7 Summer Strategies for Social Media, Part 2

June 9, 2011 | Comments Off on 7 Summer Strategies for Social Media, Part 2 | Social Media & Marketing

To review just a bit, this two-part series is aimed at college students who want to maximize their summer, particularly those in the marketing/communications/tech/consulting fields. We covered points 1-3 in 7 Summer Strategies for Social Media, Part 1, and are wrapping up the series with points 4-7 in this post. For convenience, here’s the list again:

  1. Social Media Study – exploring social media tools, reading books, attending seminars
  2. Skill Development – developing skills outside of social media – writing, programming, photography, etc…
  3. Sorting & Systems – setting up systems for organization & efficient management of bookmarked links, emails & files
  4. Summer Schedule – chunking, doing the next thing, taking advantage of flexibility
  5. Social Media Work – seasonal emphasis, consistency, scheduling & communication
  6. Strategic Development – long-range planning, conducting surveys, developing personal brand & style, SEO
  7. Spread Reach – sharing & engaging with Twitter chats, social events, networking, suggesting resources

Summer Schedule

One of the things I love best about summer, quite honestly, is the chance to sleep in. It’s not that I’m lazy – in some ways I’m more productive than ever once I have the freedom to stay up late without worrying about the consequences of waking up late or skipping sufficient sleep. I’m a natural night owl, and so while I think sleep is important to make time for in any schedule, I’m not actually going to suggest the whole “pick a regular schedule, get to sleep by 10 every night, get at least 8 hours of sleep and be consistent” concept. Rather, I think within reason, we should take the opportunity for flexibility to work in the blocks of time that work best for us, whether that’s early morning, in the middle of the night, or right after lunch.

What I do think is important is figuring out how and when you’re most productive, and using that to your advantage. Some of the things that work well for me are “chunking” my schedule (more on that in a moment), and “doing the next thing.” By “chunking” my schedule, I merely mean taking a 2-4 hour block to focus on a particular project, instead of trying to be productive with a round-robin line-up of fifteen minutes on email here, 30 minutes reading there. This morning I read an entire book on blogging because I picked it up shortly after waking, and didn’t let myself turn on the computer till I was done. Then I did the laundry. Now I’m writing this blog post…nothing else (okay, maybe I have Pandora open, but you get the idea).

The tendency for people in social media I think sometimes is to want to be everywhere at once, and while multi-tasking works fine sometimes (e.g. I might Tweet here and there in-between IMing someone or skimming an article), sometimes it can really fragment overall productivity too. By “doing the next thing” I simply mean prioritizing in the moment. I have many, many things I could be working on in a given day, and while strategic long-range planning is certainly important (see below), sometimes my best feel for what needs to be done next comes as I crest the hill just before that horizon. This works well with chunking, in that I feel better getting things completely crossed off my list, and I can see myself making progress towards my overall goals.

Social Media Work

Of course, if you’re a marketing or social media consultant, you can’t forget the actual work you’ll be doing over the summer either! Depending on the industry, summer may be a quiet or particularly busy time for your clients, and therefore for you. For instance, it’s a bit quieter for Numana, a hunger relief organization I work with, as many people are going on vacation, and we also don’t have as many food packaging events at schools as we do during the school year. On the other hand, for my client Satchel Creek Steaks, this is grilling season, and demand goes up tremendously for Tiya’s all-natural steaks and other meats during the summer. My client Chautauqua Hills Farm has a similar uptick in demand, since the pick-your-own blueberry season starts this week and people’s mouths have been watering for their “nickel-size” blueberries ever since last summer!

The key here is continue to do excellent work for past clients while keeping your eyes out for potential new ones while you have more time. It may be that some of your current clients will phase out of needing your services by the end of the summer, and you want to be prepared with new ones to take their place. This is also a very important time to make sure that you keep frequent communication going back and forth, while everyone’s busy, so that you stay on the same page on what’s needed. I’ve found it helpful to create a Google Doc spreadsheet with a posting/media schedule to share with my client, so that we can maintain consistency. In my case, I’m also looking at doing scalable (in the sense of expandable) projects like social media workshops, where I can help several people at once without taking on the responsibility of having them all as long-term clients. This will allow me to scale back in the fall when I need to once again concentrate more intently on my studies.

Strategic Development

Much of this topic is covered in bits and pieces of previous ones, but I still think it bears a couple paragraphs of its own. In addition to developing technical skills and workable systems, it’s important I think, to use the summer as a time for self-exploration and long-range strategic planning as well. Where do you want your business to be in five years? What do you want to be doing in 3 years? Do you enjoy what you do, and if there are elements that you don’t, are there ways to contract that portion of your business out or expand in the areas you do enjoy?

Take some time to hammer out some of your personal brand and style elements – do you want to be straight-forward or more subtle? Do you want to write frequent, short posts, or is your style a bit more on the detailed side? What are some of the key words and phrases that define your mission and values – those that will not only help build your brand from an SEO perspective, but in terms of reaching the clients and audience you want?

In addition to self-exploration, summer is a good time to take stock and reevaluate your effectiveness and clients’ needs as well. Think ahead about what you might be able to fit in at a less busy time (like early fall) to develop and improve your services.  Possibilities include taking some time to sit down with clients (or even other colleagues in your line of work) to chat about goals and long-term plans or wishes or running a survey with a book or extra consulting services given away in a drawing as a prize for submitting feedback.

Spread Reach

This is the fun part that ties everything else together. You’ve got a plan, you know what interests you, you’re meeting the needs of your current clients…now it’s time to expand. Go out there and network! Take the time to interact via blog comments. Write people that impress you and thank them for their work. Hand out business cards, retweet others and mention them on Twitter, maybe even participate in a regular Twitter chat every week.

Be helpful and see what resources you can match up with people who might appreciate them. Keep a listening ear and learn all you can. Be constantly looking to see whom you can refer to others. Maybe take a road trip and set up meetings with people you’ve only known so far online (carefully, of course!), or try doing a bit more snail mail or actual phone calls.

I really enjoy this aspect of summer. I actually have time to check in on Twitter throughout the day, time to go read some articles and blog posts and maybe even comment, time to catch up on emails and letters to friends. It doesn’t all have to be business-related, but the great thing is that even if it’s not technically business-related, you’re still forming connections and strengthening current friendships that will hopefully continue to be mutually beneficial to both of you down the road. The further you can spread your reach over the summer, the more opportunities you’ll have to take advantage of in the fall and winter.

And now it’s your turn…what are your summer strategies? I’d love to hear – and thanks for stopping by!

(Continued from 7 Summer Strategies for Social Media, Part 1)

 

 


7 Summer Strategies for Social Media, Part 1

This post is primarily written for college students, who have the summer off from regular studies, but I believe anyone who wants to maximize their summer in the social media sphere can benefit. I welcome your input and suggestions in the comments below – what are your summer strategies for social media?

As I mentioned in Summer: The Fun of Business, I’m taking the summer off from classes and focusing primarily on my freelance consulting business. I recognize that not all college students have this luxury – for many, the summer may mean a brief vacation and then lots of hours put into a summer job to help save towards college expenses. For others, their summer may still be full of short college classes in an effort to build up needed hours towards a degree.

But for those of you who want to take advantage of summer’s flexibility to develop a consulting business, study in preparation for classes you’ll take in the fall, or even just better manage your personal brand, I want to outline a few strategies that I am working on implementing for myself this summer that I think may be of benefit to you too. I’ll cover items 1-3 in this post, 4-7 in another.

  1. Social Media Study – exploring social media tools, reading books, attending seminars
  2. Skill Development – developing skills outside of social media – writing, programming, photography, etc…
  3. Sorting & Systems – setting up systems for organization & efficient management of bookmarked links, emails & files
  4. Summer Schedule – chunking, doing the next thing, taking advantage of flexibility
  5. Social Media Work – seasonal emphasis, consistency, scheduling & communication
  6. Strategic Development – long-range planning, conducting surveys, developing personal brand & style, SEO
  7. Spread Reach – sharing & engaging with Twitter chats, social events, networking, suggesting resources

All right, let’s go ahead and break these points down into a bit more detail. Ultimately, the goal is to have a synergistic system that incorporates both social time, skill development, and social media work.

Social Media Study

During the school year, much of my social media work ends up being relegated to maintenance mode and traditional tried-and-true methods. Sure, I’ll have a few new and interesting projects come up now and then, and sometimes I will research or try a new tool, but it’s usually based on client needs & demands rather than primarily out of personal interest. Summer is the perfect time to explore trends and tools in social media.

Just yesterday, I tried Hootsuite for the first time (I’m already an avid Tweetdeck user) and downloaded Skype. Neither of these are particularly new tools in the online world, but I don’t have much experience with either, and both for my own sake, out of curiosity, and to better advise and assist my clients, I want to have more familiarity with them. In past weeks I’ve been learning more about Evernote, signed up on Empire Avenue, and tried a mindmapping tool called WiseMapping. The point is to work on expanding your social media knowledge while your schedule is a bit more flexible.

Skill Development

It’s not just social media you can work on exploring and mastering though…there are lots of other relevant business skills to work on developing over the summer for any marketing/consulting biz. Remember that you are a better writer if you read a lot (and write a lot, for that matter), and that being well-read means more than reading just social media articles. It’s a great time to actually go to the library and get a stack of books on a variety of topics (outside of business & marketing too), attend seminars and workshops in areas of interest like photography or editing, and take up new hobbies.

You never know when your new hobby might mean a new client (for instance, I’m hoping to take up horseback-riding, and have already helped someone who offers rides in the Flint Hills with his Facebook Page on several occasions). In addition, it just makes for more interesting writing when you can bring in real-life examples and anecdotes to your blog posts and even your client interaction.

Of primary importance here are the technical and fundamental skills like writing, programming, web design, etc… In my case, this serves a dual purpose – e.g. I’m playing with an Arduino to better my C/C++ programming, both for fun and in preparation for classes in the fall. I’m planning to practice my stickshift driving in anticipation of saving up for a manual car I can save on gas mileage with, etc… Find your own unique pursuits and then set aside consistent chunks of time to make progress in those areas. And be sure to document that progress for your portfolio and resumé.

Sorting & Systems

You want your business to run as smoothly as possible when you have to get back into the daily grind of classes, homework, study groups, and tests. The best way to help that happen is to use the summer to strategize, sort, and set up systems that work for you. This means getting off of irrelevant email mailing lists, coming up with a filing/labeling system for your email client, going through those stacks of books and piles of papers where you may currently know the location of every important item, but won’t in six months when things get hectic, and taking a serious look at how to best order your schedule. There are all kinds of helpful tools to help you do this, which goes back to a) experimenting while you have time and then b) figuring out what works best for you.

In my case, I know one thing I really need to work on in this area is my bookmarking strategy. I’m constantly favoriting Tweets just to save a link that I might want to reference or read later, bookmarking videos and “read later” links on Diigo, and I still have a sizable list of favorites that I copied over from my previous laptop and may never get to. I could delete them and start fresh, but while I have time, I’d rather go ahead and read, sort and/or delete them, and then come up with a system that helps me keep things orderly and easily accessible going forward. Same thing with old Word documents I have saved off my old computer – yes, I know where things are and can access them without too much trouble, but the clutter slows down my computer and overall efficiency.

Continued in 7 Summer Strategies for Social Media, Part 2…(coming on June 9th)