I often see otherwise excellent campaigns and organizations make at least one of several common mistakes when managing their social media. In some cases, these mistakes were being made for weeks, if not months or years, and are only amplified by the understandable stress and scramble of these crucial final weeks. In others, they emerge amid and because of the urgency of this moment.
In any case, let’s walk through what these mistakes are—and how to avoid them.
Eroding engagement by posting to meet a quota instead of executing a strategy.
Here’s a common one: Posting or tweeting just to post.
Being active on social media is only as important as the strategic goals that activity is advancing. It means nothing if no one is engaging with, or in too many cases, even seeing that content. If what you’re doing is not advancing your goals, why do it?
Besides being a drain on resources, it can even be counterproductive—social media platforms penalize content with dismal engagement not only by limiting the reach of that specific underperforming post but also by limiting the reach of future content from that profile, creating a snowball effect. So the further that average engagement falls, the harder it will be to reach your audience when you have something important to say.
It can be good to have a general goal or guideline in mind for content volume, but not if it comes at the expense of content quality. Instead of posting content to meet a quota, post content to advance an underlying strategy—and make sure every single piece of content serves a purpose. And no, “we tweeted today” doesn’t count.
Putting too much emphasis on vanity metrics or ignoring data altogether.
Metrics like followers, clicks, and views don’t tell the whole story. Without the important context added by more meaningful and actionable data points, they can even be misleading. Instead of focusing on vanity metrics like these, I recommend focusing on meaningful metrics—and a variety of them—to more thoroughly understand how audiences are, and aren’t, engaging with your campaign’s content. (I wrote more about this in my previous article.)
Still, overemphasizing vanity metrics is far from the only data problem that social media programs can run into. In the thick of general election season, it can be easy and tempting to concentrate all resources on producing and posting content—and in the final sprint on Election Day, that can make sense. But in the weeks leading up to that (as in right now), aim to continue reporting out about performance and results at least once per week—and applying those insights to upcoming content.
Pivots big and small can sometimes become necessary at any stage in the cycle, even as late as now—but you won’t know it without looking at the data.
Running social media in a silo from other departments, especially comms, design, and video.
Social media platforms can serve as powerful platforms for telling your campaign or organization’s story online—or even as the front lines of communication, as they did for Warren for President. But that power is only possible with internal coordination.
If an announcement needs to be made on social media, the social media team will be best positioned to make it a success by knowing about it well in advance—think planning phases, not 11:45 p.m. the night before a 9 a.m. launch. In a similar vein, if the social media team needs the support of the design or video teams to execute a rollout, those teams should know about it well in advance as well.
In some cases, this lack of internal communication is well-intentioned—team members don’t want to burden others, and assume that taking on all planning and drafting will make that work easier for their colleagues who manage social media. In other cases, the intent is to avoid having too many cooks in the kitchen.
Keeping team members whose work is essential to a rollout in the dark about that responsibility until the last minute won’t put them in a position to succeed.
In any case, what’s most important is not to assume. Each organization is unique, and teams should have conversations—internally and across teams—to understand how much, and what kind of advance notice is needed to set each other up for success.
Forgetting that platforms run the show.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember about running a social media program is that the social media platforms themselves run the show.
If a platform wants to accept an acquisition offer by a competitor, kill a key feature, turn off all political ads, or even deactivate your account tomorrow, they can. In fact, they have, and they will.
There are also factors outside of their control that could affect your program. Apple or Google could decide to remove an app from the App Store or Play Store at any time—or a government could make that decision for them.
So don’t put all of your social media, or digital eggs in one basket. No matter how strong your presence is on one platform, remember to diversify beyond it—and beyond social media, too. Build a following across multiple social networks and grow an email list—so that if TikTok does get banned in the United States, that audience will still be able to hear from you.
Anastasia develops and directs innovative digital strategies for leading progressive campaigns and organizations. Before serving as Elizabeth Warren's Social Media Director, Anastasia launched and led the Social Media Department at Trilogy Interactive, where she worked with dozens of high-profile clients on refining and growing their online presence. Follow her on Twitter at @golovashkina.