Cutting corners on social media

I’ve been a part-time social media manager for a long time now. Other responsibilities and tasks have always made it hard to focus on the social media side of things. This is far from ideal. The stakes are high, opportunities to embarrass yourself and your organisation are plenty. There are opportunities to be seized and risks to be mitigated on social media platforms. To reap benefits, you have to engage. Yet, lots of managers throw social media responsibilities on people — often young people because they’re hip — as just another task in their job description.

 

If you’re a manager, DON’T DO THAT.

If you’ve been tasked with starting social media campaigns with little prior experience and an already full plate, there are corners you can cut and methods you can use. Remember, however, that corner-cutting always comes at a cost. As a beginner, you won’t be good right away. You should manage expectations.

Chances are, your organisation is going to social media because they want to acquire traffic. Temptations are strong to dive head first in a paid campaign and get results on the spot. You should never start with paid advertising on social media. It would be best to establish a strategy and a baseline presence. That way, you may gather a following that will be an asset for future efforts too.

Be honest and strategize

Be very honest with yourself about the time and attention you can devote to them. Open only channels you can sustain and nourish. Think hard about what you have to contribute and what your audience wants.

What will you publish, for whom, and where? These questions are the most important. Answers depend entirely on what you’re selling and your unique constraints. No shortcuts there.

Start by listening. Research your topics, find what you can provide, find people’s pain points. This will help you determine what to publish. Once you start on social media, never stop listening and adapting. Monitor answers, comments, messages and answer them.

Before you do any kind of paid advertising, publish non-self-promotion updates/links. You should be able to publish helpful or entertaining things at regular intervals. Paid campaigns can help you build a following. It will be more effective if there’s valuable content on your profiles. People will follow your profiles in larger numbers if you have a track record of enjoyable and useful content.

Listening tools

Since you’re time-constrained and/or busy, you won’t be able to gather information actively. You’ll have to rely on tools to monitor the conversation online and find links to share with your audiences.

Large organisations circulate press reviews. You should subscribe. It will give you an idea of the conversation around your organisation and, perhaps, give you links to share.

Google Alerts remains one of my most prized tools. Set up one or several of these. Relevant Google results will pour into your e-mail account. Use straight quotes and the operators AND and OR. Like so…

 

Be sure to play with the advanced settings (content types, language, …) until you get the best results.

Publishing tools

You should craft updates for each social network individually because each has its own culture and “traditions”. That’s the ideal. You’re time-constrained and/or busy so you may publish links and updates on several social media services at once using Hootsuite. Remain aware that updates tailored to specific networks are best. Make sure your updates work in all their contexts.

Hootsuite also makes it possible to schedule updates. Scheduling is antithetical to genuine conversation which makes it risky. Never do it more than a few days in advance. Social media should remain a conversation. When there are major world events or other ripples through your communities, you’ll have to change your plans. Remember…

  • Monitor the conversation and events closely.
  • Have a device that can access all your accounts and especially Hootsuite to delete/cancel updates with you at all times.
  • Give a trusted colleague access to the accounts in case of an emergency.

Be ready for the traffic you buy

Acquiring loads of traffic is the dream most organisations chase on social media. Getting hits on a page with incomplete information is a waste. People will turn around and leave in an eye blink the page doesn’t answer their questions. They will leave if they feel mislead, if the page doesn’t load fast enough, if it doesn’t capture their interest… Problems with your website content can annihilate all your efforts. Best make it good before directing tons of expensive traffic to it.

Work with the people who take care of that website to iron things out. Ask yourself and them… Once they get on this page, what do you want prospects to do? What is the end goal? You can try to get as many prospects to give you their contact information and have your sales team contact them. You may want prospects to send an application through a form or place an order. Decide on a desirable outcomes and trace the steps that’ll get you there.

You should have the basics of this process (the sales funnel) figured out before launching any campaign. You’ll never get it 100% right. Be ready to keep iterating and adapting forever.

Set up your analytics right

There’s money on the line. For each paid publication or ad, you should estimate how many sales you made, how many prospects decided to contact you, etc. depending on your end goal.

Make sure the site where the traffic from the social network will land has Google Analytics enabled. Your objectives (form completions, post-sales thank you pages…) should be set as goals. Get help from the website’s developer for that. Make sure the data is *actually* collected. Require access to all relevant analytics panels to keep an eye on things.

Google Analytics makes it possible to create unique URLs to differentiate traffic sources. For each paid publication, create a unique URL and you’ll know which paid publication generated the most traffic. It will permit to accurately follow which link was clicked. You can, therefore, compare various versions of your ad and campaigns. Use the URL creation tool from Google Analytics. Everything is explained in the detailed help section.

A word of caution… You will most probably have big discrepancies between numbers from Facebook Ad Manager and from Google Analytics. This may feel weird to you and your bosses. There’s not much you can do about that. Analytics are only indications. Most marketers have to accept this as a fact of life. There are various ways to explain these differences in this Quora thread.

Take your time and let algorithms take theirs.

The more time you have to prepare and execute a campaign, the more bang you’ll get for your buck. On the contrary, the less time you’ll have to invest, the more money it is going to take to get results. With enough sharp thinking in your targeting (the criteria used to select people you want to see your ad) and enough time for the social networks’ algorithms to test and optimise your campaign, clicks, likes, comments or video play will be cheaper.

If you feel overwhelmed by these notions, you understand why this is a job ;). Being a beginner at this stuff and be put in a position in which you have to perform is stressful, I know. Don’t get discouraged though: read articles online, make mistakes and correct them, get help…