So you want to be a social media rockstar? Pt. 1

By Stephen D. Forman (LTCA)

Long Term Care Associates, Inc.


The single most important thing you can do to boost your credibility using social media, while attracting and retaining followers, is to generate high-quality, relevant and interesting content.

Your new career

First of all, it’s not a bad gig. According to the Social Media Salary Guide produced by digital staffing agency Onward Search, a social media specialist can make $70-large, while the more-powerful social media strategist can bust the six-figure mark. Ultimately, the buck stops at the desk of the social media marketing manager, who nets an additional $10,000 for ... having the longest title on his business card?

The Internet is divided over whether a company should ever hire a self-professed social media guru. I’m not here to wade into that rat’s nest: My only expertise lies in sharing what I’ve learned as a DIY-er.

Advice which is common to both endeavors: Trust the experts. Whether you are about to launch your entire social media campaign, or merely seeking tips and tricks to increase the efficacy of an ongoing campaign, I recommend such reputable resources as Amy McIlwain, Carolyn Frith and great blogs such as www.goldencompass.com and http://garyvaynerchuk.com.

The same goes for Twitter's guide for businesses. Before you lay your first e-brick, this is a must read. Not only is this bible full of terrific case-studies and newbie advice, but it will also become your driver’s manual. Flout its rules and you may get ticketed!

We are a self-policing bunch, and part of the attraction of Twitter is keeping it Disneyland-free of garbage and clutter. If customers enter only to find it tagged with junk, spam, garbage and filth, they will quickly exit and not return.

No ads? Then what can I write?

The single most important thing you can do to boost your credibility, while attracting and retaining followers, is to generate high-quality, relevant and interesting content. Do not fail at job no. 1. The more success you have here, the more latitude you’ll be granted in terms of peppering in some self-promotion.

If Twitter is going to remain a safe and clean neighborhood where my customers are going to want to come to do business, then I have to do my part to pick up litter on the sidewalk in front of my online storefront.

A colleague of mine who blogs about such things is more forgiving: In his opinion, many social media violations occur without the knowledge of upper management. The job is casually handed off to an IT department guy or part-time PR intern, and before you know it, your company is being represented before the entire globe by someone with no greater sense of purpose than, “Look at me, I’m tweeting!”

No matter which service you choose, social media requires a delicate balance of:
    1) Someone with knowledge of your industry and products,

    2) Someone with authority to speak for your company, and

    3) Someone with a creative, amusing, unique voice.
Well, shoot! I may be our senior vice president, but I’m also about the only one qualified to take the chances necessary to stand out. If you check my company’s earliest tweets, you may find more humor and a more individual personality behind the brand.

Depending on time constraints, some weeks I find myself having to rely more on retweets than on composing new content. That’s a good technique to mix-in: RTs solidify relationships with colleagues, who over time will return the favor. Think of it as an online referral.

You — points to you — might be the ideal social media strategist for your company if you are like me: I already have to read bulletin after bulletin in my offline role at LTCA — this health briefing, that insurance department newsletter, this medical journal, that SEO blog. So it’s no great stretch to summarize these blurbs into 140 characters and Tweet them.

I would only add that it wasn’t until our own Lauren McNitt (ProducersWEB associate editor) turned me onto TweetDeck that my life finally got organized. (I’ve heard good things about Hootsuite, but haven't tried it.) For those of you who have been working directly from Twitter’s own interface and grown frustrated, let me sing from the rooftops that TweetDeck was a game changer for me. It’s a beautiful tool for visually organizing your lists, composing and scheduling your tweets, and much more. TweetDeck makes it easy.

A kid in a candy store

I understand how these social media tools can seem like children’s games: not only can they seem targeted to a younger generation, they can also seem fashionable and ephemeral. No sooner have you figured out your teenage daughter’s taste in music, than the next minute you’re a month behind — “Oh, dad!”

How soon before cutting-edge Pinterest goes the way of once searing-hot MySpace? Here’s one man’s decision-making process: When I first decided to make the leap into social media, I had to decide whether to devote my limited time and energy towards maintaining our Facebook page, LinkedIn, a Twitter account or our blog.

In the ideal world, one can do all four, but in the real world choices have to be made — human capital can easily stretch thin. Although the demographics tell me that seniors who would apply for long term care insurance are probably spending more time, in greater quantities, on Facebook, I made the decision — as in baseball — to “hit it where they ain’t.”

I want to be where they’re going, not where they are. Besides, one of the great things about Twitter is that I can pre-schedule my tweets a week (or much longer) in advance, giving the illusion of an always-on appearance whether I’m at the office, on vacation, it’s afterhours or the weekend.

Furthermore, Twitter can populate feeds in Facebook, LinkedIn, our blog, as well as our consumer and producer site (with customized content for each, if desired), which kills each of those birds with one, efficient stone.

I have real concerns regarding Facebook. It may be the 800-lb gorilla, but it’s a notorious privacy violator, extending its reach far offsite, while reluctant to correct any misdemeanors. Meanwhile, the giant follows such blunders with moves that plunge engagement with the site, while the prevailing sentiment can be paraphrased by this commenter, “No one likes it, but we’re only there because everyone else is there. As soon as something better comes along, we’re outta here!”

On the other hand, Twitter will survive. As I’ve written before, Twitter has too much public utility to be abandoned. This is a paramount consideration when determining which platform to invest your company’s time and energy in.

Now that you’re broadcasting, is anyone hearing you? Better yet, are they really listening and responding back? For the answers to both of these questions (“Isn’t social media supposed to be ... social?” and “What about the ROI?”) make sure you're following me to receive part two of this series, coming soon.