Social media should be more than an add-on

Can you imagine a potter spending hours creating a beautiful pitcher then realizing he forgot to add a handle? The solution: slap a lump of clay on the neck and quickly finish it off. Crazy, right? But many organizations treat social media as if it is that lump of clay slapped on to the rest of their communications effort. If that’s you, here’s some advice. Put the social media down…and step away.

clay bottle

Many organizations are still behind the adoption curve regarding social media. In many cases it isn’t that they’ve resisted as much as they haven’t been in a position to aggressively pursue its addition to their overall marketing communications strategy. For instance, I’ve worked with some non-profits lately that simply haven’t had the resources to add personnel who can guide it, and other staff members have been too strapped for time to handle the additional responsibility–one they probably don’t fully understand.

But too their credit, organizations know social media needs to be a part of stakeholder communications so they dive in. Unfortunately their approach is more akin to slapping clay onto a pot when the integration of social media needs to be more like  threads woven into the tapestry of an overall communications strategy. Here are three practical considerations your organization can use to help make your social media strategy more effective.

1. Blow up your entire communications strategy…then remake it to include social media

Yep, that’s right, blow it up. If a potter is creating something and it isn’t right he doesn’t Jimmy Rig it to get by. He trashes the entire project and begins from scratch. More work? You bet it is, but by taking your communications strategy all the way down and building it back with social media as one of the building blocks, you ensure it is woven into your strategy as part of a larger picture. This actually makes it more effective in the longterm because it works in harmony with the rest of your communications goals.

Social media that get “lumped on” tend to be poorly used, under-used or begin to absorb a disproportionate amount of time because they begin to take on a life of their own. However, they can exponentially advance your strategy and add depth to your organizational presence when kept in balance with the rest of your communications strategy.

2. Limit your social media use to what you can handle

So many social media channels to choose from, so what to pick? Heck, let’s pick them all, right? NO! Not right. Too many organizations that have been slow to dive into social media feel they have to make up all the ground at once. They try to do too much, don’t do it well, and burn out quickly. It is much better to do a few things really well than do a lot poorly. Decide what you can do well and do it well, then grow.

3. Monitor as you go

It isn’t enough to just fire Tweets or Facebook posts off into the night and feel you’ve successfully launched into social media usage that advances the organizational message. There is a dangerous side to social media and that is a social media storm that could leave your brand reputation in shambles. It is important for you to develop means to monitor social media as you increase your engagement. Honestly, even if your organization never engaged social media as an outbound marketing tool, someone must monitor social media channels to understand what people are saying both positively and negatively about your organization. Neglect in this area invites disaster.

We are way beyond the point of social media needing to prove itself as a strategic and necessary element to  organizational communications strategies. However, for it to reach its full potential, it must be part of a plan and not an add-on to a plan. The goal is not to have social media. The goal is for it to advance the mission of the organization.

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