Emily Eldrige Adrian Patenaude Liz Hilton
(L to R) Emily Eldridge, Adrian Patenaude & Liz Hilton contributed to this article.

You’re wrapping up a kick-off meeting with a client and your PR team, when suddenly you hear one of the C-suite team utter these cringe-worthy words: “Let’s do some social media, too.”

Effective social media management is not as easy as it seems. It can be time consuming and requires a smart strategy to effectively engage audiences. We’ve seen social media grow in importance among senior management over the last few years, there are still a lot of things we wish they knew about managing social accounts.

This is not a drill

At a recent Las Vegas industry conference, we had a conversation with the CMOs of two large banks. They spoke about the challenges marketing to younger consumers, which they referred to as the “Battle of the Bank Millennials.” They noted that the “creation” of social media was similar to the advent of the Internet in the ways in which it has revolutionized business, and that social media has single-handedly changed how these executives do their jobs.

O'Dwyer's Apr. '16 Broadcast Svcs. & Social Media PR MagazineThis article is featured in O'Dwyer's Apr. '16 Broadcast Svcs. & Social Media PR Magazine

We’ve all come to realize in the last five or so years that social media isn’t just a trend — it’s here to stay. Social has been an integral part of political elections, disaster relief efforts and social rights movements. Pew Research now finds that 63 percent of Facebook and Twitter users identified at least one of those platforms as their primary news sources. The way we communicate — and ultimately the way marketers reach audiences — has been permanently altered. As users turn toward these nontraditional outlets, companies must get creative.

It’s not an afterthought

The only thing worse than no social media is bad social media. Our senior management team always discourages throwing social into a PR plan as a last-minute suggestion. Social media needs to be a recognizable priority; it’s vital for social media to be integrated into a whole campaign.

Even if the plan is to simply monitor current trends, you still need to think through the issues, topics and tone for your brand (for example, who the brand should be following and what trends should you be monitoring). Rather than tasking everyone with writing a few half-hearted posts, it’s best to assemble an elite social media #dreamteam. Take ownership of the company’s digital presence. This is where senior management’s insight is key.

The times, they are a-changin’

The success rate of most social media platforms is low. Remember Xanga, Friendster and iTunes Ping? Yeah, neither do we. The social platforms that thrive today are the ones that have evolved with users’ demands. Facebook is notorious for constantly updating its features, most recently allowing users to “react” to their friends’ posts with different emotions. Even though these updates seem minor, it’s a way for Facebook to stay relevant and maintain users’ attention in this age of distraction.

We need senior management to understand that social media is constantly changing, so the best way to succeed with the medium is to change along with it. Brands have to be flexible, and social media managers need to be willing to adapt and experiment.

Here come the cool kids

As older generations begin embracing Facebook and Twitter, younger users are fleeing to newer platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. In the past year alone, Instagram has overtaken Twitter in monthly active users (~400 million vs. ~300 million) and Instagram users are 120 times more engaged with posts than on Twitter. These numbers should raise eyebrows in the boardroom. The fact of the matter is that Twitter is dying, and we don’t know how to tell management that.

Snapchat, the newfangled app young people seem obsessed with today, is significantly underrated by many decision makers. This platform is all about capturing real-time experiences, and for anyone wanting to grab the attention of Millennials, this is the place to do it. It’s no surprise that Snapchat has been heavily experimenting with its advertising potential, from sponsored videos embedded in hosted content on its “Discover” page to custom geofilters tailored for branded events.

Ain’t nobody got time for that

Social media is time-consuming. While we agree an organizational playbook or approval process is essential, it should be designed to provide quick feedback to team members so content doesn’t go stale. Whether it’s sending a morning email detailing the day’s posts or simply texting your supervisor some content before you send it, do whatever works best so you don’t let a good opportunity pass you by.

Of course, engaging with others is just as important as creating content. Retweeting, regramming, sharing or liking a post from another like-minded organization is a great way to speak for your brand.

Fear not

We’ve noticed that older generations often approach social media with trepidation. And while their hesitation is grounded in reality — a sloppy tweet could, and definitely has, caused a legitimate PR crisis — we shouldn’t let fear hold us back from engaging on social media. We need to learn how to relax; social media is supposed to be fun and friendly! And people respond more positively to brands that demonstrate a distinct personality and aren’t afraid to push the envelope.

Even if something does go wrong, it’s possible to make amends in a creative way, sometimes using humor to diffuse the situation. Believe it or not, the Internet can be a forgiving place if you fess up sincerely. In our fast-paced digital world, audiences will likely move on to the next controversy before you know it. “Forgive and forget” has never been more true.

It doesn’t have to be confusing

Just like anything new, social media takes some getting used to. We all remember setting up MySpace accounts in 2004 and not really knowing how to crop the profile photo or change our Top 8. Before our 16th birthdays, we were pros.

The same goes for senior management today: you may not know what a Snapchat story is and you probably don’t know if you look better in a Valencia or an X-Pro II filter, but you should know by now that social media matters and offers real investment returns when planned and executed correctly. So please, don’t underestimate the power of investing in a talented social media team.

Social media can be intimidating. But jump in, ask questions, hire great talent and give it a try. It’s all one big learning curve and to be honest, we’re still figuring it out too!

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Emily Eldridge is an Account Executive at Crosswind Media & PR. Liz Hilton and Adrian Patenaude are Assistant Account Executives at Crosswind Media & PR.