I recently told an acquaintance about my new job, and he laughed. Then he tried to figure out just what a Social Media Marketer does -- “So, you’re just on Twitter all day? Do you write comments that make people mad and stir up a controversy?” This is not an unusual reaction when discussing my job description. People may joke that it doesn’t sound like a real job, or that it’s easy or that they’re jealous. But for the record, I’m not just playing around online all day. Also, I don’t want to get fired, so I do my best to stay uncontroversial.
I knew nothing about social media marketing when I took this job. I knew little about the company I would now be working to promote. I was at a place where I was ready for a career change, but didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. Call it luck, coincidence, or kismet, but this job presented itself, and my wonderful boss took a chance on me. I was excited, but nervous too. Starting over can be overwhelming, and trying to jump in and learn as you go is overwhelming too. I had so many questions, and many more kept popping up. Do I really need to use hashtags? What are analytics and what do I do with them? What should I share today? What did I get myself into?
As I quickly learned, there is more to the job than may first appear. If you want to see results and do well, it involves more than sharing a link or a picture and calling it a day. You need to write, edit, research, strategize, analyze, and plan. You need to understand and serve your audience. You need to stay consistent, but also be flexible enough to keep up with changing social media customs.
If your organization wants to expand their social media game, or if you’ve been recruited to take over your nonprofit’s social media accounts, these basics will allow you to jump in and get started.
Learn best practices
There is no shortage of information available online. In fact, there is entirely too much to comb through. I read and researched everything I could find to get started. I was forging my own way and learning in bits and pieces, trying to find anything to guide me. For a structured beginner’s guide, both Hootsuite and EdX offer online Social Media Marketing training. The courses are comprehensive, and better yet, free. They begin with the basics of each social media platform, including how to start an account and how to post. The intermediate and advanced courses cover strategy, analytics, and planning. I found it helpful to understand the underlying objectives, and how to apply different strategies.
To stay organized and save time, use a content calendar and publishing tool. It’s easy to forget if you’ve already posted something, so using a simple spreadsheet in Excel or creating a more fancy content calendar will help you keep track of what to post and when. A calendar will also help you remember holidays, sale dates, and special events. Many social media managers use publishing tools like Hootsuite or Buffer. They keep all your accounts in one place, and allow you to plan and post ahead.
Stay informed and up-to-date
Once you’ve got the basic skills covered, it helps to read blogs and newsletters focused on both social media and your industry. These will help you stay current with news your audience will find interesting, and will help you continue growing your social media knowledge. My favorite resources include Social Media Examiner, Agora Pulse, and npENGAGE.
I’ve come a long way since my beginning days on the job, and even though my boss kindly calls me our Social Media Queen, I’m still learning. That is an integral part of it though, and one I enjoy. Social media requires patience, thoughtfulness, and a steady hand. It also requires constant learning and adjustments. While there is always something more to learn, these tools and resources are a great place to begin your own adventures in social media.