There are two problems social media professionals frequently run into: a lack of time and a lack of staffing. They have a way of feeding off each other, especially when the entirety of the social media team is one person.
"Social marketing is perpetually understaffed," said Gartner analyst Jennifer Polk. One of the reason is "a lot of senior leaders and executives that are making budget decisions and staffing decisions don't fully understand digital. They're still looking at this as something that's tangential or ancillary to their core marketing strategy or core business strategy."
What that means for you, the intrepid social media solo act, is that there are a few extra (and amplified) hurdles to clear on a day-to-day basis in order to successfully run your brand's online presence, and make clear what you're doing, why you're doing it, and how it makes sense for the bottom line. Here are seven tips.
1. Spread the love, plan ahead
"When you are doing all of the social media by yourself, the key is organization," said Hannah Diamond, marketing coordinator, UrbanGirl Office Supply. She makes a list of every platform she has to check in with every day, for example. "I manage my time so that I do not spend too much on one site," she said. "You can spend hours pinning on Pinterest or chatting on Twitter, but you cannot afford to do that every day."
Brittney Borowicz, marketing manager at Grid Connect Inc., uses a marketing calendar and plans way in advance, especially for specific events and campaigns. "I can stay organized and that helps with the overwhelm of being the only person working on marketing," she said.
A common practice is to write copy for things like tweets a month in advance. Frequently, it's because there's an approval step in between writing and posting, but it can help free you stay on top of your workflow. Just be sure the copy is still relevant a few weeks later.
2. Know your brand, know your objectives, be prepared to justify
As a team of one, everything is going to fall on your shoulders. "You're going to have a lot more responsibility, a lot more accountability, and a lot more autonomy than if you're a part of a 10 person social marketing team," Polk said.
You'll have to know your brand inside and out, and all the reasons that you do what you do on social media, especially how they align with the company's goals. Knowing all this will function as a filter and help you decide what to post, where to post it.
There's always going to be more you could be doing on social media- another piece of content to create, another network to join. Plus, there's always going to be someone asking you "why aren't we doing this?"
"You need to be able to tell your story," Polk said. That's the other reason you need to an expert on your company and social media - you're going to have justify your strategy constantly.
Borowicz said on the whole, she gets a lot of support from her company, but there are moments of pushback. "I'm the only marketer here," she said. "It becomes an issue of saying 'let's test it out, or these are the reasons why I think this will work better for the company.'"
3. Don't spread yourself too thin
"Quality is more important than quantity," Diamond said. "One person cannot be on every social media platform every single day. Pick a few that suit your business and focus on those. If you have several, rotate which one you focus on each day."
Part of what you're trying to combat is getting overwhelmed. While it's unlikely you'll totally tamp down the feeling, you can still manage it. Especially for a medium to large brand, there's a lot to take in and it's easy to hit the wrong button, like "retweet" instead of "flag media." That's essentially what happened a few months back when US Airways retweeted a tweet containing a pornographic image.
"It's easy and quite common when you work in social marketing to see those things and poke fun, but the truth of the matter is anyone who is actually doing it... we're all only one mistake away from being that guy," Polk said.
4. Get support
Though you may be the only social media person at your company, that doesn't mean you have to operate completely on your own. Borowicz talked about the importance of having support from superiors, or elsewhere in the company. Whether it's for the ability to solicit ideas every now and then, or simply to encourage engagement on social media.
"If you say, 'Hey, we need everybody to be liking and commenting on our Facebook posts or on our LinkedIn posts' that people are actively doing it. You can't be the only only liking every Facebook post," she said.
5. Seek inspiration from likely and unlikely sources
One of the greatest challenges in working alone is keeping the creativity flowing when you're not surrounded by a team who can help you can discuss and brainstorm with you. Borowicz combats the isolation in a few ways.
For one, she reads a lot of marketing research to keep up on marketing trends. She also reads case studies. Finding out what other companies are doing, including competitors and even companies outside your industry altogether, can spur ideas. Without copying, you can adapt and draw inspiration. For example, she keeps an eye on Starbucks. What coffee and embedded networks have in common is probably minimal, but that doesn't mean there's not something to riff on.
6. Get creative in sourcing content
Aside from looking for inspiration in various places, also look for actual content in different places. Polk writes a blog post for Gartner highlighting what content markets can learn from Saturday Night Live - the thing about SNL is that everybody writes for the show.
"Don't think that in that construct, as a social marketing manager, you have to write all the content," she said. Instead, find experts within the company, the folks who know a lot about the company's products and services, whether they be in sales or IT, and recruit them to blog or produce other content.
7. Invest in tech
One of the challenges with social media, is proving that any investment in it is worth it. Polk said if there's ever a chance to hire a second person, do it. But, if you're by yourself and you don't have a tool to help with your some aspect of your workflow, invest in one, whether it be Hootsuite, SocialFlow, or any of the myriad others, depending on your specific needs.
"If you can figure out what's performing well and what's not performing, you can focus more time and energy on creating the type of content that performs, promoting the content that already performed and stop wasting time with stuff that people aren't responding to," said Polk.
Erin Carson has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.