How to rev up your social media strategy

Mar 06, 2012

Flummoxed by Facebook?

Perplexed by Pinterest? As part of the small-business success issue from On Small Business, Ryan Paugh, the founder and former Community Director for Brazen Careerist, will be taking questions on how to rev up your social media strategy. Whether you're just launching your company's Twitter feed or looking to take your online following to the next level, submit your questions here.

Hey everyone! We're going to begin right at Noon EST so keep those questions coming in!

A little about myself in the meantime...

I was one of the first Gen Y career bloggers to come on the scene right when Gen Y was entering the workforce. Through building a strong network on my blog I was able to launch a company called Brazen Careerist, which is now a place for ambitious young professionals to learn, connect and grow.

I spend most of my time today building a new community called the Young Entrepreneur Council which is a nonprofit providing entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship and resources. Just yesterday we launched a campaign called #FixYoungAmerica to help fight youth unemployment, which is higher than it's ever been in the last 60 years!

Search #FixYoungAmerica in Twitter to learn more about our campaign and join the fight!

Is there a way to quantify the amount of good an average social media campaign does for a company? I see that almost every company has a facebook and twitter account, but I can't imagine many of them being all that successful. Am I wrong?

You're certainly not wrong. Most entrepreneurs mess up social media (in fact Guy Kawasaki has a good article about this today, search for it). 

Most important to realize is that just because a company is on social media doesn't mean they have a campaign or a strategy. Most skip this step and dive right in, which is toxic. Strategy is important. Ask yourself...

1) What are your main goals?

2) Where is my audience interacting online?

3) What do they want to talk about?

4) How will I measure success?

There are plenty of tool available to measure your success with social media. I use a combination of Hootsuite and Google analytics to measure how well our social media team does for YEC campaigns.

Is it a greater advantage to be on the cutting edge with new sites and services that may not be as populated yet (but which may never take off), or to focus on more established sites with a higher number of users? If we have limited time resources to devote to social media, what do you believe a small business's focus should be? Thanks!

Boutique social networks, websites and blogs are sometimes the best places to engage with your target audience. The big ones (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) are oversaturated with marketers and salesmen.

Consider strategic partnerships with content producers, bloggers and niche social networks. To find them, do good research up front to find them or pay a strategist to find them for you.

Social media marketing is just like any marketing. You get what you put into it.

There has been much talk of Pinterest lately. There have been claims that its terms make posting content a copyright infringement and how its a great new way for organizations to share content. My question is how can organizations best leverage Pintererst to engage without giving Pinterest license over the content?

The same could be said for re-posting/sharing content anywhere on the web. I just don't buy that Pinterest is any different. 

The great thing about Pinterest (and one of the reasons they grew so fast) is  because their leadership understands the community. If there are copyright issues they will be dealt with. 

Focus on whether or not Pinterest is a good tool for your organization. Right now I feel like 90% of businesses should still just be watching what other brands are doing, learning from them and then deciding if it's worth the time investment.

What's your thought on generic Twitter hashtags? I see a lot of really generic words used as hash tags in Tweets by people who are trying to promote something. Do Hashtags like #food, #journalism, #fashion or #film really help people reach a wide audience?

For events, campaigns and newsworthy content hashtags are extremely useful for expanding reach. For example, we just launched our #FixYoungAmerica campaign and went as far to include a hashtag in the actual branding. The hashtag allows Twitter power users to browse all posts that mention our campaign.

You'll see hashtags used a lot at events and conferences to help attendees stay updated on all of the cool happenings that are occurring. SXSW is next week and is one of the largest music, film and interactive festivals in the world. Follow #SXSW to see how people are using hashtags for events.

What social media advice do you have for someone who just launched a niche blog?  What is the best way to get the word out about your blog when you're starting from scratch?

Find other bloggers that you like and are in your same niche. Read their content and leave comments. Even go as far as to send them Twitter messages and emails to show your support.

Blogging is a very community-oriented sport and you get more when you give more. Spend more time promoting other people's stuff than you do promoting your own.

The blogosphere is all about the love :)

How do you think businesses are going to react to the mandated change of Facebook Pages on March 30th? I've been testing it on my test page and have found its handling of images and tabs to be extremely poor for business use. Do you have any tips for making Timeline not be just a profile for your business?

I'm certainly going to miss the old version of pages. What they were really good for is email lead gen as you could create a custom page where visitors would always land, present a unique offering and hopefully collect some new data on a potential customer. With timeline content is truly king.

You're just going to have to get creative and evolve with the platform. I actually disagree that it handles images poorly. Check out what the New York Times has done with their page. They basically turned it into a historical look at the company from its beginnings up until today.

Link here:

I think timeline is going to be all about telling a better story about your organization and less about promotional opportunities and lead gen... we'll see.

I've been trying to help my father's small business use social media to get a boost, but many of his customers haven't started using anything but the most standard social media services yet. Do you have any suggestions or tips on easing them into it? What sites would you suggest for an older audience?

To find out what "older" people are talking about online check out which is a social networking platform for Baby Boomers. Through networks like these you'll be able to see what your father's customers are talking about and doing online.

Think beyond the big guys (Facebook, Twitter) and look for niche communities where the social networking is less intense and daunting.

I work for a small organization where the higher-ups are older and not so tech-literate. In the past, they've decided that we should create accounts on various social networking sites for the campaigns and causes we manage. Their decision seems based largely on the idea that you needs to have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, etc. to appear up to date and current. The problem - They don't have an actual strategy or goals they are trying to achieve by using these sites. And they don't really have the time/staff resources to build an audience and keep these sites fresh with content. So my question, is their a risk in using social media if not done well? For example, is it worse for an organization to have a never updated Facebook page with few followers than to have no Facebook page at all?

Yeah, this is a stupid decision that a lot of businesses make. Your online presence is only as good as the strategy you put behind it. If you have dead channels or channels with content that's irrelevant to your audience it's going to make your brand look worse than if you had no social media presence at all.

So, yes. There is a risk in doing social media the wrong may. It's like putting out a commercial for a product that doesn't do a good job at connecting with the target audience. There has to be strategy or it's not worth it.

Pinterest seems like a cute way to share cute things- but how can a business channel it?

For #FixYoungAmerica we put together a way for our supporters to create photos that share their ideas to fix youth unemployment and share them on Pinterest. You can check it out at

Brands can leverage Pinterest for photo sharing competitions, or to just share beautiful imagery with your audience. If you're a very visually-focused brand - like a fashion boutique - Pinterest can be used to share pictures of your product that encourage customers to buy.

First and foremost, ask yourself: Are my customers using Pinterest. If the answer is "No" don't waste your time.

How important is it to get a large following for a small business? Since we're obviously 'small', we don't need a wide, global audience at this point. Are there ways to develop a loyal following and target local audiences that would use our services?

I am a big fan of Facebook private groups for building small, loyal communities. There's too much transparency in the online world so customers appreciate whent they're getting something special that only a small group of people can get.

For Young Entrepreneur Council, we have a private group for all of our most important members to interact, share trade secrets, special discounts and more. This keeps our community highly engaged and loyal.

As a shopper, I hate chasing special offers, deals or info on Facebook, etc.  Why not just have their stuff on their main site? And apparently many businesses have started to figure this out. What is the value of social media other than PR since there seems to be little in it for actual shoppers other than going on a time-wasting treasure hunt?

It sounds to me like the brands you are "chasing" are not doing it right because otherwise they would have gotten you to buy, yes? Not all brands are doing it wrong on social media. In fact, I've made many sales through Facebook ads and know of many entrepreneurs who have as well. 

Again, I think this is a case of many brands diving into something before they take a moment to strategize on the goals, messaging, etc. It's too bad too because social networks provide you with the most targetted advertising available online.

And for those of us who are less social, who aren't by nature inclined to link, friend, follow, tweet, or pin, which of the social media is a must? In 5 years, which of the media will be one that lasts and will prove most worthy of the investment?

Email (yes, email), Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Maybe Pinterest... we'll see.

I am a one-man communications department. We have opened a company Twitter feed and Facebook page, but I'm overwhelmed with options and don't know how best to even start planning for near- or long-term. Where can I find a straightforward "kickstart" guide?

You probably need to invest in some training if you don't know where to started. Check out, which is part of the Brazen Careerist network (one of my companies). There is a great Executive Social Media Bootcamp that you should register for. They will teach you all of the basics so you can do this effectively the first time.

What are some ways to tie a modern social media marketing campaign (Twitter, Facebook, etc...) to more traditional target audiences such as Federal Government and Department of Defense customers?

The government is all over the social media landscape. They're hiring like crazy and using sites like Brazen Careerist to get the word out to online influencers.

Of course, the real decision makers are probably not the ones who are executing on their social strategies. When trying to reach a higher up, consider something like LinkedIn, which operates more like a Rolodex on steroids to find the people that you're looking for.

I always thought Penelope Trunk started Brazen Careerist. Can you explain more about your respective roles? Love her blog, but she must be interesting to work with...

Penelope is one my greatest friends. She created the Brazen Careerist brand through her book, blog and syndicated columns then teamed up with me and Ryan Healy to launch the Brazen Careerist network.

My university employer wants regular Facebook posts for our department site, and it is hard some weeks to get to our weekly goal of 3-5 posts a week. My boss thinks it would be a good idea to post videos, but most young people I talk to don't want to watch videos (at least not school-related videos). What are your views on written postings vs. videos? Thanks!

How about starting some actual conversations instead? I get more followers on my pages when I focus less on videos/articles and more on talking to people. Ask students questions that matter to them, build relationships and trust.

Are you sure you're the founder of the Brazen Careerist? Penelope Trunk has been using that title for years, and my understanding is she brought you and another person out to Madison, Wis., to help her out. There's a big difference from being THE founder to being a co-founder, or even "assistant founder."

Yep, I'm sure that I'm a Founder of Brazen Careerist. Thanks for checking.

Hey guys, I have to head out now, but thanks for all of the wonderful questions. This was a lot of fun.

If I did not get to your question I'd be happy to answer you via email at or on Twitter at @ryanpaugh.

Best of luck with all of your social media strategies!

In This Chat
Ryan Paugh
Ryan Paugh is the founder and former Community Director for Brazen Careerist, the No. 1 social network for Gen Y professionals. Since founding Brazen Careerist in 2007, he transformed a niche community of 50 young career bloggers into a worldwide network of 100,000+ members. Paugh has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fast Company, Mashable and TechCrunch as a thought leader for building communities that attract a Gen Y audience.

Currently, Paugh is the Chief of Staff for the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of their business?s development and growth.
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