My job is to manage social media channels for one of our product portfolios. While it was relatively easy to set up our Facebook page, LinkedIn group, YouTube channel, Twitter handle, and blog platform, it’s been anything but easy to gather, post, monitor, and manage the community content.
Once my channels were appropriately branded and ready for content, I contacted subject matter experts in the company and invited them to become social media advocates – to post, blog, and tweet about industry trends, product features, roadmaps, etc. About a dozen people seemed pleased to be included, and we had a kick-off call to discuss best practices, key topics, scheduling, posting, and reporting.
I quickly learned that my experts were facing some very common challenges, and until we could work through them together, I would have precious little fresh content. What was holding them back?
- Lack of time – since “social media advocate” wasn’t a part of their role in the organization it was a challenge for them to dedicate much time to something that technically wasn’t their job (for which they weren’t being recognized or compensated).
- Fear – they were terrified of publishing something that angered a reader, was disputed by a reader, or raised the ire of management.
- Uncertainty – while they were recognized as experts within the company, the unique syntax of each channel was confusing (maximum number of characters, hash tags, keywords, etc.)
- Doubt – they had little confidence that they could write anything which would interest others
Once we identified the obstacles, my fellow social media manager, Schalk Viljoen, and I created a plan to tackle the obstacles:
- Carve out a little time! While we are still working on a longer-term strategy to include social media in our advocates’ measurable objectives, currently we work with the advocates to take small steps in publishing, like helping them create a blog post or brainstorming ideas for good LinkedIn discussions. We take care of the daily monitoring so our advocates can take on small social posting projects without the pressure to manage channels or provide updates more often than time allows.
- Never fear! We created a cross-functional advisory board with executive sponsors and a supporting internal collaboration community. The community is available for advocates to vet ideas if they are concerned about sensitive topics. The executive sponsorship ensures advocates know they are supported. Finally, Schalk and I act as advisors and proactively handle any “negative” comments with the advocate, rather than expect them to handle on their own.
- Be confident! Since each advocate is more comfortable in some channels over others, we directed their attention to the channels they felt most comfortable in. Some advocates love to tweet, so we worked with them to optimize hashtags. Others prefer to blog, so we support them by copy-editing posts and often handling the actual publishing ourselves, freeing up their time to focus on content. Most importantly, we share best practices and simple do’s-and-don’ts.
- Doubt not! Our advocates only needed a little guided brainstorming to come up with interesting topics for posts and discussions. We often send them directly to existing conversations as well, so they can weigh in with their expertise. Participating in discussions others start is no less important that starting new discussions. Of course, as customers and influencers join in, we share that with our advocates so they can witness just how their contributions resonate with the community.
By identifying the biggest obstacles and dedicating time to work with each social media advocate, we are building both a strong social voice and confident peers for new social media advocates!