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

What Does It Take To Be A #SocialMedia Pro?

I have amazing friends. I just have to say this because I’ve recently been going through chemo and I cannot believe how my friends have stepped up. I am a very proud individual and rarely ask for help, but I’ve come to a point where I have to with what has been going on. At first I wanted to be more private about my journey but finally decided that my friends cannot be there for me unless they know what I am going through. So, now I provide regular updates via social media. I am a social media manager after all! 

What’s incredible to me, though, is how my friends anticipate what I need before I even know I need it, and answer the phone no matter what time of night it is. They also are super real with me, instead of trying to pretend like we are living in Disney World as I go through this. I love that. I can have real conversations with them about the fear, instability and other various emotions I’ve experienced on this rollercoaster. I don’t need to pretend like I’m a picture perfect woman all of the time with them, and they don’t have to pretend back. They encourage me to keep going, no matter how sh*tty I feel, and call me until I absolutely have to answer my phone. 

As I was reflecting on this today, during the most painful week so far of this experience, I could not help but think about the qualities that I’ve seen in my friends also are qualities that make social media pros successful. After all, we have to be friends to everyone in the company since we touch so many parts of the organization, AND we need to be friends to our online communities if they want to, well, be a part of the community.

Here are five specific things I thought about that aligned with being a stellar friend and incredible at social media:

Strong Intuition

I can see my pro-research and metrics colleagues out there rolling their eyes now. Might I remind you, though, that I actually studied public relations research and statistics AND my first job was in communications research. I am 100 percent behind research being a driving force behind effective social media. However, I have also seen the brightest research and analytics minds make some of the biggest mistakes on social media because they didn’t listen to what their gut was telling them. As much as any of us hate to admit it, a large part of social media is making a judgement call of whether or not to engage in certain conversations. The wrong judgement call could end up with a conversation blowing up in our face and a screenshot of our tweet on the front page of Mashable.

Social media professionals need to be able to trust their gut (and themselves) to make judgment calls (in sometimes seconds) on social media. Yes, metrics can help guide the call we make, but intuition often is the final decision maker.

Honest Communication

Most of us are probably communication pros, so this seems like common sense. Notice the word HONEST. Public relations can sometimes turn into massaging facts in order to a protect a company’s reputation. While social media is some of that as well, consumers are way more likely to see beyond on the bull sh*t on social. It’s critical to always be as honest as possible, or you could end up with a social media crisis on your hands in minutes. You will be surprised at how receptive and forgiving fans are to honest communication versus trying to create the most perfect statement to go out on social. You can read more about a brand handled honest communication during a crisis perfectly here: How To Manage A Social Media Crisis In 7 Steps.

Confidence

CONFIDENCE, not ego and not insecurity. Ego will leave a social media manager not thinking through their responses and decisions enough, while insecurity will leave a social media manager too scared to respond when they need to. Granted, confidence comes with time. I was scared to death to post my first comment as a brand on social media. Finally the VP pulled me into his office and said that he didn’t care what I posted, just take care of it. He trusted me. Once I saw that fans were responding to what I was writing, my confidence started to grow.

Confidence is also important to stand up for decisions that you will have to make A LOT as a social media pro. Our work is out there for everyone to see, and people will regularly have comments about what they would have done differently. Take constructive criticism, but also do not be afraid to stand up for why you made the decision. I’ve had many conversations go my way after I spent a few moments describing my thought process behind the decision. 

Loyalty

I have had people on my team ask me before it was normal that they felt so much responsibility to the community management aspect of social media. Umm…YES! In fact, this is required in order to make someone a true social media pro. You have to feel invested in the brand and a responsibility to not letting one piece of bad content be published, and not letting one comment go missed. This loyalty to the brand and to the team is necessary because social media is 24/7. If someone does not possess this loyalty, they will turn off their phone once it’s 5PM. Unfortunately, that makes them a 50 percent social media pro.

Mixed Skillset

I’m sorry, but if you are ONLY an expert in social media, you are already not an expert in social media. Social media touches so many different things >> customer service, writing, graphic design, public relations, data, analytics, metrics, leadership, communication, ongoing social media education. Social media actually was not a career when I was in college (I know, I’m old). I studied public relations, with a focus on research and statistics. When I left my research position in NYC to go back to Miami, all I could find were trendy social media roles. I lied (not recommended) about my awesome social media skills when I had my first interview. They gave me the job under the condition that I would be fired in a month if I didn’t meet their goals. If I did meet their goals, I would get a $10K raise and get to stay. I research the heck out of social media and found that my background in public relations, research and statistics paired well with what was needed to execute on a good social media plan. I met their goals within three weeks 🙂 

Also, going back to my age, when I started out in social media there was no such thing as a ‘social media team.’ There was usually one social media person who was responsible for EVERYTHING. This meant planning the strategy, designing the graphics, writing the copy, etc. I know that some people are still filling all of these roles. The good thing about that is that I learned how to do graphic design, copywriting, community management. I learned how to create and analyze my own metrics reports. While now social media is more highly valued and teams are filling out, it’s still important that every member of the team can deliver on these skills. Social media moves fast, and you never know when you will need to create a graphic in under ten minutes or write a statement because the PR person is on leave. Learn these skills, and you will become a pro.

 

On that note, I see all of these things in my good friends that have stepped up over the past few months. If anything, it’s shown me where I need to be a better friend myself. I even am noticing some things on this crafty list I made that I could brush up on, like my graphic design skills. Social media pros do not play on Facebook and Twitter all day, but actually, have a highly stressful 24/7 responsibility to their company to be customer service experts and reputation management experts and content creation experts all within one day. Make sure you can deliver on all of those skillsets before you call yourself a social media pro.

What else do you think it takes to be a social media pro? Leave your answers in the comments below!

– Marji J. Sherman 

 

How Two Brands Failed At Social Care (And How To Make Sure Your Brand Doesn’t)

I’ve had two companies recently completely fail as social care via social media (and email marketing, if you really want to go there). The first was my local carwash, Mister Car Wash. I did not notice until I got home that my cupholders were not even cleaned out and that salt was still all over the back of my car. Not having time to drive it all the way back to the carwash that night, I emailed them via their website and sent photos of the mess. No response. So, I took to Twitter. Roughly 24 hours later, a very friendly social media manager reached out to me and told me that someone from my local carwash would be in touch with me within 1-2 days. That was weeks ago and still I have heard nothing.** Update: The day after this post was published the general manager of Mister Car Wash contacted me. They apologized for the way my car left their car wash and offered to re-clean it, along with free car washes in the future.

The second social care fail came a bit more as a shock to me. I planned the first spa weekend ever for my mother and me at a local five-start resort called The Osthoff. A competitor of the famed Kohler Waters Spa,  I expected it to be nothing less than divine. Everyone in the hotel was professional and incredibly attentive, until my mom went in for her massage. The masseuse was incredibly unprofessional and left my mother feeling uncomfortable and anything but relaxed. I was mortified since I had planned the whole weekend around her finding some space and time to relax. A few hours later, I went to the hotel bar to read a book and drink a martini. The bartender was flustered and kept waiting on people who had gotten to the bar after me, before waiting on me. Once he asked my order, he stressfully opened a RECIPE book to make a three-ingredient martini. I then signed my check and went on to read my book. When I was ready for round two, a second stressful bartender also proceeded to help others who came after me first, and then also had to search for the recipe book to make my three-ingredient martini. Not long after, they tried to charge me again, claiming they had never charged me the first time even though I signed the bill. When they had to rerun the bill, they acted annoyed that they had to do it. It was just an awful, unrelaxing experience all the way around. Our weekend continued with a slew of unprofessional encounters and we ended up spending a great deal of money to not relax at all. I wrote an email to the company, and heard nothing back. I finally took it to Twitter and had a great interaction with a marketing manager who immediately responded. Then I received a call from a reservations agent who was mortified about what happened and said my email must have gotten lost. She ensured me the hotel manager would be calling me promptly. That was over a week ago and I have yet to receive a call. This whole experience has shown me that this resort is not up to the standards that I thought it was.**Update: Two days after this was published, the general manager of The Osthoff Resort called me and said that she had reached out to me previously and left voicemails on my cell. I have no voicemails, but understand that technology can fail. She assured me that appropriate measures were taken within the resort to fix the areas of poor service, and offered to send a gift certificate for a massage for my mother. 

The mistake that seems to have been made with both of these brands is that the social media managers know what they are doing and are carefully monitoring, but once they find an issue to address, they have no power nor authority to address the problem. This leaves consumers with a positive social experience quickly followed by disappointment that their issue remains unresolved. Social care is becoming more and more critical for brands as more and more consumers expect brands to resolve their issues via social media networks. 

It is not enough to put an employee on social media monitoring duty and then leave them powerless when issues arise. They need direct access to those in the company that can solve the issues, so then the full social care circle is complete.  While receiving a prompt tweet response back is nice, it means nothing when the issue is ultimately ignored by upper management. 

Here are some ways to start implementing a full social care circle in your brand:

Appoint One Customer Service Agent To Social Media

This has been the case with a couple of brands I’ve worked with and it works incredibly well. Instead of having multiple customer service agents available, who may or may not see the issue, assign one customer service agent to be in charge of all social media inquiries that come through. This allows the social media manager to hand off the issue to an employee who is more trained at dealing with customers and who already knows the correct team to route the issue to.

Hire And Train A Social Care Specialist

This position is becoming a staple on social media teams for larger brands. A social care specialist has skills beyond a community manager. They are highly trained in all things customer service AND social media which allows them to not only monitor for issues, but promptly respond to them as well. Not only does this take weight off of a brand’s social media team, but it also ensures that the customer service process is overseen by one individual beginning to end.

Map Out A Response Strategy

A response strategy for dealing with issues on social media is essential for all brands. Create a Google doc and document each and every issue that comes through on social media. Then keep track of who that issue is routed to, how they responded and whether it was resolved or not. Then use this document to create a one-pager that outlines where certain types of issues should be routed, and how a social media manager can proactively respond before the person it was routed to resolves the issue.

Set Hours On Your Social Media Networks

This helps set expectations for your consumers. it is also useful for smaller brands that do not have the budget to have employees on at all hours. By providing the times your business is open on social, consumers will become less aggravated when they do not hear back and will most likely understand that they will not receive an answer until you open again the next day.

Follow-Up

Following up to issues on social media is critical not only to close the loop, but also to keep track to ensure the issue was actually resolved. Make a point of keeping track of each issue that comes in and following-up a week later with that individual to make sure that they are happy with how their issue was resolved. This will lessen the amount of consumer issues that go unresolved on social media due to failure to pay attention or route to the correct person.

 

Companies can no longer survive by ignoring customer service on social media. If brands do not have the budget to hire social care specialists, than they need to empower their social media managers to route issues to the correct people and/or resolve the issues. It does not matter how quickly someone responds on social, if there is no resolution to the issue.

What are your tips for managing customer service on social media? Leave them in the comments below!

– Marji J. Sherman 

Update as of 3/20/18: After Mister Car Wash’s social media manager printed off this blog post and shared it with their team, the general manager has reached out to me to apologize and resolve the issue.