Digital U for a Digital You 401 -- Know Your Limits

We’ve rounded the turn and are heading towards the home stretch now! We’ve identified who your customers actually are; we’ve determined who you actually are, and earlier this week we defined realistic goals to help you measure success.

Now comes what’s often the hardest part of all – knowing your limits.

This one’s a tough one. On one hand, I want to channel my inner Casey Kasem and tell you to “keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars,” but on the other hand – the more sensible, experienced, one – I want to encourage you to be realistic in your expectations and resources.

I’ll toss out another Jay-ism here, “Just because everyone can blog or write, doesn’t mean that everyone SHOULD.” Corporate blogs get a bad rap because of the people who write corporate blogs.

Scratch that. They get a bad rap because of the people who APPROVE corporate blogs.

Let me lay out a familiar, and sad, story. C-suite suit says, “You know, we should have a blog. Other companies do, I have a lot to say, let’s do it.”

The first blog post comes out. It’s a monument to Biz Speak. The C-suiter dumps out all of his or her favourite phrases about “improving synergies,” “maximizing resources,” “thinking outside of the box and taking advantage of low-hanging fruit,” and “how this blog represents a paradigm shift in our commitment to transparency.”

And, usually, that’s it. The poor communications/marketing person responsible for the blog starts stressing because there’s no indication that another post is coming – and even if it does, the content usually is the same, just with the clichés mixed up a bit.

Eventually, the blog becomes a ghost-written project. Sure, the C-suiter’s name and photo is still there, but the content has been written by someone else, routed through a serpentine approval process, and neutered by legal to the point where nothing entertaining, original, or of value to your customers is left.

And then the blog dies a slow death.

Replace “blog” with “Facebook page,” “Twitter feed,” or other “social networking tool” as you see fit. Generally, the rule applies.

But it doesn’t have to be that way – not for your blog and not for your site. The key is to manage expectations at the front, so that you don’t design yourself into a hole.

Yes, you may have the best intentions of updating your site’s news every day, but have you been doing it in the past? If not, who amongst your staff is going to have the time and/or ability to do this? Are you willing to hire someone? Do you have someone on staff who has shown the ability to write compelling, dynamic copy that’s going to grab your audience and keep ‘em coming back for more? And if you do, do they have the time?

It’s always great to update your site’s content regularly. And if you’re complementing your on and off-line presence with social media efforts, it’s even more imperative. But you have to be realistic. If it’s an add-on, an afterthought, or an additional role then that content creation quickly becomes a burden.

The old customer service adage states that you can “hear” a smile on the phone. The same is true for content. If you’re miserable creating it, the life will be sucked out of what appears on your site.

And the “who” is often as important as the “what.” Good social media is created by those who have a working understanding of all aspects of your company – or a willingness and ability to explore more. That’s why companies that hire interns or outsource their social networking efforts are often discouraged. The less one knows about a topic, the more superficial it becomes. The more superficial it is, the less your readers – both internally and externally – value it. And, in the end, your engagement numbers drop off the cliff.

Personally, I’m not a 100-per cent advocate of a full-time social media specialist – especially for smaller companies. But while you may not need someone doing the job full time, you do need to allow that person (or persons) to dedicate his or her full attention to the job during the dedicated time you're allotted.

It’s fine to add social media to a communications role, but make sure you’re willing to dedicate a few hours a day to the work (not consecutively, but understand that regular checking and updates are going to be part of the job). If your staff is already at the max – or, more likely, overworked, then asking them to assume social media responsibilities on top of it isn’t going to work.

That’s why determining your limits and tolerances will be two keys to your success. Start small and conservatively; don’t set unrealistic goals; and under-promise and over-perform.

  • If you think you can do a blog a week, commit to two blogs a month: If you do more, great, but chances are after the initial flurry of creativity and excitement wears off, you may find it a chore. 
  • Share the wealth: Maybe you have a few people throughout your organization that are interested in supporting your social media efforts! Empower them and use them. 
  • Use real-life examples to drive your content: Maybe your front-line staff is hearing the same questions or comments every day. Ask them to compile a list and use it to create your blog or Facebook posts or Tweets.
  • Understand slow and steady wins the race: You’re not going to change your business world tomorrow; there’s no value in buying thousands of “likes” to bump up your numbers. Just commit to creating quality, valuable content on a regular basis, and your results will be positive. After all, I’d rather have 10 engaged fans who are likely to act upon my recommendations, as opposed to 10,000 purchased ‘fans’ from Thailand who are never going to set foot in your bricks-and-mortar store!
  • Trust: Trust in the process; trust in your employees; and trust in your message. Your business is successful for a reason, so remember to use social media to amplify that fact – don’t obscure it by trying to be something you’re not.

The point of knowing your limits isn’t negative. Instead, by knowing your limits, being realistic about your abilities and resources, your potential for success is exponentially greater.

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