Earlier this year I wrote a post on Facebook groups and fan pages that has become the most popular post on my blog, accounting for a significant amount of the total views. In that post I said a bit about generating content, talked a bit about it, but could definitely say more. Here was the basic outline.
* WHY it is going there
* WHERE it is coming from
* WHEN and how often new items should appear
* WHO is the target audience
* WHO is responsible for content
* HOW is the content getting there
WHY it is going there
There are several reasons to put content in your social media stream (blog, Facebook, page, media sharing sites, etcetera). Driving factors include supporting your vision, communicating a specific message, as part of a campaign or marketing push, in response to activities or queries in your community, and to sustain relationships. In your social media plan, you should have a vision statement, and any content should support that. The plan should also have some general guidelines about how often new content is released. You shouldn’t put up poor quality content just for the sake of meeting a deadline, but you also should not wait and wait for something to say while your audience gets bored and wanders off. Ideally, as part of your social media plan there will be goals for what you are hoping to achieve through the engagement with social media, and the content plan can flow from that.
Just as an aside, although I keep mentioning having a plan, these are not static cast-in-iron type plans, but more fluid evolving trees-and-leaves kind of plans. Your plans will shift in response to your environment and community. Make the plan, but don’t allow it to lock you up so that you can’t move and respond to changes in your environment.
WHERE it is coming from
When you are just getting started in social media it is an easy pitfall to think that everything you say has to be written new and custom just for the blog, or wherever else you plan to put it. That won’t work. Trying to do that quickly becomes so burdensome that some people just give up and quit, or else end up taking a lot of personal time to work on what ought to be handled during the regular business day. This post is not about work-life balance or limit setting, but I will say it is really useful to think to maximizing the impact of your message by placing it in many places and repeating it. For the record, this is exactly what you NEVER want to do with research articles, so it might take a little getting used to.
Let’s think about this. In your day-to-day work, you and your team generate a lot of content. Much of this can also be used in your social media environment, although you might want to slightly revise or style it for the different environments. Here are some ideas from my own experience.
In the library we teach a lot of classes and do workshops and brownbags. I had been making handouts for the classes. When I started doing a lot of social media, I started making the handouts into slide presentations. I do this whether or not I use the slides in teaching. More and more of the librarians have started to also do this. The slides can go into Slideshare. About half the time the audio is recorded for the presentations. That happens as part of a partnership with have with the School of Dentistry where they are experts with this. We have students sync the audio to the slides, and then we have both a podcast and a slidecast. The podcast goes into iTunesU and eventually either DeepBlue or BlueStream (our institutional online repositories). The presentation or slidecast can be embedded both on our webpage and in one or more of our blogs, with different messages around it for the different audiences of the various blogs. In theory we could also take the podcast and put it in YouTube.
workshop > slideshare > slidecast > podcast > iTunesU > YouTube > blog > webpage …
Let’s say there is a project going on, with a lot of research on related topics. Web searches, web pages, articles, bookmarking are all activities that are going on a LOT. Save the more satisfactory web searches as bookmarks, bookmark the articles, do the bookmarking in Delicious or some other social bookmarking took, share them with your colleagues, run an RSS feed for the tags relevant into a project wiki, possibly into a Twitter stream, and archive as a blogpost.
The basic idea is what work are you ALREADY DOING that can be used as is or repurposed to help keep your social media presence lively.
WHEN and how often new items should appear
Now, if your social media stream is already pretty lively, you may not want to overwhelm people by putting everything you do everywhere you go. You also need to watch folks around you in the various social media spaces to see what is normal or expected for that space. I talked about updating my status on Facebook relatively rarely compared to Twitter, only 2-4 times a day. The audience laughed. Most of them update their Facebook status once a day, if that often.
Some people I know have everything they bookmark sent to their Twitter. If I did that, I would double or quintuple my Twitter stream, which could get annoying really quickly. I have friends who do that, or who use their Twitter stream as a dumping ground for things they do in other places. If they do a blogpost a day, a dozen pictures in a Flickr a week, and bookmark a half dozen items a day, that isn’t too much for me. That is me personally, but I don’t look at everything said by everyone I follow.
So, with the idea that this is all highly variable, let’s say a rough estimate of something like this as a suggestion.
– Blog regularly, as long as folks know what to expect that can be defined loosely. Once a week, every other day, once a day are ok, probably no less often than that. If things move slowly in your area perhaps once a month, but realize that people probably won’t be watching for it. You might consider framing longer posting periods as if they are a newsletter or e-zine rather than a blog.
– Update Facebook status daily or every other day, check daily for messages and comments that you should reply to, and set preference to have alerts of messages sent to your email.
– Twitter or microblog at least once a day with your own substantive content (well, 100 characters worth, anyway). Retweet someone else’s good stuff at least twice for everytime you post something of your own. For each tweet or retweet comment on someone else’s stream that is talking about something relevant to yours. In addition, answer all tweets sent to you via direct message or reply or at-sign (@).
WHO is the target audience
Again, this comes firstly from your vision / mission statement, and second from your community and audience. Once you decide who your audience is, that will help you decide the tone you use, how clever, witty, humorous, down to earth, intellectual you are. It also helps shape the topics you choose and how frequently you talk on them. Watch your metrics, and that will help tell you what is working, what is connecting with people. That also tells you if you are connecting with your target audience. If you are consistently getting high views on the odd blogpost that is slightly off target, does that mean you are missing your target audience, or that your real audience is different than you expected?
WHO is responsible for content
The WHO can be interpreted in a few different ways. WHO can be the persona you want to have presented on behalf of the company, the personality. Who is that person, and who an present that personality on behalf of the company?
At the same time, WHO means who is the person deciding what is said, how it is said, and who is the actual person doing the typing. Are these the same person? It is like the old joke about needing a special person in your life who is a good cook, a good conversationalist, a good dancer, a good problem-solver, who you love curling up with at night, and don’t let these people know about each other. Except in social media you need them to all know each other and work together as a good team.
Please, please, please, do NOT make this all one person’s job. Well, I should say if you have a company with more than ten employees. Basically, if you have only one person doing this they will go on vacation, get sick, quit unexpectedly, have times when the rest of their job takes over and they just can’t manage all of the social media stuff as well. For enterprise accounts, you really want a small team with good oversight.
I know of many units on campus who are hiring students to do this, or assigning it to a junior administrative assistant . There are advantages and disadvantages to this. The advantage is that you can get started quickly, without the lead person having to take the time to learn how themselves, and at a lower salary. The disadvantages are many. One major one is that the lead person who decides what to say and why isn’t the person who knows the community and how they talk to each other. The person talking becomes known as The Public Face for the unit, and it can be awkward if that person doesn’t actually have the authority to make decisions or to grab the folks who can when needed. Whoever is actually doing the typing needs a close and trusted working relationship with the decisionmakers, needs oversight and feedback that they are representing the organization as desired, but also needs to be allowed and encouraged to speak freely as a real person, have real conversations and to build relationships with individuals in the community. Handled properly, this can be an opportunity for a junior person to become respected and valued.
HOW is the content getting there
Some content will need to be created for special purposes, which is time consuming and demands expertise, but gives a high quality product. Some of the content can be piped in automatically via RSS streams or tools for posting to multiple sites at once. This can get complicated and deserves to be a post all on its own, but for now think about the balance between how much content you want to have that is machine-driven and how much that is people-driven. These give different messages and are appropriate for different audiences. Which is right for you?