Managing Social Media from the Outside

Outside-Channel-Manager-girl-peering-through-blindsSometimes an organization needs help managing social media channels.  Someone to plan and post content to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other channels as well monitor conversations and lead the way when customers ask questions or need help.

In these situations, organizations might turn to outside channel managers. They might lack that skillset in their internal team. Perhaps the organization has shifted their marketing communications’ team priorities. Or they might want an outside organization to help in coaching to a new level of proficiency. An outside channel manager can look objectively at the current practice and help develop stronger social relationships, better content flow and engage audiences with a set of fresh eyes.

It doesn’t matter why the organization needs an outside channel manager. What’s really important is that you can step in and accomplish your clients’ goals as an outside counselor. So how do you do that successfully from OUTSIDE the organization? With a sound strategy, smart processes and good communication, you can manage social media channels from the outside.

Sound Strategy Is the Key

You may be taking over channel management in the “muddy middle” of a transition or after the channels have started to slip.  It’s time to ask lots of questions. What were the goals and objectives for the networks? What’s working? What doesn’t seem to be hitting the mark?  If there is a planning document or strategy that framed their previous practice (assuming it will be shared with you), use it to frame next steps. Set some interim goals and objectives. We had one client who had lots of great opportunities for storytelling and great content too, but their output was inconsistent and infrequent.  By creating interim objectives for the level of output on each channel, we could see an immediate lift in the conversations on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The Right Tool for the Right Job

Finding the right tool to monitor, schedule and comment is necessary for efficient management from the outside. It’s important to match the size of the clients’ network needs and budget with a tool that will help you create efficiencies for them. And the tools change all the time! What you used for a project one year ago may not be the right choice. Make a decision on tools early, when your client has social media top of mind because in 2-3 months, they won’t be as eager to make the expenditure.

Communicating From the Outside

You have to be creative when communicating from the outside. Creating simple client touchpoints is important. One way to do that is to share wins as they happen– maybe that Twitter post got a huge number of retweets or you’ve never seen so many comments on a Facebook post or Instagram photo. Just as important is creating regular communication to report metrics and analyze the program. Depending on the size of the project and the clients’ needs, this could be weekly or monthly. A regular group email to the entire team goes a long way to keep everyone informed.

We’re Just Getting Started

There’s so much more to share about successfully managing social media channels from the outside.  We’re going to break down the outside channel manager best practices over the next three weeks and look at how to onboard successfully, how to source and schedule content and how to look at the social channels with an objective eye.

We’ll start next week with “The Warm Handoff.”

What strategies do you use to manage client channels from the outside? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Dog Days of Social Media: How to Survive a Summer Slump

A dog laying on his side Summer is in full swing and chances are, your fans and followers are not as engaged as they were a month or so ago. What’s a social media manager to do? In the midst of the dog days of summer, keep your channels humming by trying these 4 ideas.

Lighten Up

Change up the types of stories you are sharing in your channels. Think of it like you’re giving your content a mental vacation too. Link the season to your content and hold off on things like research or weightier stories until it’s time for “back to school.”

Time-Shift

Think about how YOUR summer schedule changes and now envision how it might change for your social network. Maybe it’s time to experiment with frequency and timing of your posts and stories. For one of my pages, all posts are scheduled in the evenings this time of year. For another, we consciously schedule timely posts on weekend mornings, when people are waking up, drinking coffee and planning their activities.

Try Something New

Since fewer fans are on your channels in the summer, now might be the time to experiment with something new or test a new approach that you can spend more time developing in the fall.

Plan Ahead

If you’re not already using an editorial calendar, now is a great time to start. Think ahead to September and start planning and entire 3 months’ worth of stories and posts now.

Trying at least one of these approaches will keep your social channels from a summer slump and ease you right into a productive September. Got any ideas on what you can try on your channels? Share them in the comments.

Your Social Strategy OR ‘Why Am I Doing This?’

Fran Stephenson doing a radio interview at the Solo PR Summit At the SoloPR Summit in Atlanta, I had the opportunity to talk with Brent Smith and Casey Colclough about Social Strategy for their Business In the Morning Podcast.

They had some interesting questions about the ROI of social media, channel selection for B2B versus B2C clients, and what to do with an abandoned Facebook page. Also, I got to chat about the why of your social strategy, which is perhaps the most important question of all. You can listen to the full interview here.

Do Facebook Ads Work for Microbrands?

Part 2 of the $100 Facebook Ad Experiment

Last week I wrote about how Facebook is pushing Brand Pages into advertising in order to preserve their reach to fans.  And I gave an example of the first ad I tested for a client.

The post I tested for my client, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, was really successful because they have an enthusiastic fan base and always offer compelling images of their animals. It’s not uncommon for 30 percent (or more) of their fans to see and interact with a cute animal post.

Since not every page has such high engagement, I decided to test the ad platform further on two pages which are relatively new and have much smaller numbers. And my budget was $100. Here’s what I found.

Solar Texas

Screen capture of Solar Texas Facebook Ad testThis small business in San Antonio is relatively new to Facebook and experimenting with reaching customers there. The owner has a good sense of who purchases his products, so was able to target that demographic when boosting posts. Over two weeks, we boosted 3 posts for $15 each. Before we started the experiment, he had 60 fans on his FB page and his posts were seen by 15-25 people per post. The advertised posts had thousands of views, dozens of clicks on the photos and some shares, too. He gained 12 new page likes – a 16 percent increase — in two weeks.

Why did it work?  Solar Texas has a reasonable idea about its customers. This will help target any type of advertising in the future, whether on Facebook or another platform. Also, the images were very aspirational, which probably enhanced their reach. But the results are small, so further testing on this platform might be a better indication of future success.

St. Francis Renaissance Faire

Screen capture of results of Renaissance Faire adThis is a one-day special event run by a local church.  Their Facebook page was less than a month old and it was a month until the actual event. The event organizers have a vague idea of their audience, and are hoping to grow the size of the event each year. Over two weeks’ time, we boosted three posts totaling $35 showing different features of the one-day event. Prior to our test, this page had 60 fans and a typical post was seen by 20-30. The advertising had huge reach — as high as 2300 on one ad. With each boosted post, additional clicks on the image were seen. But only one new page like came from the advertising.

Why didn’t it work? This event was so new that they were not well established on Facebook and in spite of changing the ad targets for each post, it didn’t enhance page growth or engagement. The images shown were from past fairs, which may have had an impact. By adjusting the demographics for each post, we were able to increase photo click-throughs. With further testing, we might have found the audience “sweet spot” before the event.

Was Our Test Successful?

Over the course of a month, with a budget of $100, we boosted posts for three different brand pages. The first, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch’s Giraffe Bomb photo, had widespread appeal and delivered high engagement and new fans to the page. The second, a series of three posts for Solar Texas, also had widespread appeal and delivered some new fans to the page. The third, for the St. Francis Renaissance Faire, got wide views but had little page impact.

While this is a small test, it shows that a well-established brand page like Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch can benefit from adding Facebook advertising into its overall strategy. What is less clear is if that same opportunity exists for smaller brands. The Solar Texas page had more growth than the Renaissance Faire page, but there may be other factors which need to be resolved for these pages to increase their success. Targeting the right audience, having great photos and the timing and frequency of page posts all contribute to the success of brand pages on Facebook.

Have you been testing ads on Facebook for really small brands? What have you found to be successful?

The $100 Facebook Ad Experiment

The stage has been set in the last 6 months for brand pages on Facebook to change radically. I’ve been watching this trend on behalf of my clients and it’s hard to resist the “Sky is Falling” nature of the discussion.  An Ad Age article that appeared in December uncovered what a lot of practitioners had suspected for months:  Facebook is deliberately suppressing organic reach of posts in order to create an ad-rich environment to enhance its profitability.

The main reason to acquire fans isn’t to build a free distribution channel for content; it’s to make future Facebook ads work better.–Ad Age.

If you’ve been using Facebook for any length of time and have tried to keep up with the latest trends, this is completely the opposite of what many PR practitioners have adopted: create good content, target your audience, and your Facebook page will grow through fan engagement.

A Forbes article last month quoted a new study by Ogilvy looking at brand pages which are averaging 6% organic reach and predicts that those same pages will soon have zero reach.  Yes, zero.

“Brands are going to have to be more strategic in their use of Facebook, and think carefully about the content they are creating, when they post, and how they promote that post across Facebook’s network.” said Evan Spence, in the Forbes article.

This was an “aha” moment for me. It’s time to start testing Facebook ads to see what will work for my clients.  But a PR person buying ads? WHAT? No way!Giraffe photo bombing at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch

I got a shot of confidence from Arik Hanson, who presented at the Annual Solo PR Summit in February. Arik is a PR practitioner in Minnesota who widely adopted a blend of organic and paid content for clients on Facebook last year.  You can read his post and see his slide deck here.

There were two things I took away from his presentation.  With a Facebook ad, you can amplify something that already resonates with your fans, and you have an opportunity to give fans what they want. During his presentation, I conducted my first test with the post you see here.

This photo post of a giraffe “photo bombing” the camera was taken by my client, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch on a day when we were experiencing a rarity in south Texas – snow! It had already been seen by 50,000 people and been shared more than 700 times when I decided to spend $25 to boost it. Once I did, the photo was seen by an additional 22,000, was shared 120 more times and got numerous comments and likes. The big payoff?  172 new fans that week.

Why did it work?  First, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch has a very enthusiastic fan base. Second, the photo was amazing and unusual. Third, people love giraffes (more than I ever realized).

Bolstered by this success, I next tested ads for two completely different pages, one for a brand-new page that promoted a once-per-year event and another for a small business in San Antonio.  On Tuesday, I will post the results of those two tests.

Are you testing any advertising options on Facebook? Seen any results?

Think Like An Entrepreneur: Use Free Stuff

Facebook Page for Yorktown MovieWhat if your next project had zero marketing budget?  If you only had your time and free channels, how would you use them? Think that’s impossible? Then you’re not thinking like many entrepreneurs, particularly those in cash-strapped creative industries.  Here’s the story of one entrepreneur who found success with free tools and no marketing budget.

Michael Felts didn’t spend years dreaming about being a filmmaker. But a series of events four years ago changed all that. I met Michael when he landed in my Introduction to Mass Communication class at Northwest Vista College. He was already making his first film, Yorktown, and had already used the crowdfunding site Indiegogo to raise $5,000 of the $15,000 needed for the project.

When it came time to market the film, he created dedicated pages on Facebook and Twitter for Yorktown. Those were used to promote online ticket sales to the premiere at a local San Antonio theater.  But that’s not all. He unraveled licensing issues for the music for the film and created a playlist on Spotify. He also organized rentals and pre-purchases through Amazon video on Demand.

Group shot of the Yorktown Production Team

The Yorktown team at the Wrap Party

He left nothing on the table. A friend and student created the cover art for the DVD release, which won a contest on the Deviant Art website.

“I was not even a blip on the radar a few years ago,” says Felts. Today, he’s working on his fourth film project and writing the script for a 12 episode television series.

He had the right idea about marketing his film. He connected with people online AND in real life. This led him to people who would connect him to other people, like actors, location providers and bands.  This is the magic combination for many entrepreneurs and a successful formula that larger companies often forget.

Shooting a Scene for Yorktown the Movie

Michael Felts behind the camera on the Yorktown film set

With so much experience under his belt, Felts’ recommendation to other entrepreneurs is surprising.

“I would not have done anything differently when it came to our marketing, at least, not for our first feature film. The guerrilla tactics we used on Facebook to promote the film, coupled with being aloof about the content of the film, and the intentional meshing of character vs actor on the blogs and Facebook fan page, created a cult following of individuals who spread word of the film and had great enthusiasm for the project that we would not have had otherwise,” said Felts. “Yorktown became bigger than it was, not because it was a good film, but because people were able to come along for the ride.”

It’s no doubt that Michael will be taking his fans along for another wild ride on his next project,  titled “Ghost Hunting is a Drag” scheduled to begin production in June. He’s also working on a horror adaptation of the Wizard of Oz, to begin production in December. His company, Angry Otter Productions, is a great place to stay on top of his current projects.

Resolve NOT to Set and Forget Your Social Media Channels This Year

Do you see a lot of relatively inactive pages and channels in social media?  So many companies start with great enthusiasm, but before too long, they’ve abandoned their Facebook page or forgot their Twitter login or the person who set up the Instagram account has left and no one knows how to open it.  A client once told me: “I just want to build it and then let it run by itself.”

The challenge is that these channels are organic and they change rapidly. To really use social media to engage customers, volunteers, fans or other key stakeholders, you have to be there – preferably with enthusiasm and a plan.Avbandoned on Facebook

Batch Scheduling

Chances are you have other marketing programs in development, some months or even a year in advance.  Consider grouping your content related to those programs in batches to minimize your time commitment.  This works for thinks like changes in hours of operation, events and activities that happen regularly around the holidays and cyclical events like your Spring Clearance or an Easter sale.

Be a Dart Monitor

Set an alarm on your phone or a meeting notice on your desktop or revise the notifications on the channels where you have the most traffic and “dart” in to monitor, respond to comments and resolve issues.  This only works for small pages who are NOT doing their entire customer service outreach on social media channels.  By doing this 2-3 times per day, monitoring becomes part of your daily practice.

Take the Analytics Tonic

There are a LOT of analytics that come with social channels.  Set aside one hour each month to review the analytics, click through all the options and within 2-3 months, you will start to see trends and patterns emerge.  It might even set you on the road to measuring the progress of your social channels.

Find a New Flame

Is it time to add another voice or different thinking into your channel?  This is a sure way to breathe life into a stale FB page or static Pinterest account.

By creating content in batches, monitoring by “darting” into your channels, you won’t have to worry about “setting and forgetting” your social channels again.  If you also take time with analytics and new voices, you might even see your channels grow.

What tools can you share for keeping your social media efforts fresh?

 

 

When Should I Post on Facebook – The DIY Version

This is one of the most frequently asked questions by my clients.  And one for which many seem to want a simple answer, like 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

A year ago, some social media consultants firmly stated that 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. was the ideal time to post on Facebook. Some even have specific posting rules, like this blog post which urges you to “post on the 9s” – 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

The real answer used to be far more complicated for small organizations who are managing Facebook pages without the benefit of scheduling and analysis tools, but now you can do it yourself and, if you take some time to test and analyze, can find out which posts get the best results when your fans are online.

This is easier now with one of the enhancements on your Facebook Insights for Company Pages.  If you have a Company Page with 50 or more fans, you can see a chart like the one below by going to View Insights, then click on the Posts tab.

Example 1: New Fan Page

facebookchartsmallpage

This chart shows a new page which has just reached 50 fans.  It tells you which day of the week most of its fans are online and the second part of the graph shows the times which they are online.  If you hover over a day of the week, you get an additional line of information which tells you the activity for that specific day.  For this little page, the times of the week when most of the fans are online are:

Monday, 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Wednesday, noon and 3-6 p.m.

Friday, 3-6 p.m.

Example 2: Established Company Page

facebookchartlargepage

The second chart shows a larger page with more than 1,000 fans. For this page, the most number of fans are online during these days and times:

Wednesday, 4 – 9 p.m.

Friday, 3 – 9 p.m.

Saturday, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.

These two pages have no “optimum posting times” in common. That’s why the Insights are so valuable. So if you are a doing your social media campaigns without benefit of fancy tools, try posting during those times and see if you are getting a better reach.  To really test your theory, drop the stats for each post into a spreadsheet and you might even narrow it down further. But keep in mind that optimum posting times are not set in stone. The best day of the week or time of day can change from one month to the next. So what is the best time to post on YOUR Facebook page?

Double Up Your Social Media Content

Question_-2

If your organization has gotten into a good social media routine, monitoring channels, posting content regularly and seeing results, maybe it’s time to double up on your content output.

What do I mean by doubling up? If you’ve been posting two to three times per week on your channels, try doubling your output for a specified time period to see what effect this can have on your engagement and followers.

Here are three recent examples from my client channels.

Increasing Twitter Action

A health care client went from posting 2-3 times per week on Twitter.  When that schedule was adjusted to a daily posting schedule, the results were immediate. In the chart below, you can see the difference in activity from one month to the next.

 

Twitter

Clicks

Mentions

RTs

New Followers

Month 1

51

20

13

7

Month 2

215

39

20

50

Facebook Contest

A nonprofit client doubled their content output during a Facebook voting contest, which really changed their footprint during and after the contest. The table below shows the regular Facebook insights from that time period. The contest was held in Weeks 3-6. Notice the halo effect in week 7. If you compare week 8 with week 1, the page had a significantly higher reach overall.

 

Timeframe

New Likes

Talking About

Weekly Reach

Week 1

6

12

297

Week 2

2

23

580

Week 3

10

69

944

Week 4

19

65

993

Week 5

4

107

817

Week 6

59

124

13554

Week 7

37

78

14248

Week 8

7

56

1551

 

Double Posting on Facebook

A local brand accelerated their Facebook posting schedule to twice per day due to a large number of events during a holiday period.  Prior to doubling up, their average monthly engagement was 7%. During the accelerated posting month, their engagement rate soared to 17%.  They also gained fans and over the next few months, their engagement rates were 11-12%.

Think how you might double up your social media posting schedule but more importantly, see what happens to your channel and analyze the results.