Larry Blumenthal of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation‘s post “Baby Steps and Other Lessons Learned Implementing Social Media at a Foundation” is chock full of insight for anyone looking to get started in social media. The only thing I might add to the list would be “Be patient.”
We often adopt an “If you build it, they will come” mentality. The truth is, if you build it, they may or may not come, and even if they do, they won’t be breaking down the gate to get in. You are not Conan O’Brien. When making the case for integrating social media into an organization’s communications plan, we cite the best practices and best outcomes, sometimes without realizing other factors at play, such as content, audience size, and competition for attention among colleague organizations.
In my experience, slow, organic growth is best. It’s important not only to have the tools and know how to use them, but also know how your use of the tool can be most beneficial to your audience. “Give people something they need” is an old maxim but it’s still true. If you provide a worthwhile service or good, people will come, though maybe not all at once. You should also keep in mind that you want to be attracting the right audience, people of similar interest. It’s easy to get caught up in metrics and stats, but if you’ve got 10,000 followers who don’t engage, you might as well have zero. If social media is about conversations, then it’s better speak with 10 knowledgeable, passionate people than a million who don’t care.
We launched this blog just over two weeks ago. I have to admit I was hesitant to get started. We already had a number of avenues of communication with members, did we really need one more? But in reality, the blog has been a great tool for us. It’s allowed a more natural conversation to develop. It unites our other communications efforts. And most importantly for our network, it’s a place where our many voices can come together. Retweets are great, but sometimes people need a little room to stretch out with their ideas.
In our first two weeks, our biggest day saw 86 visitors. Most days we get about 15-20 . Not bad for a network of 33 organizations, with a total of 250 employees. I’m pretty happy with those numbers. Our Twitter account started out the same way and now, about 6 months later, we have over 300 followers.
So, the Cliffs Notes from Larry’s post with my own addendum: Take it slow, learn from failure, and be patient. As all you Lost fans know, “It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress.”