Do You Have To Be Active On Social Media? Do You Like Being Invited To A Party And Being Ignored?

From top global brands to local businesses many are jumping into social media by opening accounts. Opening a social media account is easy, staying active (be social) is the hard, yet very important part. Inactive social accounts are like inviting your fiends to a party, but then not talking to them.

How can you be active?

Be prepared. That is the advice from Imperial College of London’s Employee Social Media Guidelines. Before opening a social media account and inviting people, have some content ready for the first few days/weeks (tweets, posts, events, notifications etc.) Imperial suggests the information be interesting, relevant and useful, but not always all three. Then the college raises an important question that too many of us forget, “Do you have adequate time to dedicate to this?” Social media is an active conversation with your audience. You must be prepared to be social and spend the time doing it.

Brandginuity advises some simple ways to stay active even if you don’t want to invest the time to write a blog. You can search and filter news from the vast Internet and share what is relevant to your consumers in your field. Glean information of interest from: 1. Online news alerts. 2. Forums, other blogs and relevant message boards. 3. Content from your every day life (observations). 4. Reposts of great past content. 5. Ideas sparked by other posts. 6. Tidbits and history from your industry. There is value in filtering through content and presenting what you feel will be of interest to your target audience.

ClickZ offers further advice for building an active social media community. They say the key is giving your followers value and that value can take many forms. Start by learning what your customers like and then giving it to them. It can be videos, PDFs, photos, infographics, etc. Ask yourself, What’s in it for them? But simply answering questions, being consistent, and saying thank you can have a huge impact. Here are ClickZ’s top 5 suggestions: 1. Be transparent. 2. Be consistent. 3. Don’t blatantly sell. 4. Appreciate contributions. 5. Say thank you. Common sense, when you think about it from the perspective of being social in a personal context.

Where should you be active?

Deciding where to be active can be just as important as being active. It also can help you optimize your efforts. First let’s look at how top brands are using social platforms. The International Business Times reports that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube remain the most popular platforms globally and point out that Pinterest is more popular than Instagram. Vine, though very new platform, has also seen a lot of activity.

Search Engine Watch looks specifically at Fortune 500 companies and reports results from a new study to see how they are using (or not using) social media. Among these top performing organizations 77% have active Twitter accounts, 70% are on Facebook, 69% have a YouTube channel, 35% have Google+ pages, and 34% have active corporate blogs. Good to know, but the bottom line here is to do some individual research on your target consumer and find out where they are most active. Be active where they are active.

Still, Nigel Hollis from Millard Brown makes an excellent point to close off our topic, “Unless you have a clear rationale for why your brand should be active in social media, perhaps it would be better off not wasting time and resources on doing so.” That’s right. Don’t bother opening an account if you aren’t prepared to be active, but also don’t open an account if you are not sure how it fits into your business and marketing strategy. Too often too many of us treat social media as a separate project and not part of a coherent strategy. How does your social media fit with and leverage your traditional marketing efforts? If you don’t immediately know the answer, you need to go back and revaluate those efforts.

Before you throw a social media party, make sure the effort is strategic, integrated, and plan on being active.

Has PR Become An Unsustainable 24/7 Profession: Do We Really Need Social Media Mission Control Centers?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how social media affects our professional lives. One particular development has been in the back of my mind since I saw a keynote presentation at the WVU IMC INTEGRATE conference that has particular relevance to the Public Relations profession. Fred Cook, CEO, of PR firm GolinHarris spoke about the many changes in the industry and how his firm has adjusted to the digital revolution. In particular, he talked about a new 24 hour, 7 days a week social media monitoring lab they built to listen and respond to live consumer chat on behalf of their clients. I’ve kept thinking about how they staff the room. Like marketing and advertising, PR has not traditionally been an hourly, shift working profession. And GolinHarris is not alone in reacting this way to the 24 hour news cycle and 24 hour consumer chatter. London based Chapel PR  recently launched their own 24/7 rapid response social media listening lab for client Thomas Cook to monitor their 60+ global brands.

How is this changing the human side of the profession? In a Social Media Today interview, PR pro Bernice Burnside of Bvisible says, “The ‘Golden 24 hours’ within which a company needed and was expected to respond to issues has become the ‘Golden Hour.’” This 24/7, 1 hour response time expectation does raise the issue of possible overwork. Occasional all nighters is one thing, but marketing and communications departments and firms are not built like a customer service or operations department used to functioning at this level. An extreme case is the death of a 24-year-old Ogilvy PR employee in Beijing, who died of a heart attack at his desk. Ad Age reports there are rumors that the cause was overwork, but nothing has been confirmed.

And how much does all this around the clock listening cost anyway? PR Newswire did some calculations in this area. They estimated that is takes a typical PR Pro 8 hours a day to manually monitor social media and compile a clipbook including scanning sites, collecting clips, generating a data spreadsheet, plus analyzing and reporting. With the average PR Pro wage, this could cost $80,000 a year just for one employee for 1/3 of the day. Dave Folkens from TopRank Blog observes that when one upset customer on Facebook or an angry blogger can send a brand into a crisis mode, PR is in an “always on” mode. Certainly, PR has always had to deal with “on call” issues, but social media has expanded the potential complaints and the public visibility of these issues. Has it gone so far that “on call” has now become 24/7 shift work at the office?

Of course, not all of these 24 hour listening labs are being built-in PR firms. Some marketers have chosen to invest in their own internal social media monitoring centers with branded design and important names like “Mission Central.” For example, Gatorade has built a Mission Control room in the middle of their marketing department to monitor the brand in real-time across social media. Gatorade has used it to leverage a popular song in one of their commercials that was getting a lot of buzz, optimize landing pages to increase engagement and host live events such as a nutritionist answering consumer questions.

Still, does all this activity justify an elaborate, branded lab that is staffed 24/7? Gatorade admits that all the real-time data reported in Mission Control is also available to employees on their laptops. Perhaps deep down inside all of us, there is a childhood dream to work on something as critical as Mission Control at NASA. Or perhaps we all have seen Apollo 13 way too many times.