Working with social media can sometimes feel quite overwhelming. The digital world is so vast and noisy that we are constantly asking ourselves ‘How do we know we’re using the best tactics?’ ‘What impact do we have and how can we measure our results?”
I have been part of a communications team working with CommsConsult to help one of their clients, the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, to raise the profile of the impressive work that they do, and to stimulate debate on the issues raised.
It’s been an exhilarating journey. The subject is fascinating, and increasingly important in today’s world.
Corruption takes many forms. It’s often thought of as a ‘developing country problem’ – and indeed it does cost developing countries US$1.26 trillion every year – but it exists everywhere. Corruption is a global problem. It costs both money and lives and international collaboration is the only way to defeat it. U4 provides a range of practical entry-points for countering corruption – through dialogue, publications, online training, workshops, and a helpdesk.
I’ve managed the organisation’s social media channels for the last six months. During that time we’ve achieved a significant increase in impressions and engagements on Twitter and Facebook, and our LinkedIn followers have more than doubled.
I’ve learned seven strong lessons in the process, which I offer here as ‘Top Tips’ for anyone looking after social media accounts – their own, their organisation’s, or for external clients.
- Create a strategy
If you don’t have a social media strategy in place already, take the time to create one – it’s worth it! Taking the time to do the research and establish goals is vital to communicate clearly your ambition and reflect on the progress you’re making as you embark on the journey. Having a strategy in place also lets you concentrate on your tactics and sets the right expectations with your client.
- Be flexible
As important as it is to have structure and a strategy in place, it is equally important to be open-minded and flexible when you’re working with social media. It’s important to use reflective learning and look at what is working well, acknowledge when it’s not, and change course accordingly.
- Measure progress
Reviewing your analytics regularly is important to understand what works and what doesn’t. Numbers don’t always give you all the answers: sometimes they raise more questions than answers! It is important to be realistic about what the data actually tells you. However, regular monitoring and evaluation sessions where you can discuss why certain things have worked well, and why some things might have not worked as well, have been key in the progress with U4. Regular ‘sensemaking’ conversations, where we look at the data with our client and ask ourselves: ‘What is happening here, and why?’ has allowed us to smarten our approach and learn as we go.
- Tagging can make a difference
Using @ to tag relevant people and organisations in your posts can work – but isn’t guaranteed. Sometimes, it results in nothing more than the @person or @organisation getting a notification and ignoring it (although you don’t know whether they take action down the road). At other times, it can have dramatic results, for example when someone with thousands of followers shares your post. This can lead to a big jump in engagement, reach, and even followers. Don’t go overboard with the tagging – it can be irritating for others being targeted – but don’t feel discouraged when your posts don’t get shared. As in all things, be strategic!
- Consistency of content
Consider supply and demand: as well as sharing your own content, think carefully and creatively about what your audience might be interested in seeing in your social media channels. Sharing posts from other accounts and mixing internal and external content is a great way to ensure a consistent flow of posts. It makes your feed more varied and gives your followers an idea of what other ideas and topics your organisation supports. Remember that in this increasingly noisy digital world we are all looking for trusted and reliable ‘brokers of information’ who can act as filters for what is interesting, current and useful.
- Being part of a bigger communications team
The CommsConsult communications team included an editor, who regularly produced content – both blogs and the more substantial papers for the U4 website. This helps enormously, because it allowed me to both know ahead of time when content was coming and to ‘unpack’ the stories to find suitable angles to communicate via social media. Being part of the bigger picture helped social media planning and scheduling.
- Information management organised by the client
Communicating regularly and efficiently with our client was made easy for our team from the first day. U4 invited us to a shared workspace (in this case Microsoft Teams) where we were able to have ‘closed loop’ conversations with authors; ask quick questions of the client (without adding to everyone’s email burden!); and see the proposed editorial schedule for weeks ahead. In addition, we spoke BRIEFLY at the same time each week to review work done; to crowdsource ideas for social media content; to alerts others to any red flags, etc.. Using U4’s way of managing information allowed me to get insights into publication processes and shortcuts to knowing all the essentials.