This is a sign outside a car wash in Reston, Virginia. Nothing unusual about it. Businesses do these kinds of promotions all the time. However, I took this picture on January 28th! I’ll admit that I am not the most timely person when it comes to taking down my holiday decorations. But, I am not looking for stocking stuffer ideas in late January. Seeing this sign makes me think the owners of this business are not paying attention. They claim to specialize in automobile  detailing. With this attention to detail it makes me wonder about their overall quality of work.

I see this same lack of attention to detail in social media – all the time. Facebook pages that have not been updated in days, weeks – even months. Blogs that post every two or three weeks. You Tube channels that haven’t posted a new video in months.

Recently, I went to the USA Today home page to check on their Twitter links and found one that was broken (and still is!). Starbucks is notorious for not responding to questions posted on their massive Facebook page. I even found a local non-profit who was still promoting a 2010 donation campaign.

If you can’t find the time to maintain your social media presence – why bother being here in the first place. Social media is all about constant contact. Yes, the buzzword is ‘engagement’ and you cannot engage on an occasional basis – not if you expect to leverage the relationships you build thought social media into increased sales or donations.

So, how do you make sure your social media monitoring is up-to-date? Here are a few ‘must do’s’ to consider before you start:

Advocacy – You must have a social media advocate within your organization. This point person has to both understand the value of social media and make sure it is being monitored and maintained on a consistent basis. Content and communication is at the core of effective social media. If you do not have someone dedicated to this task you are destined for social media failure.

Even if you outsource your social media you need someone on the inside who is responsible for your campaigns. No one knows your organization better than you. Using an outsourced social media agency (shameless plug, like SMThree) is an effective strategy but must be combined with internal commitment. I find, write and post content for my clients every day. However, I am most effective when I have someone inside the company who can articulate their goals and needs. More importantly, they can tell me what they do and don’t like. Over time this enables social media specialists like me to do a better job for our clients.

And, for goodness sake, please assign this task to someone who understands your brand and marketing strategy. This is not a job for an intern!

Involvement – Until social media is a reflexive part of your company culture you will find yourself wandering aimlessly. True, social media is still a kind of ‘wild west’ frontier but there are some rules of engagement that are well established. Consistent presence is one of those.

I work with a pretty large non-profit in the DC area that is committed to social media. They are fortunate to have a full-time internal advocate. We continually brainstorm great content ideas and campaigns. Unfortunately, they often involve departments this person cannot control. As a result, getting the content we need from these other divisions can be a struggle.

Social media involvement starts at the top. You must get your people to understand the value social media brings to your organization. While they might not make social media their number one priority they do need to be willing to contribute to the process. This is a difficult transition. No one at your company is sitting around looking for things to do. If you ask them they always have more work than they can handle. Adding this task to their to-do list can seem like a burden – to them.

Make it easy for them. Give them specific tasks. Ask for specific information. Make it fun. By all means, get them involved!

Think like a customer – Social media is not a ‘set it and forget it’ platform. If you are asking your customers or donors to be involved you have to reward them for their time. Their attention span is short. Give them what they want and give it to them often.

Monitor yourself – Whether your social media responsibilities are in-house or outsourced they must be monitored every day (and, yes, that does include weekends). Check to see if they are responding, asking questions or complaining. If you are a brick-and-mortar keep an eye on Google places for aggregated reviews, Foursquare for tips and check-ins, Yelp for feedback, etc. And, check all your links and platforms weekly to make sure everything is working.

Doing the above will put your social media efforts on the right track. They will not guarantee success – that is a more complex issue. They will eliminate pitfalls.

When you read about social media monitoring the vast majority of advice you receive is about metrics that lead to ROI. This is an important part of your social media strategy. However, you cannot measure success if you aren’t playing the game correctly.

Whether you are contemplating the leap into social media or have already started the engagement process make sure you are internally prepared and committed to handle the workload. This challenge must be considered when planning your social media strategy.

Your thoughts?

Author: Steve Allan, Social Media Specialist, SMThree