By Stanford Smith, {grow} Contributing Columnist

I pray that you never find yourself in this position but I suspect that many “community managers” find themselves in a dire situation.

The numbers don’t look good. The social media conversation around your brand looks worse.  Even though you’ve put in a herculean effort, you always run out of time, money, and people.  The management team, already dubious about social media smells blood in the water.

How do you turn the ship around?  What can you do now that demonstrates that you have a grasp on the realities of your program and have a realistic strategy for getting back on track?

The first step is to understand why social media programs fail.  After you identify the pitfalls, you can devise a response.  Let’s start with the pitfalls.

Why Programs Suffer

Social Media programs sputter and fail for a variety of reasons.  There are several factors that are particularly lethal:

Checking the Box

There is tremendous pressure for businesses to “do something” with social media.  Marketing teams are forced to create platforms to check off their social box.  This often leads to fancy social profiles on Twitter and Facebook that lack meaningful content.  Worse sporadic updates to the platforms communicate the organization’s lack of commitment.

Wrong Objectives

Social media is still a relatively young discipline.  This makes it difficult to properly align social media’s capabilities with an organization’s objectives.  Often, the marketing team lumps social under a vague “brand awareness” goal.

This lack of clarity leads to confusion about content creation. Worse, wrong objectives often leads to poor (even unfair) evaluation of social media’s performance.  Bad evaluation leads to poor decisions creating a program death spiral.

Scarce Resources

Social media is resource intensive.  A well-resourced program includes copywriters, designers, metrics analysts, along with  support from other departments such as customer service, product marketing, etc..  Unfortunately, poorly performing programs are often staffed with junior-level people who lack broad marketing expertise and little authority to get management level buy in.

Crippled Content

It’s important to understand that social media is a tactic in an overall content marketing strategy.  Content Marketing relies on creating a steady flow of high-value information designed to build rapport, establish thought leadership, and pre-sell products.  Sporadic or non-existent content results in an anemic social program focused on rehashed information and generic updates.

A heavy reliance on social chatter tactics like facebook updates and Twitter tweets is a  tell-tale sign of a content starved social program.

What You Can Do Today

Find What’s Working

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.  Look through your metrics and find areas that show promise.  Look for social platforms that are delivering high-value traffic to your ecommerce and/or conversion pages.

Over the long-term it’s wise to rely on social platforms that you own such as your blog.  You have direct influence on a blog’s content and can quickly optimize its performance.  From there you can focus social platforms that generate high-value traffic.

Double Down on Success

Once you find an opportunity, dedicate resources (people and budget) to increase performance.  For example, if Pinterest drives high-quality traffic to your ecommerce website then increase content production for this platform.  Realigning your resources will boost traffic and offer more data for testingand optimization.

Sacrifice the Good to Promote The Great

Have the courage to pull resources from areas that are not working.  It’s important to focus your best talent and resources on platforms that deliver results.  I know from experience that It’s tough to postpone work or abandon a platform.  However focusing your team will create the performance required to lobby for additional resources and budget.  You’ll also gain valuable expertise (i.e. content production) needed to improve other social programs.

What You Should Do Tomorrow

I’ve learned that frank conversations with the management team is the only way to save a floundering social program over the long-term.  Many times the management team harbors misconceptions about the capability of social media.  Other times, C-Level executives are genuinely interested in social media but don’t know what it takes to create a successful program.

In both of these situations, you will need to commit to educating management and your peers.  Your initial efforts will consolidate resources and create successes, use these wins to gain credibility for future improvements.  I know of a social media manager that created an internal blog geared towards educating her team and management.  This effort was invaluable for building support, patience, and enthusiasm for her efforts.  You could do the same.

Your Turn

Which of these problems are crippling your social program.  Which of the solutions makes the most sense for your organization?

Contributing Columnist Stanford Smith obsesses about how to get passionate people’s blogs noticed and promoted at Pushing Social, except when he’s chasing large mouth bass!

 

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