I raise chickens. Or rather, my yard is home to a clutch of chickens that provides hours of entertainment, dozens of eggs and occasional dinner entrees for my family.
It struck me that the daily routines associated with keeping our feathered friends healthy and happy share strong and endearing lessons for people, like myself, who manage the day-to-day social media outreach and communications for a brand. Here are four ways in which a backyard barnyard offers professional inspiration.
Without Daily Maintenance, You’re Going to Have Problems
I don’t mean to conflate the two, but much like having a child or a typical household pet, chickens require a substantial time commitment, every day. The same goes for social media management. If you leave the proverbial barn doors open to your social presence and let things go hog wild for days and days, you’re going to end up with a mess: lost audience members, content in disarray and a perception of disorganization in the minds of the audience that remains.
We have three breeds of chickens at the moment, each displaying distinct temperaments, dietary needs and behaviors. They all eat table scraps, but some love watermelon, while others turn their beaks away in protest at the sight. Similarly, embrace each social media platform’s unique characteristics, and provide care (updates) and feeding (content) appropriately.
Rule the Roost
I continue to be amazed at how our chickens, as not-quite-domesticated animals, stay so close to home, never venturing too far from the comforts of their coop. Social media networks offer that same comfort. Give your audience continuous and conspicuous reasons to visit and to return, and they’re going to tell their friends. Be a dependable information source and a valuable resource, and you will support a loyal audience. This, in turn, will follow you beyond the current channels you use to reach them. That’s the key. The structure of your social media network today will look completely different in another six months, and again in another year, so be prepared.
Good Inputs Lead to Great Outputs
Our chickens subsist on a diet of kitchen castoffs, shelled corn from a local granary and what they can scratch from the soil. Not gourmet dining, for sure, but this natural and wholesome food provides a steady supply of eggs and, eventually, fresh meat in my oven. Applying that to social media, keep your content and your approach as real and as honest as you can. Authenticity matters above all things as a way to keep you consistently on message. That consistency matters to your audience, and it matters to the integrity of your brand.
There’s also the metaphor of fertilization: Just as a chicken’s other outputs help fertilize gardens and soil, the ripples and effects of a strong social media routine will have a long-lasting impact on the perception of your organization, online and in the minds of your audiences.
Block out 5-10 minute chunks of time each day on your schedule — that means no meetings, no phone calls and no other commitments — and commit to focusing on social media in those short bursts.
Treat each social media platform as a separate case. Put yourself in the shoes of that platform’s audience, and plan your content accordingly.
Be confident and authentic in your communications. You may be the voice of your organization, but you’re also a human being. Treat your fans/followers as you would like to be treated.
Don’t operate in a vacuum. Solicit regular feedback from co-workers and your audience, and mine the deepest corners of your organization for new content or new spins on old content.
Originally published Dec 20, 2011 1:00:58 AM, updated July 28 2017