The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and the grass is a healthy shade of bright green. Spring is in the air.
It’s the time of year when we throw off the shackles of our oppressive winter coats and don t-shirts and sunglasses. The warm weather also means that backyard gardens will be sprouting up all over the place in the coming weeks. This spring-time hobby is not only healthy and environmentally friendly, but it offers us a handy metaphor with which to talk about our favourite topic here; social media management.
Growing a garden is a lot like managing a Twitter account, a Facebook page or any other type of social media platform for an association or small business. So get your green thumbs ready because we’re about to dig up the similarities between the two activities.
Preparing Your Garden
Every good gardener knows that you can’t just throw a few seeds into a pile of soil and hope for the best. You must plan your garden and build it so that your seeds flourish. You have to find a spot with access to sunlight and good soil. You have to research the kind of vegetables or flowers you are going to grow in order to determine if they are suited to the climate and also how much care they need. You need to add fertilizer and perhaps fences. We can go on and on, but you get the idea.
Managing a social media account also starts with some good planning. You need to find the right platform to be on. Just as plants need sunlight to grow, your social media content needs an audience to grow. Pick the platform where your members/customers are, or, in other words, make sure the climate is suited to the type of goals you want to accomplish online. You need to plan what content you’re going to post and how often. You need to plan the layout of the account and who your target audience is. Needless to say, there is a lot of groundwork to do before you even start on social media.
Planting the Seeds
The next step in a successful garden is planting the seeds. Without dropping those tiny pieces of plant into the ground, your planning is all for naught. Again, you can’t just drop the seeds willy-nilly into the ground. Many plants have a specific depth you need to plant them at and the package of seeds often tells you how much space to leave in between seeds. Following these guidelines is important to growing a successful garden.
The seeds of social media strategy is the content you publish and you have to treat it much the same way you treat the beginnings of your garden. People interact differently on every platform, which means the way you create and publish your content has to be different as well. Tailor your style and voice to different platforms and research the frequency with which to post content. Remember, without posting good, quality content, your social media strategy cannot grow and produce results. Make sure you don’t “plant” your content haphazardly.
Watering Your Garden
Everyone knows that plants need water to survive. A plant without water wilts and droops and has a sickly grey colour to its leaves. We all know this, we all know the importance of water to gardening, but sometimes we get caught up in a busy schedule or simply get lazy and don’t water the garden, hoping instead that Mother Nature does the chore for us with rainstorms. This is a recipe for disaster.
Social media accounts need their own version of frequent watering. Not only do you need to be posting fresh content on a regular basis, but you also have to continually be looking for new ways to engage your audience and grow your following. Cover new topics or try new ways to tackle old topics. Add visuals and create contests. Always be on the look out for individuals you should be connecting with or communities you could be interacting with. This way, you will always be providing something refreshing to your audience, like a nice, big glass of water on a hot day.
Picking the Weeds
No one likes picking weeds. It’s back-breaking work and it’s time-consuming. But it’s absolutely necessary to have a great garden. Weeds steal the nutrients from the plants you actually want to have in your garden, stunting the growth of your vegetables or flowers. They also don’t look like the most aesthetically pleasing part of your garden, so you grit your teeth and get to work picking them out, which is why you’re such a great gardener.
Your social media accounts can also have undesirable elements ready to sprout up and threaten to dismantle your hard-won progress. Negative comments and criticism is inevitable on social media. You can’t please every body and some of those unhappy people will make their opinion known online. You need to deal with these situations immediately and in the right way. Picking out the “weeds” from your social media account is crucial because, if left unattended, the negative feelings and your practice of ignoring those feelings could have a big impact on your most loyal of followers. So pay attention to any negative comments and don’t let them attack your goals.
Gardens don’t grow overnight. As much as we all want to put the seeds in the ground, sprinkle a little water on top, go to bed and wake up to find a field of ripe tomatoes waiting for us, it just doesn’t happen that way. All gardeners have to stay patient and put in the time and effort over several months to see the results.
Patience is also a virtue in the world of social media management. You (or your boss) might expect to see immediate results after starting up a social media account for your organization. You might want to tweet a few times, go to bed and wake up to find 1,000 people have followed your account. Sadly, it doesn’t work this way, unless you’re a multi-million dollar company or a movie star. You have to put the time and effort into your social media strategy to offer consistently valuable content to your audience. Trust us, if you mix hard work, creativity and time together, you will see results somewhere down the road.
Harvesting Your Crops
Here’s everyone’s favourite part of gardening; harvesting your crops. Whether it’s picking tomatoes you’ve grown yourself for a salad or arranging some flowers from your backyard for a friend, it’s a rewarding experience. Everything looks or tastes better when it’s the result of your own hard work and time. Harvesting your crops also offers a few lessons for the future. You can determine if you should have let your plants grow more or even if you should grow cucumbers instead of tomatoes next year.
Harvesting the results of your social media efforts can also be rewarding and a good way to plan the future of your organization’s online strategy. The first step is to collect the data. Reading and understanding the results of your efforts on any platform is the first step in knowing if you have been successful in achieving your goals. The next step in “harvesting” your social media results is analyzing what worked and what didn’t work throughout the process. For example, if the data tells you that your tweets before 10 am on a weekday received 34% fewer interactions than tweets after 10 am on a weekday, you can adjust your strategy to post more content at a time when it will bring a bigger return on investment.