Are you thinking about incorporating social media into your communications strategy? Already have it and are wondering if you’re getting enough return on that investment? Social media is a great way to reach a wide range of people or a niche audience. However, it also requires a strategic approach. It’s not enough to simply be on social media. It behooves us to think about what we do on social media, how often, and what the end result is.
In my work, I think about this frequently. For each program and each agency, identifying which platform to utilize and how is a different calculation. There are however, are some common themes to keep in mind as you begin your evaluation: audience, program goal, and capacity.
Audience: The first question is always: who is your audience? The second question: Where are they? This may require some research and a refined sense of who your audience is but it’s extremely helpful to know where they are most active. Is it Facebook or Twitter? Perhaps it’s Instagram? In a similar vein, it’s also useful to think about how your audience engages. Are they driven by images or video or is text still best for your group?
Program goal: For many, the emergence of social media has meant that despite a program’s or agency’s goals, they must be active on social media. I agree and disagree with this statement. It is very true that in some respect, a presence on social media adds to an organization’s legitimacy. After all, we are in the age of asking the question, “If it’s not on Facebook, did it really happen?” (This is perhaps a slight exaggeration but comes close.) However, simply being present on a wide range of social media platforms without contributing content that is useful to your audience then becomes useless and risks making your organization look irrelevant. So you have to weigh what your end goal is with the platforms that will be most useful in getting you to that goal.
This brings me to the final piece of the puzzle:
Capacity: Social media might be free to use, but it is hardly light on resources. In order to have a presence online that your audience wants to engage in, not only do you have to create and disseminate quality content, but you must also monitor reactions, engage with your audience, follow the data and make changes as necessary. This is a full time job, if not more and too often, I see organizations throwing the communications or the social media role to someone as a side job to the full-time work they are already doing. Having a relevant presence online requires an investment and if your organization wants to be engaged in social media, you’ll need to dedicate resources to it. That being said, you must also calculate which platforms you need to be on and invest in making that presence a strong one. A balance of breadth and depth is required. Also, a realistic calculation about the time and effort it takes to make that happen and whether your organization has the resources to deploy to that effort.
Social media is awesome and in today’s world, it’s helping people connect in many different ways. When using it as an opportunity to get the word out about your organization however, you want to make sure that you’re putting in the resources on the front end so that you don’t end up on the wrong side of social media popularity. Have more thoughts and suggestions on how organizations should think about social media? Please share them below!