Monday, January 25, 2010

Blog and Twitter standards for social media managers

Every day, I run through lists of "standards" and "procedures" I have created for myself as a manager of social media for an organization. I do this without really thinking about it. I have a list of tactics and minimum expectations that my boss and I set and agreed upon months ago, but I find it interesting because when I first learned Search Engine Optimization or Pay Per Click Advertising, these "guidelines" came from a third party. I learned SEO and PPC about 5-6 years ago, and this was after experts had already emerged. Having tested and tweaked their processes for optimizing code and content or managing bids or editing ad copy, these experts set the stage for a suite of effective techniques that the rest of us could follow. Personally, I don't feel like social media is quite there yet. On one hand, the reason for this is due to the more creative and uniquely personalized nature of "social media" -- varying not only between e-commerce and B-to-B (for example) but also varying greatly between target market demographics such as industry and age, varying by desired action and then also varying by brand experience (how do you want your brand to look? creatively?).

So, given that all of that makes sense to you, I want to outline some of the standards that I feel generally work as a starting point for any company endeavoring to utilize social media to drive business results. From here, you can adjust your strategy accordingly. And by the way, isn't that just the fun of it all as marketers? In what other media do you feel we have been able to uniquely tailor our strategy and approach to best suit the market and organization goals as much as we do in social media?

I'm going to go over my own personal tactical standards for blogging and Twitter use today - in the interest of hammering out a post I can actually publish today without it being too daunting -- and then will revisit things like Facebook and LinkedIn in a later post. 

  • The Value: I call our blogs the "home base" of content for our organization. Now, we do not have a lot of pages on the site changing frequently (i.e. product inventory coming and going) nor do we regularly change our capabilities -- all of the things we bring to an organization. This means that our blogs present a unique destination for my company's experts to present our knowledge, experiences and industry insights on a regulary basis. Blogs also have a tremendous impact on Search Engine Optimization because search engines love keyword-rich content, and they love new, fresh, unique content.
  • Standards for Quantity of Blogs: Have as many blogs as are relevant to a unique target and/or unique product, capability, solution or industry. We have three right now and we're working on launching more. If you run an e-commerce site, you might have a unique blog per category. This would certainly help with SEO efforts as well (siloing), but consider first your internal resources for upkeep, because keeping content fresh and relevant is more important than having a lot of blogs.
  • Standards for Quantity of Posts: Post at least 3 times per week. Personally, I would push for 5 times per week and would love to see a new post daily, but I think 3 is a floor to keep people subscribing, engaging, tweeting about your posts and coming back. Let your blog go more than 2 weeks without a new post, and your content becomes stale, subscribers may unsubscribe, and you may lose some credibility. Now, we all understand that "people get busy," and ideally, if your organization is operating on all cylinders, they'd never have time to blog for you, right! Well, I certainly write content for our blogs myself, but my job is to mobilize the real experts in the company toward generating content and spilling their unique experiences, insights and opinions onto WordPress, so I do what I can to keep them active without pulling them away from clients, who always come first. ;-)
    For a personal blog, and call me a hypocrite because I am, I suggest once per day. Chris Brogan posts at least once every day. In many instances, I have seen a direct correlation between frequency of blog posts and # of followers or traffic to the blog - as long as, of course, the content is useful, relevant and valuable.
  • Additional Blogging Check List: With every post, I ask myself the following questions before publishing or within an hour of posting:
    • Is there a relevant photo or graphic we can embed in this post?
    • Where would it make sense to add a link into the body copy? (Check your links after you publish a draft also.)
    • Can I turn anything in this post into a bulleted or numbered list? (People LOVE lists! Trust me.)
    • Can I add video (we use YouTube) or a slide show (we use to this blog post?
    • Can I reference the posts of any industry experts or colleagues whom I respect? (Props!)
    • Did I ask people to comment at the end of my post or throughout? Did I ask the reader questions to get them engaged?
    • Did I read through this one last time when finished in order to correct obvious grammatical or spelling errors?
    • Almost daily, I check all posts to see if any comments have been posted to any blog post. I always make sure our experts know about the comments so that they can reply and engage that user. If someone took the time out to comment on our blog, we owe them the acknowledgement and to answer their questions.

  • The Value: Twitter sits on the perimeter of our blogs to automatically tweet new blog posts and more importantly plays host to a uniquely active and engaged community of technology buyers (my target market) who are looking to discuss solutions, trends, strategies and more.  They use "hashtags" to help categorize their posts (how convenient!) and they want to talk to others. Largely, word of mouth advertising, though it remains strong off-line, is growing online and one of the most significant centers for this activity is on
  • Standards for Quantity of Twitter Accounts: Similar to blogs, referenced above, have as many Twitter accounts as you feel are relevant to an active Twitter community. Typically this means creating separate accounts by category (product/offering type), skill set / capability, or industry. We have even created an account based on a business partnership because there are so many people on Twitter looking to engage with this partner, plus, we have the unique content, experiences and insights to engage with them via our partnership. Again, and importantly, don't create a Twitter account if you can't maintain it, and follow something similar to my Standards for Quantity of Tweets as a maintenance rule. If you don't have the expertise or bandwidth internally (or with an agency) to get it done, don't start it.
  • Standards for Quantity of Tweets: My requirement is 2-3 times per day as a bare minimum but I try to hit somewhere around 7-10 tweets per day for my primary focus accounts. I am a little bit more relaxed with myself on the weekends because Twitter activity as a whole decreases on Saturdays and Sundays. I also try to avoid over-saturation, although this is less of a concern than not tweeting enough. Also, the concept of "can you tweet too many times per day such that you create too much noise and people end up tuning you out" is up for discussion.
  • Additional Twitter Check List:
    • Monitor all references by others made to your brand and your Twitter profiles: Respond appropriately and in a timely manner.
    • Talk about your self/brand/product less and others more. Mention what you have to offer when it's relevant and in an informative way. Those who relentlessly "advertise" or use "salesy", marketing messaging in their tweets get ignored quickly by the communities that I am used to engaging with. Trust me, you will not get far with it. Talk about the industry, the trends, and the knowledge - the product or solution will speak for itself through your wisdom.
    • Is there a relevant hash tag I can use? I ask this every single time I write any tweet.
    • Monitor hash tags and lists that are important to your business every single day. Use TweetDeck and/or CoTweet's Search Pad (I use both) to get live feeds of multiple hash tags at a time.
    • Reply to a few of the best posts within some of your followed hash tags every day or any time you have some time to spend monitoring your searches.
    • Shorten all URLs: I use but there are many that you can find to use.
    • Tweet during conferences and webinars using agreed upon hash tags.
    • Tweet about any and all events happening involving your company.
    • Be polite in everything you do and say. Be gracious, thanking others for their #FollowFridays and RTs, offer up help when questions are asked that you know the answer to, and congratulate others on their accomplishments (awards and recognition received, promotions, new jobs obtained, etc.).

That is all for now.

Am I forgetting anything? What are some of your standards and procedures for making sure you're getting the most out of social media for your organization or personal brand?

Keep in mind that what I have outlined in this post is mostly the "standards" (or, in many cases, the bare minimum) of daily activity guidelines that allow me to ensure that I am keeping my company active across blogging and Twitter, but there are additional techniques and strategies when it comes to creative campaigns and unique partnerships which I feel tend to best leverage these technologies toward greatest business benefit and compelling brand building.

Thanks for reading! -Erin
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