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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!

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9 Comments

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  1. Tim Guest
    Thanks for the blog, there are some really good points here and many I can relate to.

    So many businesses say “We need a Social Media Strategy”. They do all the set up work but then lack content and don’t use it. A blog with no posts or a Twitter Account with only two tweets is actually worse than if they didn’t bother!

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    1. Carolyn Brock Post author
      You are right. A strategy must include a plan for soliciting and amplifying good content and keeping your channels fresh. Much of the content that you see on the ByDesign channels is there because my team is constantly contacting people directly and asking them to post. Over time these people get more comfortable and begin proactively posting. It’s a process.
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  2. Kumud Singh
    Hello,
    The blog certainly contains the major obstacles and proposes the solution too.
    Now many a times I feel that there are chances of getting misunderstood. Via twitter or other social media channels, most of the people don’t know each other (personally) and hence will comprehend the matter as per their understanding and not the way the person intended.This at times may lead to false impression. I believe clarity of the content can be solve this issue to an extent.

    Regards,
    Kumud

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    1. Tom Van Doorslaer
      I definitely agree with Kumud here.

      In that perspective it’s also very hard to not interpret criticism as negative. I’ve experienced it first hand as a blogger, but also through giving comments to other blogs.

      I always strive to give constructive feedback, not just by saying “Good job”, but at the same time adding extra’s. Like “Did you know you could use ABC as well?”.

      Often I notice the original author giving a very defensive reply to that in the sense “Of course I did, I already do this for X years you know.”

      It’s on one hand, knowing that there’s always more to learn, and on the other hand the need to prove yourself as an expert. Very difficult balance. I’m no super-expert either, so I might give feedback that is not applicable. Again an opportunity to learn.

      The trick is to welcome every single comment as a constructive challenge, even if you feel like it bit you in the ***.

      That’s difficult. I’ve had to swallow my pride too on occasions, but it’s the only way to elegantly accept criticism and turn it in your advantage.

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    2. Tom Van Doorslaer
      I definitely agree with Kumud here.

      In that perspective it’s also very hard to not interpret criticism as negative. I’ve experienced it first hand as a blogger, but also through giving comments to other blogs.

      I always strive to give constructive feedback, not just by saying “Good job”, but at the same time adding extra’s. Like “Did you know you could use ABC as well?”.

      Often I notice the original author giving a very defensive reply to that in the sense “Of course I did, I already do this for X years you know.”

      It’s on one hand, knowing that there’s always more to learn, and on the other hand the need to prove yourself as an expert. Very difficult balance. I’m no super-expert either, so I might give feedback that is not applicable. Again an opportunity to learn.

      The trick is to welcome every single comment as a constructive challenge, even if you feel like it bit you in the ***.

      That’s difficult. I’ve had to swallow my pride too on occasions, but it’s the only way to elegantly accept criticism and turn it in your advantage.

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      1. Carolyn Brock Post author
        As long as feedback is constructive it’s valuable. My goal in joining this community is to share what I’ve experienced and pick up new and better ways of doing things along the way. If I have to swallow my pride from time to time it’s a risk I’m willing to take!
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  3. Jim Spath
    Carolyn:
    If you don’t mention your twitter handle (@cmjbrock or @SAPByDesign) in your post, and this is your first contribution on the SAP Community Network (the social media channel of record in these parts), do you have the credibility to be considered an expert in this topic? Not that I am an expert by any means — I’m just one of the fire hoses.
    Jim
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    1. Carolyn Brock Post author
      Jim, you’ve actually hit on two great points, both of which will make great blog topics! The first is the concept of expert. I readily admit I am not an expert; I think of myself as a practitioner. I’m so pleased to be blogging here because I can share my experiences and get feedback that I can apply to my programs (and of course I hope my posts will add value to this community). The second point about my Twitter handles is spot on as well. I spend so much time looking after my ByDesign accounts I have neglected my personal Twitter and Facebook accounts. I’m not sure how I’ll resolve this – maybe this community will have some ideas.
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  4. Natascha Thomson
    Carolyn:

    you and Schalk are definitely front runners in the social media space.

    Thanks for summing up your experience so honestly and actionably.

    Best,

    Natascha

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