Five top tips for a new Social Media ‘practitioner’
Trying to explain Social Media is a bit like trying to describe what an elephant to someone who has never seen one. It encompasses technologies, humanities (psychology and sociology in particular), but is also critical to marketing and business strategies. If you are new to the industry, it can feel overwhelming and hard to distinguish signal from noise.
I am by no means an expert in the field. I started my career as an academic researching into the role of trust in Wikipedia’s success, then spent a few years in Yahoo! which provided me with a fantastic, global perspective on managing and designing for communities of scale. Currently at IPC Media we have over 50 brands for us to experiment and learn from. I’ve found that hands-on experience is still the best way to learn. Here I’m sharing with you my top tips that I wish I knew before I started my career:
1. Business Objectives:
Why would you need to learn more about Social Media? Whether you are running a charity or a multimillion business, Jeremiah Owyang‘s blog post on the Three Spheres of Web Strategy is great as a mental model for you to keep track on the ‘why’s. People spent time creating Twitter accounts and Facebook Pages, only then struggle to justify the time spent in growing and moderating the community. ‘How do we make money?’ Don’t ask that after you’ve invested your heart and soul. Start with your business objectives, then work out how these mediums enhance them. The other way rarely yields success. Make sure you have a goal and Social Media will be one of the many possible mediums to bring you closer to it.
2. Platform and Technologies
Knowing ‘why’ is the start, next: WHAT exactly is Social Media? If I am often skeptical to see yet another powerpoint slide with global reach of Twitter and Facebook in a business meeting. We all know that scale matters. But as practitioners, we should also understand WHAT Social Media is from the perspective of platforms and technologies. In our field, you MUST be a generalist. The top four core competencies:
- Basic understanding of web technologies and marketing (What is SEO? How do search engines find your content?)
- Social Platforms (to start with, focus on actionable tools, e.g. Facebook Pages and Best Practices with Twitter)
- Hubspot has been producing a lot of timely, extremely useful and actional guides, for FREE
- Start with Traffic Driving tips, SEO, Facebook and Beginner’s guide of Twitter for business, that’d be a good foundation
When you start getting the hang of it, take the tips and IMPLEMENT them. You only learn by doing.
3. Learn how to measure Success (and Failure)
Unfortunately we all have limited resources. Fortunately we can measure, enabling us to learn what works (do more!) and what doesn’t (do less or modify). Web analytics itself is a HUGE topic. I’d start with two key blog posts from Occam’s Razor (one of the best blogs in the industry): Beginners guide to Web Analytics and Social Media Analytics. Remember, although it’s important to follow your ‘gut instinct’, it never hurts to measure and track what works for your community (tying back to your business objectives).
4. User Experience
Sign up to Mark Hurst’s Good Experience Mailing list. I’ve talked you through the importance of business objectives and understanding technologies/platforms, and how to measure success. What about the customers? I started this post explaining Social Media has a lot to do with humanities. As practioners in this field we MUST care about our audience and what kind of needs they have, and how our business answers their needs. Hurst’s emails regularly remind me to put customers first. I always find the content inspiring and as a fun good read.
5. Encourage a Culture of Openness
Finally – Identify the starfish from the spiders, work with them, empower them, and learn from them. When I first joined Yahoo! I was this ‘naive thing’ that just went around asking questions and challenging day-to-day practices. One day an engineer said to me, ‘Cathy you are a starfish’. I thought he’s mad until I order a copy of the ‘The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations‘.
From that I realised there are people in business who ‘get it’, and are PASSIONATE, and would go that extra mile to make things better. They are the people that post content on Facebook that make your audience feel they belong. They are the people that would respond to ‘that’ Twitter feed at 2:30am when someone is slaying off your brands. Let them know they are special, and let them know you are grateful. Learn from them. Keep an open mind. The more I learn the harder I find it to blog, only because I know how much more I don’t know.
That’s it for today. Have I missed anything you think should make the top 5? (I’m sure I did!) Did you find this useful? What are your top tips? Let me know @cathyma!