Thursday, September 02, 2010

Managing time on social media: "If I have just 5 hours a week..."

At a recent talk, one audience member wanted to know "What's the most efficient use of my time on social media if I have just five hours a week?"
Not a bad question, although it tells me that--like many in that audience--the questioner feels overwhelmed before she starts.  I put the question to the don't get caught Facebook page, and Emily Culbertson offered this thoroughgoing response that's a wonderful model if you have the same question. She admits this would probably take more than five hours, and the list is "roughly in priority order."  Her list is in boldface, below, and I've added a few notes of my own:

1. Understanding the overlap of their target audiences with each social media channel.   It's not a mistake that Culbertson's first two points focus on the audience--it's where you must begin. Here, she leapfrogs over the "where is my audience?" question, presuming you've done that research, to suggesting you get quickly to figuring out which audiences are on multiple social channels before you plunge in.  In other words, you must quickly get beyond the assumption that all you need to do is automate one feed in several social channels--if you have audience overlap, they'll get tired of hearing the same thing everywhere.

2. Listening for conversations and perceptions related to issues for their target audiences.  Again, a strategic point: Don't just listen. Listen for what your audience is talking about and what their perceptions are in relation to your topics and issues.  What are they sharing?  What questions are they asking? What opinions are they expressing? You'll have your finger on the pulse in a new way if you spend time each week doing this.

3. Following influencers and conversing with them.  Probe further on whom your audience members are following, tagging, bookmarking and sharing.  What pages do they "like?" To which topics are they responsive?  Once you have a handle on that, start some back-and-forth with active influencers. Ask them why they like something or whom else they'd recommend on one of your topics. Pay attention to their recommended follows.

4. Providing news and tips and cross-promoting organizations in them (and) in doing so, promoting their helplines (but probably not answering questions directly). The useful is prized in the social media world. Do you have something timely, new, practical? A faster path to information or the answer to a question? Share it, and if you can cross-promote your partners, funders and clients, so much the better for widening your circles of influence.  Whether you choose to answer questions directly will vary, depending on the type of advice you have to offer and your business model--but if there are some simple, straightforward answers you can share, go ahead.

5. Considering some type of mobile outreach to their audiences.  At a minimum, you'll want to make sure your web formats translate well to mobile devices, but she's suggesting something more here.  Using a portion of your time focused on the next big thing is time well spent making sure you don't get caught behind the curve.  So let this one be about research and planning, rather than execution, until you have a good sense of what you're looking to do.  (Emily notes this one might well break the five-hour limit, but it'll be time well spent, I think.)

I'd only add that you can whittle that schedule down to five hours a week once you've planned and thought through a few things: which channels are the ones where your audiences hang out, what information you have to share and what your goals are, among a few others.  Then, planning out your content and a schedule for producing it, and using all the scheduling tools available (and there are many) will be essential. With those under control, you can be using your five hours to explore, share and think through what's next.

This post came straight out of a discussion on don't get caught on Facebook, where I'm floating ideas and discussing them before they appear on the blog.  It's shaping up as a great networking community for communicators.  Hit "like" when you get there.

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1 comment:

Emily Culbertson said...

Thanks, Denise, as always, for making me look smarter than I am. I did make some presumptions that the folks knew their audiences and goals and also a little bit about their audiences' social media consumption habits, which if hadn't been covered, need to be first.

For item #4, I feel like the particular client in question (financial services for low-income families, if I recall correctly) is a little bit like health care. There's room for general tips and guidance, but you may not want to give an oversimplified answer or discuss an issue that's really not good public discourse in a public space, especially one with character limits. Organizations' milage may vary, of course. Comcast, for example, has done extremely well with this. But they spend a lot more than 5 hours/week.

Anyway, thanks for letting me spout and for providing your considerable, and considered, perspective!