by Clare Ellis
You know social media is good for business so you’ve signed up for all the major networks. You’ve gamely filled in your profile pages and set up your Facebook cover photo, Twitter feed, Pinterest boards. You’ve gotten people to join, like, and follow you. And in the beginning it’s kind of exciting to see how easy it is to create your own media channel. Hey, you’re in business!
Except now you’re also a publisher – in addition to being a farmer, business person, restaurant owner, or whatever it is that you really do. So on top of everything else you’re also responsible for making sure you’re producing a daily stream of content – and it’s a lot of work! Let me tell you, even if you’re in the media business it’s a lot of work.
This story is not about making content good enough to be liked, shared, and retweeted – that’s for another day. It’s about how to make sure the chore of feeding the social media beast doesn’t take over the rest of your life, and make you hate these otherwise great marketing tools.
So how to make it work? Create a system and stick to it. It’s as simple, and challenging, as that. Leave things to chance and you’ll end up spending way too much time prowling for content – trust me on this one.
Elements of success
Here are the basic elements of a decent media management plan. As you’ll see, it’s not rocket science. What’s most important is that whatever system you put together is something you can live with, from one manic week to the next.
1. Cultivate efficient content sources.
Make it easy to capture news. Take a smart phone/camera with you everywhere. Get used to writing down whatever strikes you as relevant to your brand – be it an interaction at the work, a comment from a customer, something you read, a random insight. If you don’t, you will forget it – and have nothing to post.
Find a reliable source of photos. Pictures rule and if you’re having trouble coming up with a few, check out Wikimedia Commons, one of crowd sourcing’s solid contributions to media. The picture (above) is a product of the service – and a great illustration of what will happen to you if you don’t get your media demands under control.
Customize a content aggregator. I’ve tried Stumble Upon, Digg, Reddit, and Delicious. They’re okay. A newer all-in-one-page solution that looks promising is paper.li, which lets you build your own newspaper. But my favorite aggregator for ease of use, organization, and breadth of sourcing isZite, a personalized magazine. (Unfortunately it’s only available to iphone and tablet users.) You’ll have to experiment to find which ones work for you.
Subscribe to newsletters from organizations you like. One big drawback is that the result is usually an overstuffed inbox that creates yet another sorting chore.
There’s always Google Alert. Program it to prompt you for topics of interest, people of interest, and your business name, of course. The downside is that the search is so broad you get a lot of dreck with the good stuff.
2. Set up a snag-and-store system. Choose one place to dump everything you collect. It can beGoogle Docs, a spreadsheet, a Word doc you keep on your desktop. You can even just email yourself links, photos, story ideas with “Facebook/Twitter” in the subject line. A far cooler way to snag & store is offered by Pinterest, which invites you to install a tool in your tool bar so you can pin photos as you browse. A social media tool called Buffer offers the same convenience.
3. Make the newsfeed your friend. Had a busy week? Not enough time to dig up fresh content? Enter the newsfeed, chock full of items that can be shared, retweeted, and repinned in an instant. Remember to give every “share” your own spin and credit where it’s due – after all, you just got a break on coming up with your own item.
4. Set up a regular time to post. Dedicate a time – either weekly or daily – to sort through your content and post/tweet/pin. It’s the best way to prevent nasty social media creep – that is, the condition whereby your publishing responsibilities take over and wreak havoc on the rest of your life.
5. Know when to use media management tools. The promise of these third party tools is that they let you schedule your posts, tweets, and updates ahead of time. But there’s a drawback – on Facebook anyway. By not entering updates directly you risk having your posts buried; the Facebook algorhythm gives third party apps lower priority in the newsfeed. Most experts who use third party tools do so in addition to posting directly.
Still, if you’re out of town or out in the field, posting something is better than not updating at all. And these tools work beautifully for Twitter. There are plenty to choose from, including Argyle Social, Buffer, dlvr.it, Networked Blogs, and Sprout Social. I’ll review three of the most widely used –Buffer, Crowdbooster and HootSuite – in an upcoming post. This one is already long enough!
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