Photo By: Dept. of Energy and Climate Change

This past week, I had the distinct pleasure of presenting on a panel with Sarah Evans and Jeff Bodzewski for the Publicity Club of Chicago’s Education Series.

The initial discussion focused on using social media to maximize media relations efforts. Like any good panel, the conversation eventually took a new set of paths as audience questions popped up. With a mixed group of agency folks, nonprofit and corporate communicators alike, a few common social media questions surfaced that I thought would be good to address here.

1. I’m the sole person in my nonprofit’s communications department. Our executive director wants us to ramp up our online communications and social media efforts. Where am I supposed to find the time to manage this stuff?!

First off, you’re only human and you’re not alone. If you’re Executive Director is 100% behind social media, that’s a great start. That individual now also needs to recognize that an online communications strategy is not a single whimsical tactic but rather a key component of an organization’s overall communications strategy. As such, there needs to be realistic expectations established from the beginning as to what one person can reasonably manage.

Don’t be afraid to delegate. Though you don’t want your intern(s) running your online outreach, they can certainly be a huge asset for assisting with your daily listening and monitoring process, content planning and creation, etc.

Beth Kanter also posted a PowerPoint from Steve Heye last year that addresses some excellent tips:

Finding Time:

  • Start small and find what works for you
  • Set priorities on tools
  • Spend 15-30 minutes each morning reading or answering requests
  • Pick one day a week to spend one hour doing one of the following:
    -Writing a blog post
    -Expanding your network
    -Replying to other people’s questions

Using Time Wisely:

  • Take time everyday, don’t let it build up
  • Limit where you start
  • Learn to use filters
  • Take time to alter notification settings
  • Don’t join everything or friend everyone, it’s OK to say no
  • If you fall behind just do a dump

2. Social media, great. How in the world do I demonstrate that our social media efforts result in revenue?

Ahh, the great debate. Sure, we’d all like to be able to churn up tangible Dell-like results from our online efforts. Unfortunately, it’s rarely that clear-cut. The beauty of social media is that it is in fact very measurable from both a quantitative and qualitative standpoint.

The key to any good measurement program is benchmarks. Where are you starting from? X months later, where are you at? Have you impacted the bottom line and is your current strategy helping work toward your goals? If not, can you tweak and change your strategy and tactics to improve efforts?

Your focus may also not just be about $. Think about the amount of money you’re currently spending on advertising or to land that big story in the local paper. Is there a better integrated approach where X click-thrus to an actionable landing page will be more effective than X impressions in helping you reach your goals? Is there a long-term focus you can envision whereby an extensive advocate or brand ambassador base will help propel word-of-mouth for future outreach initiatives?

There is plenty to consider when framing measurement around your online communications plan.

3. My organization is facing a social media firestorm. We’ve got a presence across the board.

First step? Assess and document. Build a database of every location you find a presence and try to track down the individual or department responsible for the creation of that content piece.

Next, get everyone in the same room. In any case, it’s crucial to get all parties (PR/communications, marketing, sales, customer service, HR, etc.) together to open up discussion about different department goals. I’ll also add that you should invite representatives from departments that you think should be involved even if they may not realize it. It’s typically best to have a foundation that encompasses everyone so that needs can be addressed and properly incorporated into your strategy from the beginning.

This approach will typically help provide immediate structure and hierarchy, especially when a social media policy is put into place. Aside from internal structure, don’t react with immediate backlash to content pieces created by those outside of your company (e.g. a Facebook group or fan page created by fans of the brand). Assess the level of activity and type of communication taking place but also think about ways to embrace these folks. There is a good chance they will end up being your most important communications channel.


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