“How much of your time is spent on social media?”
This was one of the questions I fielded at the 2011 LeadingAge Conference in Washington DC last weekend. I was co-leading a session called “New Media to Enhance Your Marketing” with Randy Eilts, Director of Public Relations for GlynnDevins, a marketing firm that specializes in senior living.
LeadingAge is the new name of a group that used to be known as AAHSA—the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. Most members of the association are senior living providers. And, as is stereotypical of the senior living industry, most have not been eager to adopt social media. Randy and I were there to encourage them, to show them examples, and to warn them about the dangers of not using social media. Randy is a great communicator who brings plenty of data to back up his points, and he showed the group this convincing video by Erik Qualman:
(By the way, I love the quote from James Farley, CMO of Ford: “You can’t just say it. You have to get the people to say it to each other.” To me, that summarizes exactly the mind-shift that has to happen as people begin using social media for marketing.)
All your time
The 200 people in the session were very responsive, and their questions were thoughtful. Many of them want to use social media to share their company’s story, but they are not sure how to begin, considering their staff are already overwhelmed with other responsibilities.
That sense of overwhelm is probably what prompted the question I noted at the beginning of this post— “How much of your time is spent on social media?” My answer? “Essentially all of it.” That doesn’t mean I’m spending my whole day tweeting and commenting and posting. But it does mean that I assume everything I write is probably going to end up online, probably in multiple places, in multiple formats. It may start out as a newsletter article, or a business card, or a newspaper ad, but it will be repurposed into a blog post, a Facebook comment, a LinkedIn update, a web page.
Smarter, not harder
And that’s another mind-shift that has to happen as you embrace social media—shift from thinking that social media is competing with other activities. Realize instead that it can actually enhance some of those activities and replace others. For example:
- If you are the Activities Director at a senior living community, don’t feel like you have to write the monthly community newsletter, print copies to put in all the resident mailboxes, let family members know the latest edition is available at the reception desk, and write yourself a note to print a correction in next month’s issue because you got Mabel’s birthday wrong—in addition to thinking of something to post on your community’s Facebook page every day. No, use Facebook to share community news daily instead of hassling with a print edition once a month!
- If you are looking for a job, don’t feel like you have to update your resumé, tailor it to various specific jobs you’re interested in, find a nice paper to print it on, mail exactly the right variation to each of the contacts you’ve researched, track your submissions and responses—and then also set up a LinkedIn profile. No, spend your energy setting up a LinkedIn profile first, and then use LinkedIn to do all that other stuff in half the time and no expense!
- If you are an author, don’t feel like you have to write a book, do market research, send query letters to publishers, negotiate contracts, have a thousand copies printed, and then spend the rest of your life marketing them to every bookstore, library, and family member, all for a minuscule royalty check. No, use social media to become your own publisher! It’s just as much work, but you get to keep a bigger share of the revenues. And you’ll own the rights to your book, so you can decide to post the content as a series of blogs, sell it as an ebook on Smashwords.com, or use print-on-demand to make your book available as an old-fashioned paper object without having boxes of inventory in your garage.
Just try it
Addressing people’s fears about using social media reminds me of my grandmother, who, years ago, insisted she did not want a microwave, even though she lived alone and cooked for one. My mom got her a microwave anyway, taught her how to use it, and asked her to “just try it.” A few weeks later, Grandma was fully converted. “I don’t know how I ever got along without it!” she told my mom.
Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but I think my mom might say the same thing if she ever decides to “just try” Facebook. Maybe I’ll mention it (again) next time she asks me to get the photos off her digital camera and send them to Walgreen’s so she can print multiple copies in multiple sizes and then mail them across the country to her friends and family. Who are on Facebook.