5-step guide to save your failing social media program

Is your social media plan dying? Follow this advice to get it back on track.

I pray that you never find yourself in this position but I suspect that many community managers find themselves in a dire situation.

The numbers don’t look good. The social media conversation around your brand looks worse. Even though you’ve put in a herculean effort, you run out of time, money, and people. The management team, already dubious about social media, smells blood in the water.

How do you turn the ship around? How do you demonstrate that you know the realities of your program and have a realistic strategy for getting back on track?

The first step is to understand why social media programs fail. After you identify the pitfalls, you can devise a response.

1. Understand why your programs suffer.

Checking the box

There is tremendous pressure for businesses to “do something” with social media. Marketing teams are forced to create platforms to check off their social media box. This leads to fancy Twitter and Facebook profiles that lack meaningful content. Worse, sporadic updates to the platforms communicate the organization’s lack of commitment.

Wrong objectives

Social media is a relatively young discipline. This makes it difficult to properly align social media’s capabilities with an organization’s objectives. Often, the marketing team lumps social media under a vague “brand awareness” goal.

The lack of clarity causes confusion about content creation. Wrong objectives lead to a poor (even unfair) evaluation of social media’s performance. A bad evaluation leads to poor decisions and creates a program death spiral.

Scarce resources

Social media is resource intensive. A well-resourced program includes copywriters, designers, metrics analysts, and support from other departments such as customer service and product marketing. Poorly performing programs are often staffed with junior-level people who lack broad marketing expertise and little authority to get management level buy-in.

Crippled content

Social media is a tactic in an overall content marketing strategy. Content marketing relies on creating a steady flow of high-value information designed to build rapport, establish thought leadership, and pre-sell products. Sporadic or non-existent content results in an anemic social program focused on rehashed information and generic updates.

A heavy reliance on social chatter tactics like Facebook updates and tweets is a tell-tale sign of a content starved social program.

2. Find what’s working.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Look through your metrics and find areas that show promise. Look for social platforms that deliver high-value traffic to your e-commerce and conversion pages.

Over the long-term, it’s wise to rely on social platforms that you own such as your blog. You have direct influence on a blog’s content and can quickly optimize its performance. From there, focus on social platforms that elicit high-value traffic.

3. Double down on success.

Once you find an opportunity, dedicate resources (people and budget) to increase performance. For example, if Pinterest drives high-quality traffic to your e-commerce website, then increase content production for this platform. Realigning your resources will boost traffic and offer more data for testing and optimization.

4. Sacrifice the good to promote the great.

Pull resources from areas that are not working. Focus your best talent and resources on platforms that deliver results. It’s tough to postpone work or abandon a platform. However, focusing your team will create the performance required to lobby for additional resources and budget. You’ll also gain valuable expertise (i.e. content production) needed to improve other social programs.

5. Talk with the management team.

Frank conversations with the management team are the only way to save a floundering social program. Many times the management team harbors misconceptions about the capability of social media. Other times, C-level executives care about social media but don’t know what it takes to create a successful program.

In both of these situations, commit to educating management and your peers. Your initial efforts will consolidate resources and create successes. Use these wins to gain credibility for future improvements.

I know of a social media manager who created an internal blog geared towards educating her team and management. This effort was invaluable for building support, patience, and enthusiasm for her efforts. You could do the same.

Stanford Smith is a contributing columnist for Mark Schaefer’s grow blog, where a version of this article originally ran. (Image via)

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