Social Media is a Shelter Dog

This story seems to resonate in client presentations and trainings, so I wanted to include it here as well.

See that look of innocence below? It hasn’t always been that way. To be honest, this dog used to be a throbbing nuisance. A real pain in the ass. Her name is Trixy. Many would refer to her as a “rescue”, but I think that term is a slight to those who do actually bring others out of harm’s way. We didn’t chopper in past enemy lines. No shots were fired. My two-year-old may have been wearing camouflage shorts, but that’s more out of necessity to be cute rather than unseen. So, I’ll just say we picked her up from a local animal shelter.

Looking back, we now refer to the first several days with this dog as Hell Week. She was a total bitch. Our living room carpet transformed into a giant pee pad. She made a few escape attempts running with reckless abandon throughout the neighborhood leaving frightened children and irritated lawn care professionals in her wake. She even nipped at that two-year-old with the camo pants, and my five-year-old was severely annoyed by all things Trixy.

Prior to simply throwing our arms up and giving up completely, I made a call to a friend of mine – also our veterinarian. I explained all our troubles, and he quickly diagnosed the problem. It wasn’t Trixy. It was us. We weren’t walking her twice a day. We weren’t making any attempt to train her how to behave in the house. We weren’t playing with her often enough. Simply put, we weren’t taking the time necessary to love the newest member of our family.

Many business owners and social media managers express the same kinds of frustrations with their social media program. A common scenario looks a little like this: A few accounts are set up on some popular tools (Facebook, Twitter, et al). Those given responsibility for the program make an attempt to create content. This (often minimal) effort does not bear fruit, and a once promising campaign goes into hibernation.

Sound familiar? If so, here are a few tips to creating or reviving your social media program.

Pick An Objective: Social media is proven to do many different things: provide customer service, build loyalty with an existing customer base, create awareness amongst new groups of prospects and influencers, etc. Keep it simple and just choose one of these objectives to start. Ensure your campaign reflects that in all that you do as well as demonstrating what sets your business apart. Select the proper vehicles (see below)

Align Your Metrics: Once you have a social media marketing objective, you must find a way to determine success. Admittedly, this part is not easy. Each social media program is different, and yours will require different metrics than another. However, if your metrics center around your number of likes or followers, chances are you are off base. Focus on more meaningful metrics such as:

  • Lift in site traffic and search volume
  • Share of Voice
  • Views, shares or downloads of key content
  • Redemption of coupons or discounts promoted exclusively via social media
  • Increase in community participation

Please note that I’m not suggesting that you utilize all of the above. Carefully select the metrics that allow you to adequately answer the question, “what does success look like?”

Plan Your Posts: So much of the communication you have with your audience through social media is reactive – as any conversation would be. For that reason, I’m not a huge proponent of creating a regimented social media protocol with respect to your campaign content. However, I definitely recommend creating a social media editorial calendar of sorts. Doing so will help you evade scenarios in which your content is undefined. Identify specific topics and pieces of content that you’ll want to cover and publish over an extended period of time. Work with as many members of your organization to give your social media ed-cal breadth and an accurate representation of your message and brand. Here are some sample methods to create a reliable content schedule.

  • Create a list of 30+ questions your audience asks about you. Answer those questions with various content formats (text, photo, video) over an extended period within your campaign.
  • Rely on other sources like website analytics and search volume to uncover what topics and content types are already in high demand.
  • Align social media content with other advertising, earned media messages or seasonal aspects of your business so that there is consistency throughout your entire marketing program.

Get What You Give: Like most jobs, you really need to possess three qualities to perform social media marketing well: awareness, acumen and affection. ‘Awareness’ corresponds to your knowledge of the organization you support, its purpose and its role in the lives of your consumers and advocates. Additionally, social media acumen is required to perform the simple tasks required by the job whether they be technical, design oriented or simply call for an element of writer’s panache. Finally, and most importantly, you have to love this stuff. If you don’t, find someone else within the organization who can. All the background on the business and talent in the world does not replace passion for the gig.

That final piece is what really helped bring Trixy around. Rather, it helped bring us around. We committed religiously to caring for our dog. And she rewards us for it daily.

6 thoughts on “Social Media is a Shelter Dog

  1. Nice post, Chris, and your rescue dog story really puts a fine point on it: “It’s not them, it’s you.” A lot of people expect social media to be a magic bullet, and they’re doomed to disappointment.

  2. Thanks, Ed. So true. I cringe a little bit whenever I hear social media as a “free” marketing mechanism. SM requires time to do it well. Last time I checked, time still = money. I appreciate your comment!

  3. Very good post as many companies just don’t “get” the value of social marketing. Primarily what are their objectives and what is the game plan to acquiring those objectives. Takes time as you say and sticking with it.

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