Don’t Go It Alone…You’re Not a Social Media Superstar

One of things you hear over and over is the concern about managing a Twitter account or a Facebook account and how do you deal with the influx of all those questions and comments. In many cases, the fear of not having time to actively respond is so great that it results in scaring agencies away from getting more involved in customer engagement (unknowns about policies do factor in as well). However, that fear is sometimes based on the assumption that “you’re the social media person” and you feel compelled to “be the one” doing all the facetweeting. Don’t kid yourself though…you’re not a social media superstar…and here’s some examples from my agency (USGS) on why you shouldn’t go it alone.

Takeaway: Get your customer service staff involved…don’t do it yourself. Engaging with the public is their job and they’re damn good at it.

Back in April 2008, the @USGS Twitter account was started. By March 2011 (3 years later) the account had ~80,000 followers. In March, we felt that adding in our customer service staff to the account and leveraging their knowledge and years of experience answering questions from the public would be of benefit to the account and our followers. Just 6 months later, the followers have almost doubled! Some will say the follower number is not an important stat in many cases—very true—but you can’t argue that it’s not related to the integration of our customer service.

In On November 29, 2010, the USGS started it’s Facebook Page. From the beginning, we knew it could not be done by one person alone. If you consider the various sciences we study—natural hazards, ecosystems, climate change, water, energy and minerals, environmental health, core science systems—you’ll know why there’s no one person who could respond to all the posts and comments. Knowing this, we integrated scientists, communications, and customer service employees into our page to help share great science and actively respond to any posts/comments. If we had attempted to run our page with just one or two people, we would’ve failed miserably.

Takeaway: Get your employees and experts involved…don’t do it yourself. They’re passionate about their job and will help grow your efforts in the positive direction you want.

By involving our employees, we’ve been able to maintain a vibrant forum of discussion and provide timely responses even through major hazard events like the Japan 9.0 Earthquake, flooding in the central U.S., and the recent #VAquake that rattled our Nation’s capitol…and is still generating discussion to this day.

Never forget that you can’t do this alone and your employees are your greatest asset. Just because you’re the social media person in your agency doesn’t mean you have to do it all yourself.

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Kevin Lanahan

Good post, Scott. At the Missouri Department of Conservation, we have about a dozen people answering Facebook, tweeting, posting on YouTube, blogging and more. There’s no way one person can be responsible for everything in an agency of any size.

But you’re still a social media superstar, no matter what you say.

Ines Mergel

Thanks for sharing this! I am always asked how much time it takes per day/week to respond, retweet and share information through Twitter and Facebook. Do you have any suggestions on how to respond to that? It must be much easier now that you have distributed the workload on many shoulders, but it seems there must still be someone who is taking the lead, actively pulling knowledge experts in and asking for a response from them? Do you have a daily schedule and what happens after hours, especially during emergency situations, like the recent earthquakes?

Scott Horvath

Those are great questions. As far as who is taking the lead in coordination then that would be me. The amount of time it takes to respond is really dependent on the event. On days where there’s nothing major occurring then we typically end up posting 3-8 tweets per day. We always have at least two people on the main Twitter account each day. One person is on throughout the week monitoring and some tweeting, while the other person is rotated each day and are typically spread out across the country. In total there are three people that are rotated on the weekly schedule and five that share rotation during the week. After hours is tricky. Many of us already use twitter already so while we don’t actively respond on weekend and after hours like we do during the week, we do still see what is flowing through and can choose to respond if we feel it’s justified to do so. On Facebook we will typically post on our own when we feel there is something we should share, but we try to keep in mind how much we’ve already posted during that day.

Response on Facebook happens as needed. Some actively browse the page throughout the day and others will rely upon notifications for everything. When a major event occurs, like an earthquake, then we all make sure that we’re paying attention at the same time to help cover each other. Because we have specific people that handle specific areas of science then we assume they will be the ones responding. But if they tell us they need backup or aren’t available then others will cover. We also communicate through various ways in order to stay in touch with each other.

Overall because the workload is distributed it doesn’t take a lot of time from each person to monitor, respond, and share.