Some try to create a mystique around social media, suggesting SM has reached a maturity that only ‘the experts’ understand or that it is a tool only they should wield. Indeed, with a modicum of resourcefulness, one can find a number of video parodies online of such social-media expertise. Once we recall that most social-media technologies were developed by college kids pulling all-nighters before scaling up their models and opening up their data bases, the mystique of difficulty begins to dissipate.
That said, some forethought, planning, and training is certainly valuable, especially for a mission-based or philanthropic organization, before a social-media presence is built. Otherwise, small mistakes that appear merely clumsy in their own right multiply exponentially across the networks of the followers of your followers. If your business or neighborhood association is considering an expanded presence online, you might take comfort from the fact that even media giants like the PBS News Hour learned a few new things while trying to ramp up its SM outreach during the midterm elections.
Dave Gustafson, online editor of PBS’s News Hour, posted an account of his staff’s experiences on election night for PBS’s ‘AARP, The Huffington Post, etc for collaboration and comment on the proceedings, and keep up with Facebook and Twitter feeds as well as producing their own – all while keeping the video stream going via UStream.com. Whew!‘ blog. Their task was to produce the News Hour across four time zones with numerous electoral stories/outcomes relevant to each specific time zone, and prepare overall analysis, reach out to
He commented upon the growing maturity of social media and video technologies since 2008, when PBS first strove to incorporate them all into election coverage. And all that was four years after Facebook went public two years after Twitter came to the fore. Point being: the media being used on November 2nd was not untried or unfamiliar. That said, the crew still learned some things, and Mr. Gustafson has been kind enough to share his insights with all of us.
First: “Earlier, Wider Promotions — Our social media and promotions teams landed our elections coverage some great placements and media mentions this year. In 2012, we’ll start our outreach to potential partners and local stations even earlier.” Okay, I’m a ‘political junkie,’ but I still don’t like the idea that PBS is preparing for the 2012 elections already. Of course, many candidates are, so what can you do? Prepare!
Next: “Be All Things to All Visitors — Every person who visits our site seeks a different mixture of information.” Social media encourages recipients to expect to find what they want to find. Online technologies allow them to create their own ‘menus’ of information on your website – assuming you have prepared your web presence accordingly.
Finally: “Practice Makes Perfect — Just when you think the staff’s last pre-election live-blog rehearsal has perfected your workflow, one tiny detail proves you ever-so-wrong on the big night.” In Mr. Gustafson’s case, he ‘ended the event’ on his CoverItLive blog, which turned the reverse-chronological entries (newest entry at the top) back to chronological order (forcing readers to scroll down to see ‘how it ended.’).
His point is not to accept mistakes, but to appreciate the commitment required to get things right: get sharp minds producing content, get well-organized colleagues keeping the flows flowing, get the tech-savvy staff to keep an eye on the feeds, etc. His account is a fascinating report from the ‘trenches’ of a major news organization, but his advice is readily scalable to any organization looking to improve its SM offerings or even establish an SM presence going forward. Our next Perspectives is with Kristen Cambell, Director of Social Media and Outreach for the, who will also share some of her insights on producing SM outreach for a national organization. And we would love to hear any ‘war stories’ you would like to share with us about your organization’s uses of social media. Perhaps you’ll be our next guest on Perspectives?