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

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

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

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

 

Top 5 Qualities To Look For In A Social Media Hire

Top_5_Qualities_To_Look_For_ In_A_Social_Media_HireI fudged my way through my very first social media interview. I was a communications researcher coming from a firm on 42nd and Madison in NYC, and showed up to the interview hoping to fumble way through it by focusing on my mad research skills and how critical research is to social media. After a couple of months of searching for work in South Florida, I realized research wasn’t as common as it was in NYC, and that, if it was, I had to speak Spanish and Portuguese. As I sat across from a CEO and a VP in a large room looking out on the perfectly landscaped grounds that are common in South Florida, I realized my time in NYC (and Type A personality) brought something way bigger than social media experience to the interview –> work ethic.

The pair complained about how they were having issues hiring anyone in the area that was willing to work after hours, or work at all, for that matter. Most recent hires they had stumbled into the offices up to a half hour late every morning, and left just before 5. So, while I was pretending to know more about social media than I did, and made promises that I, myself, wasn’t even sure I could keep, they honed in on the fact that I was used to working until AT LEAST 9 at night.

I was hired on the spot, and started the next day, with a promise of almost a 25 percent increase in salary if I could deliver on promises of audience development and engagement by the end of the month.

I spent the next three weeks at the offices until 6, did a brief yoga stint, and then worked until 10. EVERY NIGHT. I researched everything I possibly could on how Facebook algorithms worked, how the best companies were structuring their social, what our fans were actually interested in. I tested tons of content, modifying and remodifying strategy over and over again. I promised the company a certain level of work by the end of the month, and I was going to deliver. Period.

At the end of my first three weeks, it was time for quarterly bonuses for the company. I was called into the CEO’s office, nervous that my approach to social media might not be as profound as I sold it to be. Much to my surprise, he gave me a speech about how new-hires didn’t qualify for bonuses until they had worked a full quarter, but due to my astounding work, I was not only getting a bonus, but a top-tier bonus.

He was right –> I had exceeded all one month goals set for me within three weeks. I couldn’t quite believe it myself. Why had I been so successful? Probably because of my passion that developed for social media, probably because I was an excellent researcher, but most likely because I had a strong, STRONG work ethic.

A year later, it was my turn to hire my first social media team. I hired a feisty, energetic girl who was excellent at writing but had zero experience in social media. I also added a boy still in school who also had little social media experience but awesome writing skills. Within a month, we were on the road to having a stellar social team. Why? Both had incredible work ethic AND passion.

Between my own first experience in social media, and hiring in my own team, I’ve realized that social media skills are FAR from what a hiring manager should be looking at when it comes to social media. Yes, they’re nice to have, but they mean absolutely NOTHING when you can’t get a hold of that skilled specialist when a crisis occurs after hours. So here’s my breakdown of what’s super important:

  • Work Ethic
    • Let’s face it –> social media is not rocket science. You can teach skills, but you cannot teach work ethic. With the 24/7 nature of social media, you need someone on your team that is going to be willingly available to help at all hours.
  • Passion
    • Also due to the 24/7 nature, you need someone that LOVES social media. They don’t have to be a skilled expert, but they DO have to be completely obsessed with how and why it works. If they’re going to be living, eating, breathing it, then they need to be in love with it.
  • Multitasking
    • Answering a million Tweets while on the phone discussing a new strategy is a common situation for social media specialists. They need to be able to be in multiple places at once, while still paying attention to detail and sending out the right messages.
  • Patience
    • HUGE one here. There are some nasty people out there, and someone touching social media everyday needs to be able to handle them with grace. You don’t need a social media crisis on your hands because someone went off on a consumer.
  • Empathy
    • You can fill in any empathetic word here. Basically, you need someone on your team that understands humans. They need to CONNECT with your consumers on a level beyond marketing, so they can send out the authentic, genuine responses your consumers want without you micromanaging them.

There are tons of other qualities important to those serving on a social media team, but these are some of my top ones. Anyone can, and usually do, have social media skills. The skills can be taught –> the qualities that make social media professionals pros cannot.

As I learned at the beginning of my own career –> work ethic supersedes skills. You can teach yourself what you need to know.

– Marji J. Sherman

If Your Brand Is A 24/7 Service, Then Your Social Media Needs To Be A 24/7 Service

I do not like Frontier Airlines. It probably started when I realized I had to PAY for a regular drink, or maybe because my knees have bruises on them after being dug into the seat in front of me the whole flight. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because after suffering through a VERY delayed flight on Sunday night that turned pretty much into a redeye, they sent me an extremely cold, stoic Tweet that said their social media is not 24/7.

My hatred of their social team began when I needed to know if there was space on a certain flight for my dog. The flight was leaving that day, and I had already spent a half hour on hold to Frontier. So, I took to Twitter. Let’s just say, I was way past needing to know if my dog could get on a flight by the time I got a response AND the response told me to call customer service. Okay…thanks.

So, my expectations were pretty low when I started documenting my delay in the Denver airport Sunday night. I didn’t start to get pissed off until I was FINALLY walking into my flight in an exhausted haze, and saw this beautiful sign:

10485228_10100723324813369_1275087528054274531_n

I stared at it for a moment, completely perplexed. Not only were they socially MIA, they had a call to action for you to engage with them?! Wtf.

When I still had no response when I finally landed in Milwaukee, I sent out this:

@marjijsherman_@flyfrontier_-_Twitter_Search_-_2014-09-30_12.37.20

My flight thanked me.

I didn’t get TRULY pissed off, though, until, after a sleepless night, I saw this:

FrontierAirlines

So you mean to tell me that you have a business that operates 24/7 and I’m expected to get back to my house FIVE hours later than scheduled and go to my office on NO sleep the next morning, and your response is that you aren’t 24/7?! Oh no, no, no.

Two things going on here –> Lack of connecting with consumers AND shitty understanding of social media (especially if you are still living in a universe where you can publicly make a statement that it’s not 24/7).

I will most likely never fly Frontier again, and it’s not because of the delay, it’s not because of the crumb-filled dirty seat I had to sit in –> It’s because I was looking for compassion and a personality and a timely response when I Tweeted them, and I got back a defensive untimely response. As a consumer, this tells me something about the brand, and it’s something that I don’t want to associate myself with.

Also, Frontier NEVER mentions their second handle that kindly keeps their complaints off of the handle they so lovingly advertise in their posters around airports. While using separate handles is a common practice for airlines, usually the customer service handle is clearly identified somewhere so customers know who to Tweet.

Now, Frontier could easily say that I’m just one person and I probably hardly fly them anyways. HOWEVER –> They are one of TWO airlines I fly home on a consistent basis, and I have a pretty tight friend group that also makes frequent trips home, and are also getting pretty sick of the airline.

Maybe it’s a lack of social media understanding, or maybe it’s just because this is a company that is having issues right now that are WAY bigger than social, but ANY company, no matter what size, is remiss if they think how they treat one consumer on social media is negligible.

So far, I was finally asked to send my email address, which I sent last night. Of course, no one answered until business hours this morning, and I still have not received an email. When I had an issue with Southwest Airlines, I had a voucher, heartfelt apology and a complaint sent to LGA on my behalf within 40 MINUTES of my initial Tweet. (Read more about that positive experience here –> Why @SouthwestAir Wins at Social )

Lessons learned:

  • Don’t advertise your social media unless you’re active on it when your consumers are active with your brand.
  • Advertise the correct handle for consumers to contact.
  • Don’t set up a second handle just to keep negative conversations off of your main account.
  • Connect with the emotions behind your consumers’ complaint and frustration, and tailor response accordingly.
  • Immediately act on information you ask for (If you ask for an email address, take the conversation to email ASAP)

And, by the way, Southwest is the other airline I fly when I go home. Thank God.

UPDATE: On 10/14, after I reached out to @FrontierCare again AND after numerous Tweets, I received a $30 voucher and apology via email.

– Marji J. Sherman