In Part 1 of this series, I discussed the slow evolution of my blogging habits. In Part 2, I focus on other social media efforts that I conduct personally or for our Milestone Documents service: Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
Like many of you, I’m sure, I was skeptical of Twitter when I first heard about it. I thought that a tool for short posts confined to 140 characters was a ridiculous proposition. Who could ever have time for such a thing?
Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to see the light. Twitter is now a part of my daily routine. It’s both enjoyable and highly instructive: it’s probably my chief source of information about my industry (educational publishing) and about higher education, business, and technology in general. That’s not to say that I’m terribly effective in using Twitter or engaging with others on it. One look at my follower count (some 530 or so at present) will tell you that.
I’m also responsible for managing our Milestone Documents Twitter account, although at present my activity there is really led by the Facebook efforts of Managing Editor Marcia Merryman-Means. More on that below. It’s probably not surprising that the MD Twitter account enjoys about the same level of (mediocre) success as my own, given that the same person is managing both. At present, we have about 550 followers on this account.
You’ve read it before, and it’s true: to be successful on Twitter, you have to spend the time to tweet frequently and be resolute about following people and brands of interest and engaging with them. It takes patience, effort, and doggedness.
Tools I use: For my daily Twitter activity, I mainly rely on Tweetdeck. On occasion, I find it’s useful to do certain activities directly on Twitter’s website. At home in the evenings or on weekends, however, I mostly monitor Twitter via Flipboard on my iPad.
Our Milestone Documents Facebook page has likewise been a challenge to maintain and to grow. At present, we have fewer than 200 “likes” on our page. On Facebook, as on Twitter, we have a fundamental conundrum: most of our site is behind a paywall. Social media thrives on links, and what good are links when people who click on them are met with a barrier? To make matters more complicated, most of our social media followers are high school educators, but most of our users are college students. That is a profound disconnect that we haven’t yet solved.
For both Facebook and Twitter, we recently switched to a monthly thematic focus for most of our posts. First, Marcia chooses a sensible theme from our content. (This month, for instance, she is spotlighting famous Supreme Court decisions.) Next, she creates an editorial calendar that shows which documents she will focus on each day of the month; as part of this step, she also identifies outside sites and projects of interest. As the last step in the process, she posts about the day’s document spotlight, and she follows this up with relevant links to other sites. I then use her posts to populate our Twitter feed.
Since adopting this model, we have seen an uptick in the number of “likes” on our Facebook page as well as the engagement with our posts by our fans. Nonetheless, the paywall barrier remains an issue, as does the disconnect between the content we post and the kinds of fans we have.
Going forward, it’s clear that we’ll need to figure out a way to produce content that is more meaningful to the college students who form the bulk of our users. With a new school year almost upon us, we’ve got a few ideas about how to adapt our approach.
I have a personal Google+ account, and I’ve also set up one for Milestone Documents. (I can’t even figure out how to embed links to those profiles, which says something about the difficulty of using Google+.) However, my engagement on both fronts is even more minimal than on Twitter. I know that some people and brands have had success with this tool, but from what I can tell, very few of our customers are using it. Perhaps it is never going to make sense for a niche brand like ours. The jury is out.
- You’ve got to commit the resources. Whether you’re working as an individual or on behalf of a company, being successful with social media requires time, effort, and consistency. If you are a small business like ours, you need to carefully weigh the necessary commitment against the potential benefits.
- You’ve got to align your content with your audience. This sounds simple, and for many people and brands, it probably is. But in our case, it’s not.
- Ultimately, it’s not about numbers. In the end, the goal isn’t really to have a ton of followers on Twitter, Facebook, or any other service. Instead, what really matters is the quality of the followers you do have and how well your content matches their needs.
My hope for our social media strategy is to continue refining our approach, tinkering and experimenting until we find one that works better for us. When we do that, our number of follows will grow organically, and their level of engagement with our content will rise in the same way.