Social Media IRL (In Real Life)
Integrate Social Media … In Real Life
Integrate Social Media … In Real Life

There’s often a gap between the idea of social media (what can happen in your head) and the practice of social media (what happens in real life).

Maybe your “social media engagement strategy” seemed more solid in the PowerPoint presentation. The “monitoring station” seemed to work better during discussion meetings. And the enthusiasm has vanished from the honeymoon that followed your organization’s marriage to social media.

In other words, the ideas all sounded good, but getting the organization to change overnight was more difficult than it seemed it would be. No one actually wanted to digest a pie in the sky social media initiative so we just sort of took a bite, smiled, then spat it out when no one was looking.

Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but to say the least, our organization didn’t immediately “change” and apply a social media perspective to everything it does. But we actually shouldn’t want or expect them to.

It’s Not the Party It’s the Hangover

After the champagne toast on a social media campaign reality sets in and the daily activities required of a campaign go from being “fun things to do at work” to “just another chore I do at work,” the novelty wears thin along with people’s patience. You’re stuck at an awkward space between “getting started” and “getting traction.” (It is a sentiment best summarized in This is Why I’ll Never Be an Adult.)

Maybe we were asking too much. Or maybe what we’re asking isn’t being articulated clearly enough. The chasm between ideality and reality is caused by the fact that in real life, social media can’t be the center of attention in every scenario. In fact, it often has to take the back seat.

The trick is to embrace this reality and find smart ways to integrate social media into your organization’s real life. Here are some things to consider:

1. Many hands make light work

Image: photographybycalvincropley

Integrate social media components with other daily tasks done by the staff. Find people that are interested in getting involved and acquiring a completely new section in their skill set (it is marketable for them to get involved too, so don’t be afraid to spell out the benefits of their involvement in terms of increasing potential for success in their own career).

Find opportunities where social makes sense. Can your receptionist Tweet the answers to commonly asked questions received via the phone or website contact form? Does it make sense for your events staff to track down previous attendees on Twitter and connect with them? Would posting videos of your board meetings actually be a good idea for YouTube?

Different interaction points will make sense for different goals and priorities, but they are there to find at every organization.

2. Authenticity means everyone (or at least more than the Marketing Dept.)

Authenticity is when more than the marketing department joins in. Marketers are supposed to get it. We should be testing out new things, it’s our job to be communicating with the outside world. But that doesn’t always mean we have the best stories and perspective. Our challenge should be to find those people within our organization and give them the microphone.

In other words, the best marketing blogs aren’t exclusively the domain of marketers, they are open to the entire company, so tap into different departments across your organization and assemble a team with unique ideas, insights, and perspectives.

3. Remove anxiety as a barrier to entry

When people feel unsure as to how they are able to act, they tend to stay quiet to avoid unknown punishments. There is likely more perceived risk than reward, so employees may shy away from the opportunity.

To address this, provide written guidelines that allow people to easily understand company policy. Not only does this force you to go through the important exercise of thinking about what a company policy ought to include, it also develops a framework of decision-making that is void of vagueness and provides clear “what if” scenario navigation.

4. Take attendance and inventory

Once your team is assembled, take inventory of activity, accounts, and benchmarks of metrics. Take count of all involved accounts, even if it’s only someone’s personal Twitter account that promises to Tweet a handful of times per month. Make a list of the entire “team” of contributors.

These will be the people you contact when you’re looking to spread a message. Treat this information as you would your email subscriber information.

5. Set up social media monitoring stations and give everyone access

Map out all of the terms that your organization wants to pay attention to and list all of the pertinent blogs and news sources you and your colleagues need to follow. Organize them in a useful way and make them easily accessible to necessary parties (like using Google Alerts and Google Reader).

Individuals involved should tag, share, and save content. Archiving streams relevant to your industry can create a concise, personalized search engine of content particularly useful to your organization.

6. Create an editorial calendar and begin sharing content

develop an editorial calendar
Image: Yandel

Provide best practices and tips for creating Tweets, posting on Facebook, answering questions on Quora, uploading videos to YouTube, etc. Circulate your organization’s written social media guidelines and begin posting in regularly scheduled and random intervals. Try using Google Docs to manage any documents that might be helpful to anyone involved..

Have consistency in your social media interactions (weekly blog posts, daily Tweets, etc.) but also leave room for arbitrary, unplanned interaction. Make sure your content is edited for context, style, voice and tone and has been through a copyediting review if necessary. Your social media content should remain as high-quality as possible, as it offers a taste of what people can expect from the rest of your organization’s offerings.

Post regularly and monitor results, learn, and continue to explore new ways your organization can connect with people through social mechanisms.

The idea is not to take over all activities related to social media, or have social media revolutionize your company.

The idea is to connect your organization with social media at key places in ways that make sense and are realistic given your resources.

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About the Author

Andrew Hanelly
Andrew is SVP, Strategy for McMurry/TMG and for one semester in college, was a sociology major. He writes at Brain on Digital, as @hanelly on Twitter and here on Google+.
  • Thank you for the 6 considerations. It was really eye opening and helpful to me, and I am sure it's helpful to anyone that is going to read it.

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  • I found this post very insightful and helpful in developing my social media strategy. Thanks!

    • I'm glad that you did, Jeff. I hoped it could at least serve as a starting point that spoke in real terms instead of abstractions. Keep me posted on how it goes on Twitter!

  • This has given great insight into the minds of individuals working with social media. There is definite a difference between “the idea of social media” and “the practice of social media,” and, here, the line is drawn with a thick sharpie. The Authenticity challenge is a great recommendation and can lead to “unique ideas, insights, and perspectives,” where the “team” of contributors is a solid group and strategy to spread a message quickly and efficiently. This is simply brilliant!

    Cheers ☺
    Jen (& the PeopleBrowsr Team)

    • Thanks Jen – very nice of you to say! I wrote this sort of in response to a lot of conversations I have with people about how to bring social media from the 30,0000 foot view down to the trenches of real-life.

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  • Scott Kitchen

    Enjoyed the article, sound advice! Practicality is imperative for people in all organizations, and even more so for many small businesses (there’s simply fewer people to spread the love too)…… :)

    • Exactly! There is typically a chasm between “what should be done” and “what can be done.” If we address this head-on, we have a better chance of being successful. There's no value in planning a lot and doing nothing. There is value in planning a little and doing something. We'll never “find time” in abundance, we have to find it between the cracks. But most importantly, we just need to get into action. I see so many people NOT acting because they think they can't “do it right.” In reality, doing something little right now, is better than planning on doing a lot not right now.

  • Andrew,

    This post is a great reminder of the value of getting other groups and individuals involved with a company’s social media effort. As you mentioned, most groups within an organization will have a unique perspective on the market, a company’s product or service. Often these groups may bring a much richer and broader perspective of a customer’s aspirations, pain points and successes than the single view of marketing.

    I’m thinking of having a social media happy hour or something at our company, so that individuals, who are not normally involved, can try out some different things using social media in hopefully a safe and fun environment.

    Thanks for a great post!

  • Truth is, most people in an organization can think of things to offer readers of social media accounts, that's the main point you're trying to get across, which is right on target. The people who handle different tasks in an organization know their jobs better than anyone else, so they should have just as much input into the strategy as the main players.

    The “real life” aspect is especially true for smaller businesses, who have less resources to draw ideas from and manage tasks. Being in the trenches six months after initiating a social media strategy can be frustrating, since results sometimes take at least that long to show up.

    • ahanelly

      I agree, David, and that frustration leads to laziness or quitting and sort of demoralizes the whole crew. It's harder to be demoralized when you 1. aren't alone and 2. know that the thankless grind is actually planned (at first, anyway). Thanks for the comment!

  • Fantastic post Andrew!
    I don't have anything really vauable to add to this, but wanted to let you know that I will be sharing this with as many people as I possibly can.

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos (

    • ahanelly

      Sheldon, I appreciate that man! It was really just a consolidated wrap-up of a bunch of conversations I've been having with people over the past 6-9 months so I figured it was worth posting.

  • Andrew- Some great thoughts here, and I don't think many organizations would think to sort of “pass the microphone” among their members, but that's a great way to get quick answers instead of waiting for the designated “social media person” to get the question answered. You wouldn't hire one person to answer every phone call, letter, and email that came into the office because all but the smallest businesses are too busy for that, so why do the same in social? Monitoring stations are a great solution to that problem. Plus, with the inclusion of an editorial calendar, everyone stays (mostly) on task and responds quickly and orderly…just like a good fire drill. :)

    • ahanelly

      Exactly, Russell. Thanks for the comment.

  • Prchic007

    I sent this to a friend who does communications for her org. Her boss thinks only 2 posts a week- I told her to share this with her boss so she would get a clue! Great information!

  • This is a really refreshing post!

    'so we just sort of took a bite, smiled, then spat it out when no one was looking'

    I think this happens quite a lot, and it is partly down to that brilliantly put point you raised of social media becoming just another chore rather than one of the 'fun things to do at work'.

    It is great to read a blog post like this one, which doesn't just highlight the problem, but also provides useful solutions, here in ideas for how to get the rest of the company involved and contributing.

    I'll be looking forward to your next post! Thank you

    • Ahanelly

      Thanks, Claire, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I think there needs to be a shift toward practical seo, social media, email marketing, etc. What can an organization do and do well?

      • I think companies are catching up at the moment, but surprisingly not as quickly as I would expect! I honestly think the perception that Social Media is a passing fad is still difficult to shake initially, but once it has got through people are mostly receptive and interested. At the moment Social Media is battling against the same issues SEO was first faced with when it kicked off- being perceived as a 'dark art' with lots of people claiming to be 'experts'.

        An organisation can start listening and communicating well to begin with; everything else has to come on top of those building blocks I think.


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