I’m a little worried if I’m a canary and the people I work for are running a coal mine.
Let me explain…
Recently, I accepted an opportunity where the client’s entirety of a social media strategy was Twitter and a blog, both posting updates when time allowed. (In other words, infrequently.) I was asked to not only work with the tools given, but build on them and make something better, provided the resources were free. While I was there…
- Twitter went from occasional updates to three tweets a day, on average. The content included news stories, promotions over upcoming events, and special tweets featuring the client front and center.
- A new LinkedIn page launched, reaching a completely new audience from Twitter, also posting two-to-four updates throughout the day.
- On the dates of special events, both platforms would host images, quotes, and, if possible, video.
- Video, a medium completely new to this client, had reached enough demand for a Vimeo channel to launch.
- The client’s blog went from “a post when time allowed” to a managed editorial calendar, offering original weekly content.
After a lot of positive feedback and encouragement during my stay, I was told by my superiors they wanted a fresh start and new perspective on their digital strategy. Yep, I had been replaced. I respected their decision, left behind a detailed Communications plan (which included a look ahead to what I was planning), and hoped their new social media manager would take their digital presence to higher levels.
Within a month…
- The client’s Twitter account went back to the schedule before I had arrived. The new content included innocuous selfies, retweets, and memes. (Don’t get me wrong, I love a good meme. But three memes in a row? Representing a business?)
- The new LinkedIn account went silent.
- The blog now sporting weekly content went silent. (Its last post was edited and scheduled by me on my last day.)
- The new Vimeo account went silent.
Now here’s the weird thing: this kind of thing has happened before. Like, at three different places. Same pattern, too — I’m brought on to build a social media machine and maintain it only to be let go and have it completely unravel like a cheap knit sweater.
Canary and Cursed Tiki Theories™ aside, I think the problem is this strange belief that anybody can do what I do. The inconvenient truth about social media is that it isn’t all that simple. First thing, you need to be able to write with an understanding a platform’s style. The post you write for Facebook is not necessarily the same post you would have for Twitter, nor would you post the same way on Instagram as you would for LinkedIn. Another skill to have is basic graphic design. What makes a good photograph? When incorporating text, what’s a good use of negative space? What are the best dimensions for a quality, sharable image and what gives it balance? And two skills that are a huge bonus to have in your social media arsenal are audio and video production skills. Knowing how to produce audio and video gives you a big step up on others in this field as podcasting and streaming content consumers love to, well, consume.
And yeah, I have all those skills.
What I do may not be as intense as construction nor as stressful as brain surgery, but social media is a far cry from the cakewalk some perceive it to be; and yet it continuously tends to be made a low priority in many comms plans. That’s pretty ridiculous considering these stats from 2019…
- Twitter, the platform that was thought of as a forgotten pioneer now a toxic wasteland of spontaneous thoughts (White House residents not withstanding), sports 321 Million users monthly. There are 126 million users working the tweets on a daily basis. I’m one of them. (Washington Post)
- Instagram is the online platform of choice for 1 Billion active users. 71% of these users around the world are under 35 and 72% of these users are US teens. Don’t think, though, that “the Gram” (a Ballers reference) is all about “the yoots” (a Joe Pesci reference) as 35% of those online users are adults. (Hootsuite)
- And in the light of cavalier approaches to personal data, Facebook still remains the go-to platform with 2.41 billion active users, with 74% Americans using it daily without a care for their privacy. (Sprout Social, Statista)
- But what about my latest platform of interest, Twitch? Just about video games, you say? Well, keep in mind there are 15 million daily active viewers, with 55% of those viewers between the ages of 18-34. (Influencer Marketing Hub) Twitch now hosts coders, musicians, artists, and writers, all finding their audiences and enjoying both personal and statistical success.
And before anybody says anything, yes, the infographic on this page is from 2019…but released before Ninja made his switch, so yeah, I caught that.
This post might elicit some “Eh, Tee’s on his high horse. Social media ain’t that hard…” feedback, but I argue if social media comes easy to you, then it means that you’re comfortable with it. Social Media works for you, and that’s a major advantage when job hunting in Communications. In a professional setting, an understanding of how platforms work and what their potential is to a business, organization, or initiative is essential on both sides of the interviewing table. The person hiring should be serious about their social media, ready to invest into it and not be afraid to try new things. Make sure to ask about that. On the other side of the table, a qualified candidate should have a tool box of skills and a portfolio ready for review. (You do have social media portfolio, right? Yes, those are a thing.) And both parties should have a plan. Without vision or direction, social media — and all the sequential communications around it — is a rudderless boat with a broken Captain’s Wheel on the bridge. A plan agreed upon between client and comms professional is your first and essential step forward to success.
But if you find yourself in a situation as I am in, watching a lot of accomplishments and achievements collapse on itself like a cheap lawn chair, remember that it wasn’t your decision. It was someone else, higher on the ladder, who thought “Social media. Meh. My kids do that. How hard can it be?”
That answer might surprise you.