People’s initial reactions to hearing the words “social media” are one of two extremes. Some hear the term and think they have mastered the beast, are comfortable limited characters and relish in hashtags. Others are unsure of where to start or the intrinsic value of participating in the online community and approach this brave new world with reticence. Both extremes can benefit from Tim Schraeder’s expertise.
Tim Schraeder is a Chicago-based social-media consultant and manager who helps non-profits and businesses with their online presence. He recently published a book titled “Outspoken” to aid faith-based non-profits and has international experience in building a brand’s persona through social media.
Schraeder is quick to point out that no one medium can stand alone. The point of social media is to encourage engagement with the brand—it should be social at the very core of every post no matter the character limit. A huge mistake many brands make is simply broadcasting events, their mission or their opinions. Proclamations rarely invite conversation, though. Small businesses and non-profits need to focus on sharing stories and inviting their audiences to interact with them.
Though no single social-media medium can stand alone, they each have their strengths and some will more effectively reach your audience than others. Schraeder recommends trying to see if your followers respond better to images on Facebook, the text on Twitter or an artsy post on Instagram. Does it make the most sense for your business to expect involvement through your company blog or user-generated content contests? He is adamant that there are no set rules because all audiences are different so take time to feel out how your audience responds.
In addition, the sheer number of followers should not determine the success of your brand’s presence on social media platforms. Rather than focusing on the quantity of people that took the quick second to follow or like you, measure your success in the quality of engagement of your followers.
If you are just starting out, put a lot of attention on your Facebook page, Schraeder suggests. It is widely accessible and diverse. Next, build your Twitter presence while aiming to seamlessly tie all of your platforms together with a similar voice and purpose. Watch other organizations that are similar to you and emulate their best practices. Finally, make sure that you have the ability to maintain your presence. Build up posts and messages before making it live to your followers. Don’t head out into the online frontier without first preparing ahead of time to devote time and energy to your audience.
Regardless of your current social media prowess, every organization or business can greatly profit from planning out the broadcasted message and having it be spread by your followers that catch your vision from status updates and Instagram-ed thoughts. Go forth and flourish.
Annika Celum is a media strategist and freelance writer based out of Chicago. She has volunteered to manage social media for various non-profits throughout the city for the past year and has always been passionate about working with charity organizations, both near and far. Though idyllic, she has aspirations to eradicate injustices with wit and determination. When not typing up a storm, you can find her commuting on her bike throughout the city or running to train for a race to benefit a non-profit.