media industry could use more staff but are doing what they can with the teams they’ve been given. After all, we’ve all been where we have had NO staff and have been doing everything from creating images to writing copy to publishing. I’m guessing a lot of people reading this still are one-man shows. To you guys, kudos.

Social media takes a hell of a lot of work, and a great deal of it happens after hours. This means not only are teams under-staffed, but they are also are working unusually long hours trying to cover all hours of community management. This leads to quick burnouts and some brands are taking notice, realizing they are losing social media people before they even have them.

Being a member of a severely under-resourced social media team once or twice in my life, I’ve learned some tips that can be huge time savers. Here are a few that I think could help you:

Introduce Yourself To Canva

One of my jobs required a team of two to respond to real-time news as it was happening. This meant we needed to create a Facebook image, Twitter image, Facebook copy, Twitter copy, CEO’s Twitter copy, and a web banner less than 15 minutes after a news story broke. And, as we all know, most news stories do not break during business hours. This meant we were having to do all of this on the go, often at 11 PM on a Saturday night outside of whatever bar we were at with our friends (NOT recommended.) And we did it! Thanks to the beautiful wonderful tool that is Canva. Even on our iPhones, we were able to quickly drop copy into a template and have it out the door in a matter of minutes, sized for everywhere it could possibly be published. Go get Canva. Now.

Force Yourself To Take Breaks

This is a hard one for me because I like to work through something until it is finished, or it’s always on the back of my mind, and I never can relax. This way of thinking nearly burned me out my first couple of years in social media because social media is ALWAYS ON. There is no good time to take a break! There are no good stopping points! So, I finally had a boss who forced me to take breaks and take walks around our building. I thought he was nuts until I started thinking more clearly and getting even more done in a day by hitting the pause button for a moment. Take breaks, and you will not suffer. I promise.

Create A Threshold Guide

These have saved my butt so many times. One of the biggest time suckers for social media pros is community management. It takes time (and patience) to answer every consumer out there, especially the mean, nasty ones. Create a guide that establishes when a problem has hit a level that you need to respond to it, and include what type of people you want to be responding to on social media. This will cut down the volume of consumers that you need to respond to. If a consumer has two followers and his tweet is bashing your brand, chances are he created that account just to bash your brand, and by responding to it, you will only be drawing more attention to the complaint. A threshold guide is also helpful when you need to defend why or why not you responded to certain consumers. It’s awesome to have it all right there in writing.

Create A Response Grid

Going with the theme of the previous tip, community management takes A TON of time. Create a grid with the most frequently asked questions you receive on social media, and approved answers from your PR and/or customer service team. This way, you can just reference the guide instead of always having to go back and forth with others. This is also helpful if you ever need someone to fill in for you. They will have a quick resource for the questions they are most likely to receive while you are out. 

Write A Strategy

Duh, right? I cannot say enough that any brand on social media absolutely has to have a social media strategy. Under-resourced teams especially should have one. Strategies are helpful in navigating internal conversations about what should/should not be posted on social media. This helps you to avoid putting a lot of work behind content that doesn’t make sense for your brand and saves you a lot of heated conversations. Instead of having to argue about who is right, you can simply reference the strategy and see if suggested content aligns with it. 

Document Your Work

I encourage my team (and myself) to keep track of every little thing they (we) work on. This helps show just how much work actually goes into effective social media. When working with brands unfamiliar with social media, documenting is incredibly important. Since they do not have an established team already, they most likely are unaware of each piece of work that goes into creating a calendar, posts, publishing and community managing. These documents can be incredibly valuable when having conversations about future resourcing needs.

Repurpose Content

It seems like common sense, but a lot of brands are afraid to do this because they think their audience will become fatigued with their content. So not true. With how social media networks continue to lessen the amount of branded content consumers see, repurposed content is a must. Turn a blog post into five different social media posts and images, create an evergreen folder with content that you could reuse year-round and pull from it when you need a quick piece of content, make sure you have a photographer at a video shoot so you can have stills as well to use in the future. Thinking of how far you can use content will save your life as a social media pro.

 

These are just seven things I have found to be helpful when managing a large workload with a small staff in social media. I hope a few of these will be helpful for you too! 

– Marji J. Sherman

It’s A Social Responsibility For Brands To Rethink #SocialMedia During #COVID19

Hey, hey— it’s been a while. Outside of coaching and helping clients manage their digital marketing during this pandemic, I created a nonprofit called #MyCovidStory that is a hub for raw stories, resources, and connections during COVID-19. More on that in a different post!

Today we are talking about what to do with those lovely little social media plans and channels while the world is engulfed by a pandemic. My husband and I found ourselves in an unusual place last night of watching a show AS IT WAS AIRING (I know!!) which meant we had to sit through every single commercial break— and there were A LOT. He is used to me being highly critical of commercials, online ads, direct mail pieces we received. He has learned by now that I am trained to make things better and, according to him, that means making pretty much everything better! Haha.

As we were watching the commercials, we found ourselves either wholeheartedly depressed by commercials geared towards the pandemic or completely outraged by how tone-deaf some brands are right now. Like, when am I going to host a party anytime soon where I need new serving dishes??! When am I ever going to see that many people in a park with their dogs anytime soon?

Life is weird. I think I realized just how weird it was when my therapist ended one of our recent calls with, “No one knows right now how people should cope with this disaster because we’ve never encountered one like this before.” Well…THANK YOU VERY MUCH for inducing panic attacks.

With life being weird, a different approach needs to be taken when it comes to social media. It seems like every time the little bugger is going to be engulfed into a larger digital media umbrella, something happens that brings it right back into the spotlight. And there you are, realizing that you never prepped that crisis strategy you were going to last year, or that your crisis strategy doesn’t even come close to handling something like coronavirus. So here I am 🙂

The number one thing to do when a crisis is realized, is press PAUSE on anything and everything scheduled do go out. Do not press the PLAY button until you have reviewed every single piece of content you have scheduled and have made sure that none of it sounds tone-deaf or insulting against the backdrop of the crisis. I am praying that anyone reading this blog post already has done that for their brand— like two months ago. What’s unique about coronavirus is it is lasting longer and is a bit more unpredictable than other crises, especially since we’ve never had a coronavirus pandemic before. This means that each day the news about the virus, places that are opened versus closed, people’s emotions, EVERYTHING changes. Which means a general crisis plan will most likely not fit this baby.

As a social media manager, it is your responsibility to your company to be out in front of any industry and coronavirus news before your C-suite wakes up in the morning. This means convincing them to invest in a listening platform or manually doing your listening research across all social media platforms and major news networks. I’ve had to do it manually before, and it sucks, but it is surely accurate! I recommend sending a daily digest every morning to your executive team with a pulse of social media so far for the day. I would also include if there are topics that your brand can chime in on, or include a recommendation that the brand is silent for the day. That last part can be one of the hardest jobs ever of anyone in social media. Convincing a CEO that she should not go let her thoughts loose on Twitter, or send a tone-deaf message out on her LinkedIn, can seem like a fight you have no chance of winning. But you have to try. It is quite literally your job to tell your company what is best for social media. Be proud of that and have tough conversations you are definitely going to have to need during this time.

A risk on the other end of sounding tone-deaf is sounding too empathetic and sad to sell it. It’s easy to look at a crisis and say, “Hey! If we just make people sad enough, they will have a strong emotional connection to our brand when this is all over.” I hope that as you read that thought, you already can think of numerous things wrong with thinking that way. Living in a time of authenticity and transparency, which has only gotten more so since COVID, it is crucial to know where your brand is and to keep it in its lane. Because if your brand slides out of its lane with an emotional video, it could rub viewers the wrong way. People want the truth (which, unfortunately, is sad right now), but they don’t want to be made sad by some company they barely have a relationship with.

If you can work with your team and identify places where your brand is directly influenced by or can directly influence the pandemic, then you should work on creating content that speaks to those influences. But you should keep your exact tone of voice you have always used on social media and tie the story into the same video and image templates that you use as a brand. You will know as you are putting your brand logo and treatment on a social media visual whether or not it feels right for the brand to be sharing the content. If you get a feeling that something seems wrong, STOP and speak with your direct manager. It is better to be too safe with communications during a crisis than be too much. You, as the social media manager, have the most reliable seat in the house as to how people are going to respond. You are able to see realtime responses, trends, and discussions. If something about wrapping up what is happening in your brand bow doesn’t seem quite right, do everything you can to not publish that content.

If you cannot find places where you are directly influenced by or can directly influence, then you need to tread very lightly through the next few months. The other odd thing about coronavirus is that it is affecting the whole world, which means it is at least affecting your company from an employee standpoint, if not from a production standpoint. This leads to an incredibly gray area of whether or not its the right time for you to continue your social media strategy. Does COVID affect your team and consumers so much that you feel you need to be supporting them somehow right now? Make donations and capture those as your social media content. Don’t just sit there and post social content without taking action to actually help.

During one of my first jobs, my mom was just getting her port taken out where she received chemo for her breast cancer— fortunately she’s fine now! But we weren’t sure what the future held at that time and I was a few months into my first social media job at an international sports nutrition company. I told a few people just how important breast cancer awareness was to me, and I had hoped that we could do some sort of educational series in October to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but there were just no parallels with the brand. Four of the five brands were geared towards males and the small sliver of the female brand they owned was all about relaxation and not talking about things like “cancer”. News of my disappointment got all the way up to the President of the company, so he called me into his office one day. He said that he had heard about my mom and couldn’t imagine what I was feeling and that he wanted to donate $65,000 to breast cancer awareness and encourage fans to donate collectively as much. As I teared up, he didn’t even let me respond before telling me to go get to work on the campaign. Of course, it shared that our office had a personal connection to breast cancer, and that was an important enough reason for our company to donate. I don’t know if I have ever felt so blessed at work as I did that day.

That is one example of how companies who are industries that do not have essential workers right now can still give back and have a conversation about it on their social media channels. One strong recommendation I have is to rework your strategy for the rest of 2020 because the sentiment and what people are discussing across social media will continue to change dramatically and be tied to coronavirus.

But you still need to make money, and you still work for a brand. Yes, I get it. We are ALL feeling that right now, honey! But if you take the wrong step, or your step is just a little off of where your footprint needs to be, you could lose your entire business via a marketing and/or social media snafu right now. That’s how sensitive and in-tune people are. You need to measure the risk against the reward every single day this virus presses on. Do you want a solid brand with a good reputation when it goes away? Or do you want to prematurely kill it during the virus because you just couldn’t press pause for a second?

The other polar opposite type of ad we saw last night were ads that seemed to last HOURS and went on and on showing families disconnected from each other, A TON of tears, hospital beds, etc., with a “we’re in this together” in some form from nearly every advertiser. UM, what?! First off, a lot of us are watching television to escape and get some light in our lives right now. So many people are struggling with depression and anxiety on a much deeper level than they ever have during this time of isolation. They don’t need to turn on the TV to see a three-minute ad that has them in tears. They can watch the news for that.

If you have essential workers and/or are in an industry that is essential and directly needed during this pandemic, YES— you should def advertise. Let’s rethink what that means right now. Let’s rethink where your audience is and what their hobbies are right now like you would before any advertising campaign. Most likely, they are quarantined and isolated. Many of them don’t have anyone cuddling up on the couch with them. Some can barely hear the TV because their children are so full of energy from being home 24/7. A much higher percentage is HIGHLY stressed out about their finances, jobs, how are they getting food next week? What if they can’t get their meds in a month?

Now, if you “update” your target audience to a generation living through this pandemic, some not so lucky, do you want to share a piece of content that will bring them even close to that whiskey bottle, or closer to dangerous thoughts? NO. Please don’t. Please use some common sense here. If you are going to advertise on social media (or any media during this time), try to find a way you can share your message while also providing some hope and light at the end of the tunnel. It’s great all those companies from the depressing ads last night are with us but do we really want to bring more sad, depressed, anxiety-ridden friends into our home? NO. Those are people we would rather not be in this together with.

We need heroes, heroines, examples of strength being redefined, hopeful messages to encourage us to stay isolated. We need light, the brightest light, during this darkest time.

Think about that as you approach your social media plan over the next few months. See if there are opportunities for your brand to become more vulnerable and respond to consumers reaching out to you in heartfelt ways, show the world what your brand looks like during isolation, supply help numbers, and connect those who need help with those who can provide it. Donate.

Social media has transformed from a place that was slowly losing momentum and rarely having honest conversations anymore, to a media that the world cannot live without since it is providing hopeful stories from around the world, CDC updates, ways to find therapists during this time, etc. Social media is no longer a byline, but a lifeline.

Treat it as such.

– Marji J. Sherman

Your #COVID19 #CrisisComm Cheatsheet

Hey! Welcome to the craziest crisis that seems to touch any and every business in the world right now. Suddenly, email inboxes are being flooded with what company you’ve ever engaged with is doing to make sure their employees and products are safe. Enter critiques, enter human errors, enter a major need for crisis communications.

I’ve been involved in a few crises during my decade career in social and digital media marketing, and a way to win a crisis is to BE PREPARED for a crisis before one even happens. When I was the head of social at a company in NYC, we had regular bomb threat drills, biochemical attack drills, fire drills, etc. You get the point. Not only did we have physical drills of what to do in case of emergency, we had crisis plans in place for what individuals were needed in an immediate war room once a crisis broke, and which media would be the first to share our response as a company, and who needed to approve that response.

On the far other end of the spectrum, I worked for a national company in South Florida that refused to acknowledge crises until they were already a full blown social media mess. Employees had no idea what the company’s stance was, or that there was even an issue, until they read something online. Soon after, a new hatchet man, disguised as a new CEO, joined the company and got rid of everyone I knew who ever worked there, and I knew the entire C-Suite.

Granted, some brands can be let off the hook because it wasn’t apparent how severely coronavirus would disrupt our society. But it’s not too late to activate a crisis communications plan and stay on top of what is happening right now in our world. Be transparent with your employees, evaluate what might need to change with your products/services, find where you can help right now.

Fortunately, I created a crisis communications guide for companies during #COIVD19 using my experience dealing with crises both on digital and traditional media. I included the infographic below, but please download the PDF version so you can click on each link for details on what to do in a crisis in that particular section of your company.

Good luck on your journey through this! – Marji J. Sherman

7 Ways To Grow Your Twitter Audience

Seven years ago, I had 73 followers on Twitter and used it to basically curate social media and fashion news. Today, I have nearly 180K followers because of the time and effort I’ve put into joining relevant conversations and sharing valuable tidbits of information about the things I love.

While more and more new social media networks try to force Twitter to the back burner, I still find it to be one of the most influential places to build a strong community around a brand and cause. It’s effortless to reach people no matter what their job title or what country they live in. You can have conversations that include people around the world within a matter of minutes, and it’s a beautiful thing to see. Coronavirus is a perfect example of this.

Here are seven tips I’ve discovered along the way that can grow your Twitter community, whether you are a person or a brand:

Know What Audience You’re Looking For

How can you build an audience when you don’t even know who you’re looking for out there? The first thing you need to do is narrow down exactly who you are looking for to follow you. If you go after everyone, you are more likely to keep no one. While people will follow you initially, they will quickly unfollow you if what you are sharing is irrelevant to them. By going after a specific audience, you allow yourself to build a stronger, focused community. At the end of the day, it’s better to have a smaller audience that’s listening, than a huge audience that doesn’t care about what you have to say.

Organically Target

Twitter is by far the best social media network to organically target on. You can search exactly for what you want through user accounts and tweets, and then reach out to those people directly. I started a successful Twitter chat last year that we were investing quite a bit of money into, and then cut funding for it to see what we could do organically. Guess what? Through organic-only targeting, we had a more relevant crowd attend the chat and broke our records for the quality of participants and the types of questions being asked. No automating targeting can compare to organically searching out exactly what you are looking for on Twitter.

Follow Similar Audiences

This is a great strategy for building your following and community on Twitter. Look for people that are similar to you and follow a few of the people following them. This will help you attract an audience that is looking for someone like you, and lead to more engaging conversations between similar minds.

Keep Your Account Clean

Twitter hygiene is imperative with the number of SPAM accounts out there these days. There are numerous tools out there to help you unfollow SPAM accounts and see what SPAM accounts are following you. I use my Sprout Social account for this.

Use Hashtags

Some people think hashtags are irrelevant now that Twitter has ramped up its search tool. This is not true. While hashtags can be less important when searching for generic terms, they are an excellent tool when you want to find very specific communities to join the conversation in on Twitter. Many communities use unique hashtags to identify their conversations. A great way to find out what unique-hashtag conversations are happening around a generic hashtag is to search a generic hashtag on Hashtagify.me and see what pops up for relevant hashtags.

According to Buffer, it’s best to use two hashtags per tweet → no more, no less. I have found this to be true in my tweets going out.

Join Third-Party Conversations

I cannot stress this enough. Do not wait for people to come to you on Twitter → GO TO THEM. Find conversations that are relevant to you, or your industry, and provide some valuable insight. Not only will this help you gain followers, it will also help to establish you as a thought leader in your industry.

Share Valuable Information

This is such a crucial piece of social media, especially on Twitter. You have 140 characters to share something incredibly valuable to the world. It’s a test of intelligence and of whether you truly do have anything valuable to say. It’s common sense, but when you have something valuable to share, the people who find it valuable will then share it to their audience, and suddenly you are growing and growing. For tips on writing valuable content, check out this post –> How To Produce VALUABLE Content In Social Media.

Twitter is my favorite social media network because it is truly a network where everyone starts at zero and has to build their brand from the ground up. You can’t request friends, and you can’t force people to follow you. You absolutely have to work for what you get, and I love that.

Have other tips that have worked for you on Twitter? Leave them in the comments below!

– Marji J. Sherman

How To Produce VALUABLE Content In Social Media

My #1 piece of advice for ANY entity on social media that wants to do a swell job is –> provide value to the consumer. This is nothing new. It has been preached in a million different ways across a million different blogs. It’s common sense, isn’t it? You want something from someone (consumers to engage with you on social media) –> So you give them something valuable to them in return (Here’s the tricky part). Notice, I wrote “valuable to THEM.”  The value you create for your consumers cannot, but what YOU think is valuable to them, or what you WANT to be valuable to them. The value you provide has to literally be something that they find valuable in their own life, and, as much as you try to control it, THEY have to decide what that is.

That last bit is where brands get hung up –> letting consumers decide a critical part of your brand strategy. When you have spent so much time cultivating exactly what you want your brand to be, it’s difficult to give up the reigns and let consumers influence it. Few brands will admit this, but we all experience it to some degree. YOU know what you want your brand to be, YOU know what you want to be valuable to your consumers, so YOU build content that you believe SHOULD be valuable to them. This is where most brands miss the mark.

If you want to have an effective content strategy, then you MUST provide content that is valuable to the consumer by the CONSUMER’s definition. Here are some tips to start:

  • ASK your consumers what they want.

    • Social media provides a perfect platform for you to dig into what your consumers are looking for from you. Use the lovely social media community you’ve built around your brand as a focus group for the types of content you should be creating. Sample questions include asking fans what they like most about your brand, to share content from your industry that they love, share trends they are seeing, and FLAT OUT ask them what they want from you.

    • OBSERVE your consumers’ online behavior.

      • Find out who the influencers in your industry are, and track what types of content they are sharing most. Tweak those types of content to your brand, and be an active participant in the conversations they are having about your industry online.

      • TEST multiple types of content.

        • Throw something out there and see if it sticks. What defines “sticks? –> It ignites conversations with your consumers, and is shared frequently. The conversation piece of this is VERY important. Valuable content means that it is sparking multiple conversations across your network. Pull any types of content that are left dead on your social networks. If content isn’t getting engagement, then there is absolutely no point in posting it.

Think of your consumers as someone you are trying to get to know in your personal life. What types of questions would you ask them? What would you want to find out about them on social media? You can produce the most valuable, beautiful content for your brand, but that means NOTHING on social media if it doesn’t resonate with your consumers. It’s the bare-bone basics that you learn in Communication 101–> To maintain a relationship, there has to be a give and a take on both ends.

– Marji J. Sherman

5 Reasons Why Small Businesses Need A Twitter Strategy


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I used to live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, aka one of the most ‘trendy’, ‘hipster’ places you can live in NYC. Just nine years ago, it was not a place I would spend time in. I told my friend that took me there for the first time nine years ago that I would never go back. I was furious he would even take me to such a dangerous, rundown place just to grab drinks. Little did I know that he saw the potential of Williamsburg even before developers did. Now Williamsburg is one of the most gentrified communities in the country, and I am its resident. Williamsburg is now so trendy that its small businesses have seemed to focus in on the trendiest platform for the younger generations; Instagram → and ONLY on that platform. I had to ask a bartender if the handle on their on-point hipster chalkboard was their Twitter handle because I could not find it. He responded that it was their IG handle. So, I asked him to confirm if the handle I found on Twitter was correct. He shrugged, and then the hostess came over and said she believed the one I found was correct but that they did not focus on Twitter. To make the story even more interesting to me, they had an on-staff social media person whose only function was to grow their Instagram account → that’s literally all.

Um?!

I hope I am not the only social media pro out there completely perplexed by this common Williamsburg set-up. As I go from store-to-store in my quaint neighborhood when I visit, I notice that this Instagram-only approach is the hot new trend. Pretty much every small store, restaurant, bar (you name it) has their IG account somewhere on a chalkboard, and that’s it.

While I appreciate the trendiness and refreshed approach of an Instagram-first strategy, I am dumbfounded by the Instagram-only approach. WTF, people?! Are you doing so well in business that you really believe you are reaching everyone that comes to your business via Instagram?

What I find even more startling is that the business owners don’t even know their own Twitter handles. How is that even possible?

Here are my five reasons small businesses need to rethink their Instagram-only approach and give some love to Twitter:

 

Twitter Isn’t Going Away

No matter what your political views are, Trump and the coronavirus brought Twitter back to the forefront. Now that the President is constantly sending important updates via Twitter, more eyes are searching the Twitter streams and becoming familiar with the platform. People are also hungry to find the latest news on #COVID19. I have family members that are suddenly super into Twitter just because it’s had such an uptick in the news. Now mostly tweets are being quoted in news articles and being used as official statements. This revived use of Twitter assures us all that it is not leaving us anytime soon.

 

Targeting

You can organically target on Twitter like you can with no other platform. You can easily search for conversations around your business, and enter third-party conversations that are discussing your industry. I wrote about a great way a baker in Middleton, WI targeted me on Twitter and in the process formed a relationship with a new customer: 3 Tips For Small Businesses To Gain New Customers On Social Media.

 

Conversations

Twitter is conversation-friendly. It’s by far one of the easiest platforms to hop into a conversation and share your point of view. You have an opportunity every day to join a conversation and tell people all about your business– for free! Find people that are already talking about services your company offers and tell them how your business can help them. Add value to existing conversations, and watch your customer base grow.

 

Trends

Speaking of being ‘trendy’… Twitter is a great resource for discovering what is trending in the world. By thoughtfully tapping into one of the trends, you can provide your small business with a world stage. You also can add these trends to your real-world small business. I’ve seen businesses add trendy hashtags, where applicable, to their outdoor signs or tags on certain clothing.

 

Inspiration

Many people do not think of ‘inspiration’ when they think of Twitter. They think of news-first, and then rely on Pinterest and/or Instagram for their inspiration for the day. However, Twitter can actually be a great inspirational resource that is mixed with educational, actionable insights. When you search your industry, no matter how small your business is, you will most likely find inspirational articles and tidbits that will help you improve your business in innumerable ways.

 

These are just a few reasons why you should be on Twitter if you own a small business. While Instagram will attract a certain crowd, I am sure you could also use some other crowds to support your small business. It’s cool to be on-trend, but it’s better not to abandon best practices and proven methods.

– Marji J. Sherman

How To Manage A #SocialMedia Crisis In 7 Steps

It is safe to say that in your life as a social media pro, you will more than likely encounter a social media crisis. It’s just the way it goes. Social media is such an uncontrolled space where anyone can say anything, which fosters rumors and negative comments to spread like wildfire >> whether they are true, or not. I’ve worked for a couple of organizations that have had their run-ins with public relations’ crises that soon become social media crises. Suddenly, it’s an all-hands-on-deck atmosphere of panic where everyone has their own strong opinion on how it should be handled. Here’s the thing most people miss, though, about social media >> everything is documented that your brand has said, including comments or press releases that led to the current controversy. The more you try to brush a crisis under the rug, the more tweets with screenshots will appear about your brand. The most important thing is to remain calm, and DO NOT respond until you follow at least these seven steps:  

Be Honest With Yourself

This is the very first, most important step of ANY crisis. Calm down, assess the situation and be completely honest with yourself about the crisis. Did you make a mistake that caused it? Did you accidentally release a product that was not up to par, or did you send a tweet that was taken the wrong way? Crisis management on social media works best when you can be entirely authentic in the way you respond. When you point blank admit you made a mistake, rather than try to cover it up, you will find a much more forgiving audience.

 

Create An Approved Response

I’ve been in many situations where someone thinks it’s better to bypass executives and just get a quick response out on social. You are welcome to do that, but you will look pretty idiotic when you have retract your response because an executive didn’t agree with it. Or, even worse, you end up in a legal fight because you said something your brand legally cannot say. Everyone in your company is there for a reason, and it is important to lean into their expertise when there is a crisis. Work with PR to draft a response, and then make sure every key executive and legal has approved it before it hits the public. This step will save you every time, even though it might make you appear a little late to the game. Hint: The more honest, authentic and raw you are in your press release, the more you will quiet the storm.

 

Create Approved Talking Points

Talking points are even more crucial to managing a social media crisis than the public statement from your brand. You need to know what questions to expect and how you should answer them. Taking a ‘no-response’ approach to questions on social media during a crisis does not help your brand, it only makes it seem more guilty for not explaining its stance. Sometimes, those talking points include just owning up to the mistake and apologizing. Other times, they include pointing to well-substantiated articles proving that the information being spread about your brand through the crisis is simply untrue. Make sure the PR team, key executives and legal sign off on the talking points before you start responding on social, of course.

 

Communicate With Your Employees

One of the biggest mistakes brands make when trying to publicly handle a crisis is addressing the crisis publicly before ever letting their own employees know what it is going on. Working with key executives, internal communications and legal, send an email to all-staff that explains the crisis, your plan for responding to the crisis and directions on how they should be addressing the crisis online. Often times, for other companies I worked for, we would ask employees not to post on social about the crisis until they saw our brand’s response posted on social media. Sometimes, we would also provide some guidelines for what they should/should not say on their personal social media networks. More often than not, employees care about the brand’s reputation as much as you do, and are willing to let you take the lead on social.

 

Post Response On Social

Once employees are all notified, it is safe to post the response on social. Some companies have wanted a screenshot of the press release posted on social, but that is not the way to go. Make sure to develop creative that matches the social networks you are posting on, so it does not appear to be a cold, corporate response to a crisis. Pull the strongest quotes of the release and include them in a branded template graphic. Then post the release to your brand’s website and link to it via all social posts.

 

Respond To Questions On Social

This is an incredibly important step. Most brands, up until the point of social, could get away with not engaging with questions. This isn’t the case in today’s digitally savvy world where consumers feel closer to the brand than ever. Here’s the general rule >> If you are a brand that usually responds to consumers on social, you absolutely have to respond to them during a crisis. This is where your approved talking points will become invaluable. If you are a brand that has taken the ‘do not engage with consumers’ approach to social (which I never recommend), than you will have a better chance of getting by with a no-response approach to a crisis.

 

Revisit Original Response And Talking Points

As questions flood in on social, you might realize that your release and/or talking points do not match what people are concerned about. This is a cycle, so make sure you start at the beginning again to ensure your release and talking points are working to subdue the crisis, rather than add fuel to the fire.

 

Anything can happen in the ever-changing environment of social media. These steps can help you take control of a crisis and ensure your brand comes out on top. What are other ways you have found to be effective to manage social media crises? Leave your tips in the comments below!

– Marji J. Sherman

 

5 Ways To Grow From #SocialMedia to #DigitalMarketing

My fondest, strongest memory of Labor Day is one I spent a few years ago with my college ex-boyfriend who I had just reconnected with. We were a force to be reckoned with in college, finding every and any way into the hottest events in South Beach, just a cab ride away from the University of Miami. We fell quickly and hard and were completely inseparable. He was going to med school and I was going to law school. Or so those were our plans. We broke up right before our trek to NYC together for med/law school, which resulted on me moving to the city by myself in the dead of winter.

Two years later, when I found myself back in South Florida, I had a feeling he was near. I was shocked to find out that he had moved to NYC a year after me, and just moved back to South Florida barely three weeks before me. I don’t know what you believe in, but from this relationship alone I can testify to the power of being connected to another being for life. After one drink together, we were back together.

Per our usual college selves, he insisted we meet his friends from his prestigious building in Brickell at Mansion for the Avicii show on Labor Day. Of course, his passion for EDM still lighting a fire within me, I didn’t refuse. I tucked myself into my most sparkly, short gold dress and the highest stilettos and we ate dinner at our usual Thai place. I ducked texts and calls from my neighbors and roommate who I had become super close with in the artsy community we lived in near Wynwood. They were begging me to join their own night of debauchery in the Design District and then at Twist, pissed I had reunited with my college boyfriend who was known to be aggressive towards me in the past. But that night I was only his, we were only ours. We were able to hide away the past two years of adulthood that almost killed us and believe we were college students again heading out for a night in South Beach.

Looking for parking in the sometimes sketchy neighborhoods around Collins Avenue, I was reminded of the last time we looked for parking in South Beach during my senior year at UM. We got in a fight right as we parked, and we fought so long that the battery died in the car and all of the clubs had closed. We had to beg a chef on his way home from work to call a towing company for us. We both laid the seats all the way back and road in the towed BMW the whole way to the service station because there was no room up front for us. By the time we caught a taxi back to UM, all was forgiven and we were already laughing about the absurdity of the night. We passed a car stalled out in the middle of the road a few car lengths from a green light on Alton Road. A woman was passed out (or dead) in the front seat. Completely unresponsive. I made my first call ever to 911 to report it.

He pulled me out of the past as we finally found a parking spot, surprisingly not too far from the club. I grabbed his arm as I always did on our nights out, and felt proud of the stylish (outfit picked by me, of course) boyfriend I reunited with. I was in awe. I thought I would never see him again when we last broke up, but here we were as if time had not passed at all.

As we approached the club, I took an IG photo to rub it in that I was finally going to see Avicii live. When we crossed the street, I sensed something was wrong. The guys who lived in his apartment building, who I had briefly met a few years before, said they could not get us in after all. If we were to get in, we would have to climb the cement wall and sneak in the workers’ entrance. I told him he couldn’t possibly be considering that, and he said that he had done it many times with the same guys before. I shook my head no.

As I looked up at the marquee with Avicii’s name so clearly labeled, I realized just how far we were from that pompous, naive college couple. After all, I had taken up yoga and meditation and strayed away from drinking for the most part in the last couple of years. My sister had also committed suicide a mere year prior, forcing a different, more holistic view of life upon me. He hadn’t gotten into med school like he thought, shattering his dreams for the time being, and his confidant, his grandfather who I knew well, had recently passed away. As much as we wanted to fade into the carefree people we were in college, staring at a club that we used to own, that we could no longer get in, humbled both of us.

When we got back to my place, my neighbors and roommate were at their own party. I sat on my bed, looking at him as though it might be the last time we ever see each other. He asked to take my computer and played this song: City of Dreams. Tears fell down my face as I resolved today with yesterday. As I found a way to resolve us now versus then, he sat down next to me and put his arms around me. We just let the song play again and again. It, somehow by the act of God, is still my favorite song of all time today.

We broke up two months later, vowing to never ever contact each other for the rest of our lives. But when I had to go through chemotherapy last year, we reconnected. God has a way of letting people know you need them. Today, we work hard to accept each other exactly as we are. He got into med school, but then never placed with a residency. This was hard for me to learn, as I had written most of his med school essays way-back-when. He will surrender to a business-management job in medicine. I chose to communicate with him through my creative blog, “Almost Everything,” and continued to climb the social/digital media ladder during the six years we didn’t speak to each other. Nearly 10 years post-college, we are finally learning that we cannot ignore the past decade. We both had incredible and not-so-incredible things happen to us, but we bless each moment we are able to connect at 3AM after something terrible (or great!) happens. Because somewhere, those creatively beautiful beings still inhabit each of us and crave that connection.

Why tell you all of this? Well, because you should probably know a bit about the influencer you keep following, right? Nah. But also because social media and digital marketing are kind of the same way. I see so many brands reacquainting themselves with social media or trying to acquaint themselves with both of them, failing to realize how quickly the digital media landscape is changing. I had the lovely experience of recently going through the interview process for senior jobs in digital marketing, and I was shocked at how many brands were still looking for an entry-level person to run their entire digital marketing program. WHAT?! I mean, this takes skills, people! And what is going to happen to these brands is that they are going to show up to the Avicii concert with their entry-level college grad and not be able to get in. Until they realize how this advanced and complex digital marketing monster has been born out of a small social media or website seed, they won’t be able to staff properly, nor create impactful integrated campaigns that really hit the customer where they are at. Until they accept the new digital marketing landscape and the relationship it craves, they will flounder in the past.

So, here are some things to think about as a brand as you transition from siloed thinking into integrated digital marketing:

Graphics

I am creative, so this is obviously a sore point for me. In 2019, each and every brand graphic should match each and every other brand graphic. Period. This does not mean the same graphic is used on every platform, but it DOES mean that a version of it and a version of its copy is used on each and every platform. A consumer should be able to see your image on Facebook and then your ad on Instagram and then your Google ad and know exactly what brand they are coming from.

URL Parameters

This is an easy miss by SO MANY brands. You should have unique URL parameters set up for each and every platform and online network and affiliate brand you work with. Your digital marketing head should be able to quickly pull a report and be able to tell exactly where consumers are coming from. There is no more social media versus web content versus Google ad. No. You need to be looking at every single point of contact as a unique point of contact so you can refine your metrics.

Pixels

OMG this was a total mess at my last company. They had a purchase pixel on the main page of the website and no Google pixels placed at all. Correctly placed pixels are essential to getting the best learning data and finding out exactly what your conversions are worth. We had to play around until we realized it was not the “Submit” page, but the “Congrats” page that truly measured a conversion. This meant customers were approved and a true customer, so we immediately had a custom Pixel placed on that page.

Hiring Requirements

You need to be thinking about who you are looking for in a digital marketing role. It’s no longer the cut and dry social media manager, but a social media manager with SEO and affiliate marketing experience. It’s no longer the SEO-focused SEO manager, but an SEO manager with paid social media and eCommerce experience. You are looking for the T-shaped employee to run digital marketing for you. This means that they have a main focus (social media, SEO, ecommerce) but they are also able to take on and understand other roles as needed.

Business Structure

This is something I have seen a lot of brands rethinking as the digital age comes to fruition. Not only should you be thinking of the digital marketing tactics, but also can your business in general be sold in more digital ways? Is there an opportunity for you in eCommerce? Can Instagram stories spotlight one of your newest products? What can you change to make the in-store experience more connected with digital? Find it out an start implementing more digital-forward strategies NOW.

The greatest news is that it’s not too late. It might have taken six years, but the college ex and I now know how to support each other where we are in our lives now. Hopefully, it doesn’t take your brand six years, and you are able to recognize the evolution of social/digital marketing and tap into the power it can give to your brand.

– Marji J. Sherman

How To Manage Small, Medium and Large Social Media Budgets

In a world where marketing is the first department to be cut, social media budgets can be few and far between. Having worked everywhere from a $25K budget to a $9M dollar budget, I know how tough it can be to decide where to allocate funds. Should you put more spend behind paid ads? Or should you hire a full-time employee to do community management? Should you buy a software such as Sprout Social so you can produce timely, relevant reports? Or should you spend that money on new creatives for your ads? Allocating funds is not an easy task in the social media space, but hopefully some of my experiences will help you decide where to direct the most spend.

Tips For A Small Budget ($100K and under)

  • The top three things a social media team needs to operate successfully are:

    • One full-time diversified employee

      • This means NOT a new college-grad, but someone who is experienced enough to do content creation, community management, community management and every social task in between with little to no supervision.

    • A Social Media Tool

      • I just came from a project where they refused to invest in a social media tool. This means ALL posts and ads were manually published and all reporting was manually pulled into Excel files and then manually put into pretty graphs and PPT presentations. This ate up so much time that less focus was given to the actual ads. A social media tool is absolutely necessary to run social media.

      • Sprout Social and HootSuite are my two favorites when it comes to social media tools and they have affordable options for all budget points.

    • A Photo Editing Tool

      • Canva is forever my favorite and you can get it for as little as $12. When I ran social for the non-profit, Anti-Defamation League, Canva was literally our saving grace. We had to produce content the minute a news story broke, which meant we were often times on our phone creating images for social and the web site. Canva saved our lives. It immediately will make your one full-time employee a graphic design star.

Tips For A Medium Budget ($1M and below) 

  • Recommendations:

    • Two additional full-time employees, which will make your team structured as follows:

      • Social Media Manager: Oversees strategy development, operations, budget

        • Social Media Coordinator: Creates graphics and copy, publishes to all channels, helps the community manager moderate 

          • Community Manager: Moderates and responds to comments online, reports on what consumers are saying online, reports on trends

    • An Advanced Social Media Tool

      • Investment in a tool that excels in reporting, social listening, publishing and customer service is a must. I’ve done multiple RFPs for large companies and HootSuite has always come out the top winner. I highly recommend checking them out.

    • Social Media Spend

      • I have found the happy spot to be 20% spend on boosted organic posts and 80% spend behind paid ads. 

      • We are now in an era where you need to boost every single piece of organic content you publish, or .01% of your fans will see it.

Tips For A Large Budget (Over $1M)

  • Five person team structured as follows:

    • Social Media Director: Oversees strategy, operations, budget

      • Social Media Manager: Develops social media strategy, ensures all content stays on strategy, owns editorial calendar

        • Social Media Customer Service Manager: Responds only to customer service questions online

          • Social Media Coordinator: Helps develop creative, publishes content, manages social media tool and reporting

            • Community Manager: Moderates and responds to comments online that are outside the scope of customer service, creates social listening reports, helps coordinator manage the social media tool

    • A Social Media Tool + Ad Management

      • HootSuite (sorry, I am obsessed!) offers an incredible ad management service that provides you with on-the-spot answers to all of your ad questions and your own personal ad strategist who reviews your ads once a week and provides feedback. I recommend in investing in all of the bells and whistles of a tool if you are going to have a large spend on social.

    • Social Media Spend

      • Some 80/20 split as mentioned above, with more focus on how the ad spend is spent. I have found that Campaign Budget Optimization is the best. You will need to play around with which option under CBO works the best for your brand. I have found Bid Cap to work best for recent campaigns. 

        • Once an ad is under-performing in CBO, pull it out and start a new campaign. 

        • When an ad is over-performing in CBO, increase the spend of the campaign. 

        • Use 70% video and 30% static imagery at first to see which performs the best with your audience.

        • Also make sure to not cap your CBO until the learning phase is complete. This will help you understand what the average cost per lead or acquisition is for your brand on Facebook.

    • Third-Party Audiences

      • Don’t rely on Facebook’s audience developer alone. Purchase third-party audiences for your brand so you can have a large broad audience to target. This will help you understand the audience that is converting for your brand.

    • Creative Agency

      • If you have creatives in-house, awesome. Skip this step. If you don’t, I recommend putting some of that budget behind hiring an agency that focuses specifically on social media content. If you are putting millions behind ads, you want them to be 100 percent on-par.

    • Extend Your Strategy To Executives And Employee Advocacy 

      • Now that you have the budget for a larger team, you have the bandwidth to focus on more projects, The top two most effective projects you can implement right away are taking over the C-Suite’s social media and training employees on how to express your brand on social media.

        • C-Suite Social Media

        • Employee Advocacy 

          • Start with a call with Dynamic Signal. They are a leading software company that has helped me set-up to successful employee advocacy programs at Cancer Treatment Centers of America and the Anti-Defamation League. I’ve seen social media engagement increase as high as 500 percent for a brand, just from implementing an employee advocacy program. You can read more about the benefits of an employee advocacy program here: How To Supercharge Content Creation With Employee Advocacy.

I’m not saying that any of the large budget items can’t be done with a low budget. I started one of my employee advocacy programs with a $24,650 budget. Two-thirds of that budget went towards the employee advocacy tool alone. At the time, I knew the brand I was working with had enough creative donors, lay leaders and employees to create content within the program. I took a risk, believing that having the program in place would help us with the issue of having no graphic designers or copywriters on the team. I was right. This is the same program that boosted the brand’s engagement by 500% across social media within its first month of implementation. 

So play around with these different areas and decide what is most important to you as a brand and what you can afford. I do not believe that social media can be run on a zero-dollar budget, but I do believe that there are incredibly successful social media campaigns that have been run on nearly invisible budget because the social media manager knew what they were doing.

Do you have any tips or comments on how to run a budget for social? Leave them in the comments below!

-Marji Dupuis