It came in the form of a tweet. Simple in its brevity but profound in its insight:

“Every company is its own TV station, magazine and newspaper”

The tweet came from 7k social media (@7ksm) and it perfectly illustrates the challenges and opportunities you face as you build a Social Media presence for your small business or non-profit.

Like the grand news organizations, your content goal is to find stories that will interest your audience. The more consistently you perform this function the more interaction and following you will create.

The only difference between you and CNN or CBS is that your palette is narrowly focused. While they are looking for content from around the world you are uniquely focused on your small niche.

Your mission is to mine the depths of your area of expertise and find stories, studies, helpful hints, etc. that fulfill the expectations of your brand. Essentially, you are setting up your own in-house news bureau whose mission is to develop your story – under the guise of content creation.

An elegantly simple concept that requires an enormous amount of planning, strategizing and organizing. It requires you to make a commitment in both manpower and time. Further, it forces you to think like your end consumer. To take on their perspective and create content that they will care about.

The biggest challenge is time. Most small business and non-profits are so bogged down with the day-to-day demands of making payroll or roping in donors they do not have the time to step back and think about who they are.

The second biggest challenge is having the ability to look at your organization as an outsider. As a news gatherer you have to evaluate every part of your operation and determine what is worth talking about. This is often where an outside consultant (shameless plug) can be beneficial. You are bound by the emotional chains of what you do for a living. Conversely, your people are likely to think that everything they do is of the utmost importance (call this self-preservation). Unfortunately, your audience is not bound by these restrictions.

Here are a few simple steps you can use to find, organize and distribute content:

Your website: This is the yellow pages version of who you are. Factual, impersonal but chock full of potential content. Every tab on your site is a content area. You just have to spin that flax into gold. Generally, web content is dry and lacking in any personality. The key to successful social media interactions is to develop a personality. While your website contains a wealth of information the ability to humanize that information is the “secret sauce”.

Your industry: You have set up Google alerts about your company, brand and industry – haven’t you? What are you waiting for? It is amazingly simple to do. Of course, you will be inundated with a steady stream of information but, like any good news gathering organization, you will need to develop the ability to pan the stream for the gold nuggets.

Your people: Everyone can – and should – be involved with your Social Media efforts. While content decisions and posting responsibilities should be in the hands of a select team – your entire organization can provide you with content. Chances are these people are already involved in Social Media in their off-hours (OK, and probably at work, too.) Get your staff organized. Make it mandatory that every department provide three bullet points a week about what they are doing.

This does not negate the need for someone to be ultimately responsible for finding, writing and posting content. You must have a gatekeeper. However, by involving everyone in the process you not only increase your content pool but you empower your employees. Over time, they will take ownership in the process and feel pride in seeing their efforts publicly acknowledged. (Side note: if you are not spotlighting the people behind the business you are missing an enormous content opportunity. People are real and your audience will relate to that.)

There are many ways to scale the Social Media mountain. Thinking like a news bureau is merely one of them. However, thinking along these lines puts what you need to do into the proper perspective. It is simple but effective.

Your thoughts?

Author: Steve Allan, Social Media Specialist