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

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

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

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 To ‘Spring Clean’ Your Social Media Strategy

I don’t know about you, but today is one of the first days it even remotely feels like spring in Wisconsin! I did not know when I moved here that I was signing up for an endless winter. Thank God for fireplaces and hot cocoa. 

This drastic, very welcomed change in weather reminded me that it’s time for me to review some social media strategies I have been working on. After all, ‘spring cleaning’ is not just for our homes. 

One mistake most brands make is writing one strategy (if they even do that) and using it for the year and beyond. First off, props to those brands for having a strategy in the first place. That already puts you ahead of the curve. However, a strategy is only as effective as it is relevant, and relevancy for social media fluctuates just about every other second. 

Strategies shouldn’t only be reviewed once a year, but also once every quarter, if not more. In fact, every time a social media network changes its algorithm and/or privacy terms, that specific channel strategy AT LEAST should be revisited. That means every one of us should be dusting off our channel strategies and rethinking them RIGHT NOW, due to all of the new terms of service being circulated by social networks.

Here are some key parts of the strategy to ‘clean up’ frequently:

Goals & Metrics

I can tell you right now the data changes about to hit pretty much every social media network will drastically change the way you are able to pull metrics. Not being able to pull as specific of metrics will drastically change your goals. After all, you can’t have a SMART goal that you are unable to measure. Get super familiar with the new terms of service from each network, and with the melted down metrics you’ll be able to pull. Then readjust your goals based on what you will actually be able to measure.

Content Pillars

Once goals change, you can guess most every other part of your strategy will need some fine-tuning as well. Content pillars are the core of your strategy. They guide how you are relating to the consumer, what type of community you are creating and whether or not your content is resonating with your audience. These should be revisited THE MOST throughout the year, based on what topics are trending with your target audience and what they are responding most to online. You might think ‘Education’ is a sure win with your audience, but find that they actually are not engaging with educational content at all. Then it’s time to nix ‘Education’ and replace it with a new pillar.

Target Audience Per Network

Your target audience overall will come from higher up strategies, such as your marketing or brand strategies. However, it’s your job then to tailor it to the specific social media networks. Each social media network your brand is engaging with should have a different target audience. People that are heavily engaged on Facebook most likely are not Snapchatting on a daily basis. Make sure you are always up to date with stats of the most engaged audience of each social media network, and then tailor your own target audience for that network. 

Visual/Video Strategy

I am putting visual and video together because they are basically one in the same these days with the high focus on video content. Trends are constantly changing, and it’s imperative that your visuals and videos reflect the changing times. Are your videos the length they need to be per Instagram’s new rules? Do your photos have too much text for Facebook? Are people resonating more with your branded logo-heavy content, or with your UGC visual content? These are all things you need to constantly be asking yourself and then adjust the strategy accordingly.

Hashtag Strategy

This is something I am going to dedicate an entire blog post too soon because it shocks me how many brands disregard hashtags as a ‘thing of the past.’ WHAT?! No way. Hashtags might not have the search engine relevance they did at one point in time, but they certainly are still carrying their weight in the social media world. You should have at least one branded hashtag that you can build brand identity around, and then an approved list of popular hashtags that you engage with for brand awareness. The popular hashtags should constantly be revisited as new trends emerge on social media. **Friendly reminder to research, research, research the current use of a hashtag before popping it into your copy.

 

Hopefully, this post inspires you to dust off your 2018 social media strategy and revisit some key areas as social media networks evolve into this new era of data management. Don’t let your brand fall flat and become irrelevant as times change. Do everything in your power to make sure your social media is on point and up to date. Your brand will thank you.  

– Marji J. Sherman

 

Why We Need To Head Back To The Roots Of #SocialMedia

I’ve been dedicating a lot of my time recently to my pet project, Almost Everything I Wish I’d Said The Last Time I Saw You. I started the project because I hated how many people were reading my main blog (awesome complaint, right??) as it was becoming difficult to write without thinking about what every single person would think about what I had to say. So, I started a second blog that encompassed everything my heart was feeling and told very few people about it. It became a safe haven for me to express my creativity and write about whatever I wanted to with less of a focus on who I was, and more of a focus on what I was writing. In essence, it’s a space where I can return to my roots and truly, authentically write.

As Facebook and other networks are condemned for their (lack of) privacy and tighten their tools that they offer brands who are spending millions advertising on their platform, it’s critical for social media to also get back to its roots >> authenticity and community. When social media began for brands, you did not succeed unless you had stellar content and you were working to engage and develop a community around your brand. There was no cheating by targeting only the people you wanted, or by reading intense metrics and manipulating your copy to only appeal to a very specific audience so they would click on your link. There was absolutely everyone on social media and your content, which you prayed to God appealed to the right people.

As much as social media needs to evolve with the new digital landscape, it also has to remember where it came from and why it works for brands. It’s not because of the fine tuned advertising offers. If you think millions of dollars equals a stellar social media strategy, you do not understand the purpose of social media at all. You are more likely attracting one and done fans rather than building relationships in order to cultivate loyal consumers. Social media networks pulling back on what details they reveal about consumers should not shake a good social media professional. Instead, it should be common sense that incredibly relatable content will rise to the top and help you build a community around your brand.

Here are five ‘roots’ for you to think about as you revamp your strategy based on the newest social media network changes:

Community

‘Social’ being the root word for social media emphasizes the importance of community. It was created so people could talk to each other online, not just so they could be talked to. This is such an important thing to remember that is so easily forgotten. Social media is one of the rare places where you actually can build a community with your consumers and have two-way conversations with them. Even Facebook recognizes how far we’ve gotten away from the community aspect, now requiring advertisers to create more engaging posts that require participation on behalf of the brand AND the consumer. 

Authenticity

Such a buzzword, I know. It’s been so overused in all of the wrong ways that I almost hate even using it anymore, but it is one powerful word when understood correctly. Guess what? Consumers are more technically savvy than ever and they are starting to see through a lot of the manipulation and sketchy contests brands try to pull off on social media. Brands need to focus on supply true content that truly speaks to who they are and who their consumers are. In the current landscape, consumers will respond way more to honesty and personality than they will to sales talk and gimmicks. 

Adding Value

When I started out in social media it was drilled into my head that any piece of content that was published had to add value to the life of the end user. Period. This is still true today, even though many brands have strayed away from this practice. I would argue that it’s even more important in today’s saturated landscape to be providing valuable content that consumers can gravitate towards. It’s common sense, but consumers are more likely to share content that they get some sort of value out of, and we all could use some more shares of our content.

Spending Valuable Time With The Consumer

As social media networks have grown, brands have stepped away from truly looking into their consumers on social media and what they are saying and how they are behaving. They like to lump everyone into one target audience and make assumptions, rather than dig down deep into the people that are responding to their content and figure out who they are and what they are engaging with on social. It is time consuming, especially if you do not have the budget for a fancy tool, but it is amazing what loyalty can be forged when you spend time with your consumer on social media and really understand what world they are living in.

Storytelling

This not only takes us back to the roots of social media, but all the way back to the roots of communication. Think about a bunch of cavemen around a fire, telling their stories. That is how far back this goes and how fundamental it is to effective social media strategies. What story does your brand have to tell? What stories can your consumers share with you? Figure out what they are and create engaging content to tell them to the public. People crave stories, so do not lose the opportunity to connect with important consumers that could become loyal advocates for your brand.

 

It is great to stay on top of all of the trends and the new digital landscape as it transforms how we think about online communication and social media. However, it is impossible to tap into those trends if we lose sight of where social media was born and what its fundamental purpose is >> building engaged communities. 

Now back to writing for my (not so) secret blog… 🙂 

– Marji J. Sherman