Beth suggests five modules for implementing a social media plan: listening, participating, generating buzz, sharing your story and community building/social networking.
I’d like to throw out a few more time-consuming activities/categories:
- Learning. In addition to the time it takes to do the activities she lists, there is the time it takes to have acquired the knowledge to be able to do them in the first place. You have to know what tools are out there and not only how to use them, but how to use them for business–what you can and can’t do, and how to do it most effectively. This alone takes a huge amount of time—finding the blogs or books or webinars that will give you the information you need, then taking the time each and every day to stay on top of them. Every little thing needs to be researched before it can be implemented, and the whole thing keeps evolving so the learning curve never stops.
- Selling. Once you’ve acquired the knowledge—an ongoing and time-consuming activity in itself—you’ll be responsible for teaching others inside and outside your organization not only how they work, but why they’re necessary components of the social media strategy. This is even more time-consuming if you work for an association; not only do you have to convince and educate senior management and staff; you also have to convince members that social media is a benefit and worth investing their time in. It’s one thing if your staff and membership are predominantly young and already engaged in social networking; it’s another if none of them have even heard of Twitter or think Facebook is just for teenagers—that can be an uphill, time-consuming battle. After all, if your members aren’t engaged in a blog or social network, what’s the point? Depending on how large your staff and membership are, this can take a lot of time.
- Coordinating. You also have to factor in the reality that many associations are all about silos—membership does membership, PR does PR, marketing does marketing, etc. Social media is about all these things, yet if these departments don’t even communicate or work together internally, how are you going to present a united message about your organization’s programs or campaigns? And furthermore, who is heading up the social media efforts—is it one person? A team? Whether it’s either of those, it takes time to coordinate internally about messages, methods, goals, etc., not to mention decide who should and shouldn’t be out there sharing the story and what’s ok and not ok as far as doing it. Already have lots of meetings eating up your time? Prepare to lose even more time to meetings to decide about all this stuff.
The bottom line is that, as much time as you think it will take to integrate social media into your organization’s overall communications efforts, prepare for it to end up taking a lot more time than you thought it would. I equate it to reading blogs—you go to read one thing, then click on a link to another, then another, and so on until you realize you’ve eaten up half your day. And don’t forget—once you build it, they will come—and that will lead to even more time investment managing those relationships, press inquiries, etc.