Social Media is a commitment. It's not something individuals or businesses can dabble in and expect to be successful. Here are some top ways that I've found Social Media to require commitment. Chalk this one up to both lessons learned personally and bordering on the obvious to folks who have been leveraging social media for awhile.
1. Blog Frequency
Best practice often suggests that while maintaining a blog, the author(s) should post new content 2-3 times a week at a minimum. This keeps readers engaged and setting a regular pattern will keep them coming back. For anyone whose main responsibilities have nothing to do with blogging, it can really be a challenge to keep up. There are lots of strategies, from keeping a queue of posts and topics drafted, to scheduling regular time to dedicate. What helps most of all is having an author or authors who are passionate about the topic. Those folks will find a way to make it work, but long term dedication is a major factor in a blog's success.
2. Personal (or Professional) Brand Management
Once you have a blog, a twitter account, an account on Friendfeed, etc – you need to keep up with those who comment and respond. It takes time to search twitter results for posts with your name buried in the middle, blog posts and other tools for people to keep up. I sometimes stumble across a valuable response to a comment I made days earlier and regret not addressing it right away or capturing the RSS feed for that comment train. A great aspect of these social media tools is that the information lives on, but much of the conversation takes place in a short time. You can miss a window to participate with the primary group if you don't take time to keep up.
There are lots of free tools to leverage for this, including search.twitter.com, Google alerts and Technorati among others. Our agency recently partnered with Radian6, a social media monitoring package. I'm still learning about it, but so far I would compare it to robust web analytics packages – with a major advantage that you can gain insight not just to your own brand, but competitors.
3. Ubiquitous Content
The beauty of RSS is the distribution of content. Social networks are proliferating. New blogs are cropping up, and new tools are adding to the way we can share information with each other. Frankly, there is so much valuable information to digest it's hard to keep up with it all. There also is plenty of less than valuable content to sort through. I use Google Reader and at times feel like I have to declare "feed bankruptcy" and mark everything as read, and I'm sure I miss valuable content in there. Imagine if everyone you know had a blog, was connected to you on Friendfeed and was on Facebook. Even apply this just to your company, or your industry. Would you be able to really keep up with all of the content?
4. Relationship Building
I mentioned before that I use LinkedIn and Facebook regularly and recommend scrutinizing your social media connections. These are great tools to keep up with friends and colleagues, but also to build relationships with contacts from networking events, business meetings and other settings. Setting up a profile is a one time event for the most part, but truly using these tools to build upon relationships takes effort and consistent usage over time.
Regardless of whether you have a few dozen or a few hundred connections, tools like Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed and others require dedication to participate in conversations, answer questions and 'consume' the media. Uploading and tagging photos, booking trips on Dopplr, checking out events on Upcoming… When you start to interact with other folks, there is almost an informal contract you sign jumping in to participate. You license people to reach out to you and they expect a response back, otherwise they may move on. It takes a long term commitment to get the most out of these tools.
When people ask me for advice about social media, I often start with, "It's a commitment – are you ready for it?" What other ways do you see social media needing commitment? A logical next question – what advice do you have for folks trying to balance the commitment with everything else they have to do?
Photo credit: eschipul via Flickr