Last night I spoke about social media to the folks in the PR Certificate Program at the University of Washington. This is the 7th year I’ve done a presentation for them, and it never fails to astonish me how much the field of social media changes from year to year.
(This year’s presentation: Dancing with your Audience – UW – 2015)
The options for social media have become so complex, the tools for managing a social media program so sophisticated, and the demands on communicators so great, that it’s difficult to cover it all.
From talking with the students, many of whom are already working the field, I came away with the impression that organizations are overwhelmed. While companies realize that it’s now essential to have a social media plan and a social media program, they are vastly underestimating the resources required to execute even a basic social media program. (They are also overestimating what social media programs can accomplish, often regarding them as a magic solution to problems rooted in inadequate branding or poor customer service — but that’s another story.)
Organizations that are doing a good basic job of communication (branding, publications, website, etc.) are well positioned to undertake social media work. But if they don’t allocate the resources required to listen as well as talk, they’re headed for big trouble. Companies that fail to monitor and follow up not just on comments but on mentions are both losing opportunities and risking possible disaster. It used to be enough to moderate and answer comments on blogs. Today follow up involves tracking your company, your products, your field, your partners, and your competitors on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tumblr, Ello, Google+ and on and on and on.
It’s hard to imagine an effective social media program being administered by fewer than two full-time employees; large organizations that work directly with the public need correspondingly large teams.
I urged the students, some of whom are tasked with designing and managing social media programs, to ruthlessly focus their efforts on key audiences, suitable platforms, easy-to-use tools (including video), and significant messages.
And to think: seven years ago it was all about blogging and keywords.