7 Survival Secrets for the Solo Social Media Marketer

In social media courses I teach I hear from a number of students that they are the only person who does social media at their company, or division, or department. I’ve shared my opinion about this before, as well as content from others. Social media should be integrated into other marketing and customer service efforts. It shouldn’t be a separate thing, managed independently by other staff. But, in practice, in many organizations, that is the case. It doesn’t matter what size of organization. Yes, it tends to be the case more frequently with smaller organizations, but it also happens in large ones. A large organization may have a focused marketing team that pushes out content on social channels, but leaves community management and customer service to members of different departments or product teams. In this article, I’m going to give you solo social media strategists tips and tools that will help you do your job the best you can, help you manage your daily tasks, and help find help -- both inside and outside your organization.  

The issues:

The challenges below are the ones I hear about most frequently from social media professionals in this situation:

  1. Responding to comments on social media posts. This includes thanking those providing positive feedback, and trying to respond effectively to those with negative feedback to turn negative situations positive, and promote a healthy brand image.
  2. Coordinating with customer service teams.  To address customer service and product issues that arrive through social channels.
  3. Creating content. This might include blog posts, pictures, or whatever is on the social media plan. This is especially true for smaller organizations, but is also true of larger ones.
  4. Creating follow-up content. Even if the marketing team is pushing out great marketing content, follow up content is often necessary. When the social media community asks for clarification or additional information it may be the single community manager who has to respond.
  5. Knowing what to do in difficult situations. Something happens online that is larger than their sphere of responsibility, but that they must respond to. For example, a problem that may necessitate a recall. Or a customer who claims that their privacy has been breached by actions of the company.  Or an advertisement for a product that is poorly timed, off color, or perceived as offensive. These types of situations can have public relation and brand health impacts far above the pay grade of the social media strategist whose job it is to respond. Moreover, a poor response can go viral and make a bad situation much worse. This is the point where the solo social media strategist really needs help from their organization.

So what can you do as a social media team of one to help yourself? See below.

1: Get tools to manage your daily tasks.

There are many social media management services (also called SMMS’s out there). You can see thiscomparison of 10 tools from Blue Fountain Media, and this list ofrecommended tools from Social Media Fuze, and 5 recommended tools from Social Media Data.  Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Buffer are some of the more popular ones, and they are on all of these lists. At CTC we use Hootsuite. When you’re considering tools look for the following:

  • Platforms they connect to: You need tools that can connect with, monitor, and post to the platforms that you use. An SMMS won’t do you that much good if it can manage Facebook, but not your Tumblr account.
  • The ability to manage company pages:  This is sometimes call posting and monitoring “depth.” Some tools can monitor and post to accounts, but not pages associated with accounts. This is especially important if you’re managing company pages on Facebook, LinkedIn and so forth.
  • Robust and easy content creation: Your tools should allow you to do everything you want to in your accounts including composing text, adding images, embedding videos and so forth.
  • Scheduling: It’s nice to be able to schedule content to post at the best times for the best fan and following interaction, we strongly recommend a tool that supports scheduling.
  • Automation: Lots of tools have different automation features such as automatic favoriting of retweets and auto-replies for following and so forth. Some things can be automated, some things should not be. Our recommendation, look into automation capabilities, but make sure to spend time interacting with your community, or your community will notice, and disengage.
  • Built in analytics: The tools should provide analytics that are at least on par with the analytics offered by the platforms you’re using. Look at the analytics provided, and information the tool can provide that will make your job easier.

When you’re considering tools, get the free trials and see which ones work the best for you in all aspects of your job. Test connection, content creation, community management, scheduling, automation, and analytics.

2: Get and use web analytics.

There are lots of web analytics services out there. We use and prefer Google Analytics, but services like Web Trends are also great. If your company uses a web analytics platform, get access to reports so you can analyze data that is relevant to you. If it doesn’t, consider implementing Google Analytics. If you’re not measuring traffic coming from social media activities on to site, you can’t measure the impact your social media activities are having.

Oh, once you get access, or get Google Analytics set up. Use it. Look at reports that show referrals from social media sites, and conversions from social media sources. If you don’t know how to set up Google Analytics or what reports to look at, get help.

3: Know and follow social media policy.

All organizations should have a social media policy. It protects the organization because it defines what is allowed and now allowed on the organization’s social media sites, and accounts. It protects the social media team members because it describes what they can, and cannot do as part of performing job related social media tasks. Remember that last issue I listed, knowing what to do in difficult situations?  The first thing you should do when you’re in a difficult situation or are attempting to navigate uncharted social media waters is consult your social media policy. It will tell you what you can’t so, and, hopefully, will give you guidance on how get help from other internal departments and resources. If you follow the policy, the organization will have a difficult time blaming you, even if you’ve made a mistake.

If your organization doesn’t have a social media policy, create one. 

4: Stay plugged in and know your internal contacts.

Both you and the organization have to accept the fact that everyone needs help now and again. Even if you’re a one person show.  If you’re in a large company, know who your contacts are in marketing, PR, customer service, and legal. When new marketing campaigns are launched, find out who the key points of contact are for the campaign, the technical points of contact for any products or services being marketed, and the key customer service contact related to the products and services being marketed.

If you’re in a small company, have a simple discussion with the leadership team. Ask them what types of social media related issues they want to be informed about urgently. By urgently I mean outside of normal reporting routines (yes you need to have a normal reporting routine, and no, annual reporting is not acceptable – go for bi-monthly at the longest). After you figure out what they want to hear about, tell them when you will need their help. You don’t need to go into specifics, or provide scary examples of how something going wrong and then viral can hurt the company. You should make absolutely sure that you can walk into the big boss’s office and say that you’re out of your element and need some help.

5: Put process in place.

Document what you do, how you do it, and how long everything takes. List any file, image, or knowledge base repositories that you find useful. Be thorough and comprehensive. Because, if you ever do get help (due to growth or some of my suggestions below) it will make it much easier to plug newcomers into social media activities. At a minimum you should be creating social media editorial calendars and action plans for content. 

6: Get help form your team.

One of the best ways to help yourself when you’re a team of one, is to work at not being a team of one. Get help from members of your team. If you have to create content, ask technical staff, executives, or marketing staff to write a blog post. If you are getting questions from the community on new products or services, reach out to the head of product marketing or technical staff for the product. Roll the questions up to them and form a question database that you can pull responses from in the future, or have a product chat in your communities and have those internal specialists sit in with you. Again, capture key questions and answers for use later. 

In all cases, make it easy for your fellow employees to help you. If you’ve done a good job with number 5, this will be easier for you. Ask their managers if they can devote a little time to help you out. Tell managers and employees how much time you’ll need from them, and then give them a generous schedule to complete their tasks. They still have a whole other job to do, so don’t make your tasks put a strain on other duties. Help them along the way by offering to find resources, review articles, and so forth. Be persistent, but easy to work with. Finally, thank them when they’re done. Buy them coffee, take them to lunch, find a simple way to say thank you.

7 Get yourself some interns.

Interns are great. These red shirts of the social media playground can be really helpful (don't know what a red shirt is?  Click here). I always recommend paying interns, but some organizations’ don’t. Even when paying, they can often be gotten very inexpensively.  They can write articles, and take on other social media related tasks. They can also provide skills you don’t have in-house such as graphic design, and videography services. These new skillsets might allow you to add graphics to your content, publish a few infographics, or even create some videos. If you have interns doing public facing tasks such as community management, make sure to train them well, and have them follow triage charts and policies you have in place. Interns can be an easy and inexpensive way to expand your team.


- Bob