A place to share publicly releasable guidelines, templates, policies, etc. regarding government communication, including online communication.
Your Fear of Social Media—I Don’t Have the Staff or Money
October 21, 2011 at 1:01 pm #144197
Third in a series on the fear some people in government, associations and nonprofits express when whey contemplate social media.
I listened to one of my social media podcasts where they were discussing the fact that tech-related conferences were filled to the brim with new exhibitors. When asked why, they all agreed that the price of entry has decreased to a point where practically anyone can start a technology company.
Websites that one time cost anywhere from $5,00 to $50,000 dollars can now be had for free from WordPress.Com or other sources. Anyone can now create a professional-looking website using a paid theme (paid themes are like upscale frames of houses) and placing a “skin” (sort of like adding a high-end roof, siding and doors/windows) for as little as $300.00 total and that includes professional installation. These are very impressive , professional sites. This site and my other venture at http://mylifeaudio.com use skins tweaked and installed by http://designpx.net/.
Bandwidth (what powers a website) at one time cost tens of thousands of dollars. I negotiated a contract for my television shows ten years ago that cost $20,000 a year.
Now it costs from $7.00 to $10.00 a month.
I used to rent studio time for my radio shows. I now use a laptop computer and a mixing board and microphones and it costs me nothing beyond the purchase price. Digital audio recorders that once cost a month’s salary cost between $100 to $200.00 or less. Editing software for audio is inexpensive or free.
Video used to beyond the means of ninety-five percent of us. Now there are pocket cameras with high-definition that use external microphones that cost a little more than $100.00. Some public access stations will create 30 minute television shows for a couple hundred dollars.
Some computers come with easy to understand video editing software.
Public relations firms put a dollar value on everything they do. It’s not unusual for a social media site to create the equivalent of several hundred thousand dollars a year in marketing and public relations outreach.
It’s a brand new world where just about anyone can gain access to the Internet for peanuts.
But I Don’t Have Peanuts
But that’s not the problem, is it? You are going to claim that you don’t have a budget for any of this.
Governments, associations and nonprofits are struggling for every dollar. Few have a budget for something new.
But as I said, creating a website/blog through WordPress.Com costs you nothing. It’s outside of your organizational firewall so it has no impact on your IT department.
The cost of a digital recorder? The cost of a high definition camera? Less than $200.00 each.
The bottom-line is that all of this is affordable by any organization.
But I don’t have the time or staff to do this
You don’t have the time or staff to increase membership or donations? You don’t have the time to justify your budget or ask for more to create new initiatives?
If you get the assistance you need to create a social media presence from your local community college your time commitments to create are minimized.
You can create an article for your blog in 30 minutes.
You can record someone and place it on your website in another 30 minutes. Video is placed on YouTube for free.
Don’t have the time to respond to all inquiries? You won’t get a lot of feedback that requires significant chunks of time.
The bottom-line in all of this is that expenses have dramatically decreased to the point where just about anyone can create a social media platform; social media is affordable any organization.
October 21, 2011 at 1:58 pm #144231
Just because I have a scaple, doesn’t mean I am a surgon.
October 21, 2011 at 4:11 pm #144229
Good observation Tina. But the point remains that social media is affordable for those who want to do it.
October 21, 2011 at 8:10 pm #144227
The social web is the wild west. Your organizations reputation is out there to be discussed, commented upon, and banged around like a piniata. Being able to write FBML and manage a tweet deck and having been on facebook since it was MySpace does not make you a marketer, the same way that my owning a scalple does not make me a surgeon.
Consumers are stalked, targeted, algoed, re-targeted, sliced, diced and delivered in way that ten years ago, only an evil genius would have imagined. The force unleashed when technology and branding colided is evoloutinary. The massive consumer shift from hunting and gathering on the web to reliance on casual constellations of people exchanging information ala the watercooler is a profound, and at the core is an idea of trust and respect – the new digital comodity.
Marketing success comes from sophisticated strategies that involve harnessing the power of social media. Deftly managing consumer demographics, trends, behavior, user experience, value propositions, branding, messages and the two way conversation that is at social medias core are the skills that required to win in this space. Further, strategic messages are amplified effectively with orgizational policies that govern the social engangement that most of your staff is already doing. Listening is vital and understanding the scalability of successful campaigns are not just mental excercises.
I caution industry from investing too much time into a “if-you-build-it-they-will-come” social media strategy. I am not knocking Community College Students – there are a couple at my house now painting. Reach out to marketing experts to help guide the messages and deliver a high value, relevant user experience that creates affinity. Anything less is throwing your energy into the cocophany of noise that consumers are tuning out at alarming rates.
Or, just give away a lot of free stuff. But if you do, understand the difference between being popular and being relevant.
October 21, 2011 at 9:27 pm #144225
Hi Tina: I’ve been public through hosting television and radio for 20 years and I’ve been on the internet for 15 years.
Your experience has not been mine. It’s been 95 percent positive. Social has provided me the opportunity to talk to hundreds of thousands if not millions of people with zero repercussions.
All of this would have been impossible a short amount of time ago. Now, anyone can do it. To me, that’s nothing short of revolutionary.
October 24, 2011 at 1:18 pm #144223
Thanks for responding in another blog post, Tina, and taking the conversation to another level:
October 24, 2011 at 3:12 pm #144221
I read this as an attempt to push social media, by assuming the reason there is some hesitancy to use it has to do with “fear”. Social media is being pushed as a tool without proper thought, critical thinking, and understanding it’s strengths and drawbacks, because social media advocates aren’t interested intelling you why it’s a bad idea, particularly for government use.
And, It’s NOT free. It’s hugely costly to make it work, as evidenced by the thousands of companies that have abandoned their Facebook and Twitter profiles, and for one reason. It doesn’t work, or at least to make it work requires a huge input of time and energy, and it adds additional cost to whatever channels you already use.
Anyone can start a Facebook page. True. And without an outlay of cash. But getting people to read? Writing content on a regular, daily basis? Same for blogs, videos, the whole deal.
It may be that for some very narrow purposes, social media justifies the expense. But it’s all about results, and while their are success stories, they don’t provide the REAL costs of that success. What nobody considers is that the successes are very visible, and marketed through the roof, while the failures are invisible, because nobody wants to talk about how they failed with social media. Yet failure is the norm — no visitors, no interactions, and content not read.
October 24, 2011 at 3:17 pm #144219
Leonard, I’d love to see you provide evidence of the EFFECTIVENESS of social media.
It’s funny and accurate, your phrasing. You say:
“opportunity to talk to hundreds of thousands”
I bet. You think that talking is equivalent to being heard, a fundamental error that occurs all the time in social media. Take a look at the research on Facebook and Twitter response rates. Sure there’s zillions of people in those “audiences” but the vast majority of tweets and Facebook posts get NO response, and are not even seen, let alone remembered and acted upon.
If you think that “talking to” is communication, and it’s effective, you are simply wrong. If you think it “works” because you can talk to, and that’s all you care about, that’s just sad.
Social media can be a huge drain on resources, simply because it’s incredibly hard to make it work without constant tending, inviting, marketing and writing. It’s daily slog work.
October 24, 2011 at 7:34 pm #144217
Hi Robert: Agree to many of the things you say. There isn’t enough space in any article to hit all points.
But any person who puts up a website or social media site understands that there “is” a key audience who “will” interact you and the interaction “will” have an impact on your organization.
It’s quality, not quantity.
October 24, 2011 at 7:43 pm #144215
Hi Bob: The investment by the private sector in social media is growing by leaps and bounds. Why?
Shouldn’t government be as proactive in reaching out to citizens? Shouldn’t government offer an array of products that match learning styles?
It’s an offer to engage. It’s an offer to serve. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do?
October 26, 2011 at 12:23 pm #144213
We built software for sorting public comments (http://pcat.qdap.net) that grew into social media monitoring tools as well (http://discovertext.com). As with large numbers of public comments, the fear of social media overload is relieved when you have software optimized for handling large numbers of shorter items. Also, when you can archive in real time the social media flows relevant to your mission, the review of those items (whether public- of government-generated) user content, is an opportunity for learning, training and direct engagement.
October 26, 2011 at 1:23 pm #144211
We’re talking about communication, so quantity is an issue. One has to choose the most sensible communication methods based on what is most EFFECTIVE in reaching the target audience, and part of that is the quantity of people you ACTUALLY reach using a channel. And, whether your message is attended to, then read, then acted upon.
For many functions social media fails in this respect, and there’s enough good research to support that.
October 26, 2011 at 1:35 pm #144209
You are using the Forty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong Argument, which is what social media advocates do when they don’t have data to support their claims. It’s like this: “Everyone else is doing it, so it must be good”, which is clearly a poor way of mounting strategy.
I’ll be putting up a blog shortly on some facts about social media, but one of those is the preponderance of users coming from the marketing sector, using social media, and the support of social media coming from people, such as yourself, who are trying to make a living selling their “expertise” on it. (no insult intended).
Govloop is a great example showing the limitations of social media. 45,000 members, with a huge percentage of accounts abandoned, with many/most messages and posts coming from people like you and I, who aren’t in government. Most posts receive zero or close to zero comments. Communication? Not happening if you look at data.
As for learning styles, oops. I was involved in some of the early research on learning styles (Kolb) since my expertise and academic training is in Applied Psychology, and…well, I hate to tell you this, but the research doesn’t substantiate it’s use. It’s effectively been debunked, but since it’s pop psych., few notice.
Of course governments should be proactive in reaching out. But it’s NOT free. As for “offering”, I believe you are dead wrong. Governments can’t afford to use methods that don’t work, because they are not free in terms of time. Social media interactions don’t scale, and that’s a major problem. Which is why most organizations use it as a one way broadcast medium. Communication? Going both ways? No.
We have to look not at what we WANT people to do on social media, but what people ACTUALLY DO on social media to determine what it can be used effectively for, and what it cannot do.
Clearly there are uses that fit. Just because you have a hammer doesn’t mean you should use it to write letters with.
October 26, 2011 at 2:16 pm #144207
Hi Bob: First, I don’t make a dime off social media and to those I help, I do it for free.
There is so much evidence as to the growth of social that the benefits are self-evident. Your points are accurate that it’s not all it’s supposed to be which applies to every form of communication and advertising.
Not all are going to engage “but” the offer is there and many “do” engage.
Government, associations and nonprofits have a wonderful opportunity to communicate and serve. And it’s more affordable than ever.
The train left the station years ago. If you feel more comfortable on the platform, so be it.
October 26, 2011 at 2:43 pm #144205
The take-away message for me is that the barrier to entry in social media is low. Ten years ago it would take a sizable investment in hardware, software, bandwidth and time to make this happen. Now it just takes time.
If your job involves outreach, it makes sense to extend your outreach to social media. It is not a replacement technology; you don’t stop your email lists and other traditional communications tools. You simply add another tool to the mix.
Yes, it takes time and some expertise, and if you don’t have the communication skills you will not succeed. But when you do have those skills, social media is a great place to take them and reach that next segment of your audience.
Good post, Leonard.
October 26, 2011 at 3:24 pm #144203
Hi Stu: Thanks. For those that can afford them, monitoring tools are quite useful. For those who can’t, Google Alerts will have to suffice. Best, Len.
November 3, 2011 at 10:58 pm #144201
Someone once said that the greatest fear that people have with social media is the loss of control they feel at having the public interact with messages and tear them apart or build them up in ways that were not originally expected. But that is the beauty of social media. It releases the “power” from those giving the message and provides an avenue for the public, all of the public, to engage in a policy or issue conversation.
One further strength of social media is that it does not take a marketing expert to master. I would be skeptical of any “expert” who tries to convince someone of something otherwise.
And, regarding costs, social media does take resources to launch and maintain an effective campaign or effort. If real dollars are not used, then at least it does take extra time to build a following or craft messages that are actually effective. Organizations just have to be willing to give people the time it takes to make these things happen.
November 4, 2011 at 3:23 am #144199
Hi Donna: Greetings from the Blog World Social Media Conference in LA.
Very well put.
I did not mean to suggest that people should not use experts; I use a consultant to operate my private sites at http://leonardsipes.com and http://mylifeaudio.com (http://designpx.net/) “but” the point remains that social media “is” far less costly that it was just five years ago.
For my government site I used to rent a studio in a radio station to record my audio podcasts but now I use a MacBook Pro, a mixer and some michrophones. What used to cost a ton of money is now done for free beyond the cost of purchasing equipment.
Social media can be done by anyone willing to invest the time and effort to learn. I don’t have an ounce of formal training in social media yet we get 70,000 page views a month.
If I can do it (with assistance from my IT department) anyone can do it and that’s the beauty of social media.
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