Investing in Social Media

Social media is like a puppy.

It’s engaging, attention-grabbing and gets slobber all over your shirt. In this analogy, the slobber consists mostly of YouTube comments.

What’s better than one puppy? Ten puppies, of course.

If you had the time and money, let’s be honest, you would probably make a gigantic puppy pile to relieve post-work stress.

Much like a pile of puppies, social media is not free, and diverting your already limited resources to take care of 10 different outlets might not be such a great idea.

There is a common misconception that still resides in many agencies — even as we push further into the digital age of communication — that social media is easy and inexpensive.

After all, if a 10-year-old can run a social media account in their spare time, it can’t need the same resources as, say, a traditional marketing or customer service team.

But social media is important. It is crucial in maintaining your brand awareness in the digital age and doing what other forms of media can’t: interact.

The biggest mistake you can make is underestimating how much time, energy and skill actually go into maintaining consistent, branded social media engagement. It’s easy to write enough characters to make up a tweet. It’s even easier to retweet someone else.

Actually engaging with your brand consumers and generating original, interesting content can be as tricky as it is necessary.

But it definitely can be done with the right application of talent and resources.

Just look at Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which deals with countless applications that are sent in each university semester for tuition aid. On the last Wednesday of every month, FAFSA holds hugely successful #AskFAFSA Twitter chats to answer student financial aid questions in real time, featuring themes such as bilingual chats or veterans applying for aid.

In a DigitalGov article, “Great Service in 140 Characters,” FAFSA Digital Engagement Strategist Sandra Vuong explained how investing time and resources is a necessary element of digital age customer service:

“The positive of this event is reaching out to your audience and letting them know there are real people behind the screen, not just automated copy and paste answers.”

In February, I attended a Small Business Government Communicators Network event on social media in the government.

One of the popular questions among the crowd was a combination of “Why do we need social media?” and “OK — you’ve convinced us, but which platforms should we be on?”

Panelist Emily Dulkin — social media manager at the Peace Corps — made two excellent points:

  1. Make sure you don’t stretch yourself thin over too many social networks.
  2. Don’t underestimate how much time and skill it takes to maintain even a single platform.

Social media is the new customer service. It’s a way for consumers to quickly engage with a service and vice versa. It has the potential to offer a higher quality, more efficient, more personable interaction between your brand and your audience.

The key to finding which outlets are best for your brand has two parts.

  • Figuring out what platforms your target audience is using.

Do some research to find out which platforms suit which demographics. If you’re looking to interact with 20- to 35-year-old women, for example, Facebook will have what you need.

  • Finding out which platform suits your content output.

Panelist Paul Bove — digital strategist for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — cited the Department of the Interior as an example of this strategy. The Department of the Interior has a catalog of highly photogenic parks that suits them toward platforms like Instagram and Pinterest.

Not every brand, every agency or every government organization has the same output. You don’t need to be on the wave of every new social media trend just because it’s new. Find where your audience spends their time and don’t be afraid to engage with them.

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Categories: Digital