Don’t Drive Before You Know How a Car Works

11 06 2009

I recently met with an organization, but beforehand, I examined their Twitter profile and ran them through TwitterGrader.  Their Twitter grade was an 80, they followed no one, and they had just over 100 people following them.  This organization has over 3000 members, and only 100 followers – and as it turns out, at least half the followers weren’t members anyway.

Unfortunately, this is very common with organizations and small businesses that have overburdened marketing or PR people trying to include social media in their plan.  Unless you have a full-time staffer working on just social media, it really makes sense to outsource the setup and maintenance of that aspect of your marketing plan; because it takes time to keep up a Facebook profile, a Twitter account, a blog, etc. and generally speaking, most small organizations don’t have the internal resources, or know-how, to effectively leverage dozens of social media outlets simultaneously.

The worst part is that a half-hearted attempt at social media can do more harm than good.  Any members that really wanted to follow this group’s Twitter probably dropped it after a few weeks of non-value-added content.  Now, you not only have to get new members to follow, but you have to re-win those old members.  Also, anyone who discovers the organization online is very likely to form some assumptions about the group from its online presence or lack thereof.  Call it reputation management, branding, whatever you like, if you look like you don’t have it together online, your online target audience is going to go elsewhere.

Just because you heard that [fill-in-the-blank] is the hottest new thing doesn’t mean you can just hop right in, create a profile, and be part of the next wave.  It’s like hopping into a car before learning how to drive: you know it’s the hottest thing out there for transportation, but you’re going to cause some damage if you don’t figure out how to use it first.

Social media takes as much planning as any other marketing or PR effort, and you need to consult someone who lives and breathes it if you really want to use it effectively.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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