Micromanage social media at your own risk

The office of the Canadian Health Minister recently had some unpleasant headlines when it was revealed it has 1.5 full time staff managing its Twitter account. This seems excessive, because it is - particularly when you consider that they only tweeted 50 times a month. That's just over twice every working day. 

I expect this has not been pleasant for the Health Minister's office. Her most recent tweet has more replies than usual, but they are exactly what you'd expect. 




What happened?

This is a pretty straightforward case of micromanagement. Here's a key detail from the story that sums this up: 

Planning for new tweets begins two weeks in advance, when an editorial tweet calendar is sent to the minister's office for pre-approval, the memo says.

This does not seem like great value for money. If they're putting together a calendar two weeks in advance, and only managing a couple tweets a day, then they are likely spending a lot more time on the calendar and barely any much time tweeting. 

What’s the tradeoff?

Communications strategy should be viewed as a set of tradeoffs. The Minister of Health's office's approach gives senior people visibility of each specific tweet, as well as input into what it says, two weeks in advance. But there are quite a few tradeoffs in this approach: they're sending out fewer tweets per day, reducing the relevance of each tweet, and increasing the cost per tweet. 

Different approach, different tradeoffs

Another approach involves a different set of tradeoffs: trust your staff. Hire smart people with good judgement, give them access to the social media accounts, and let them tweet relevant content.

If you follow this approach, here’s what you’re trading off: your staff are going to make mistakes. These mistakes could be:

Here’s the thing with these mistakes, though: they can be fixed. Delete the tweet, tweet an apology, and move on. Let your staff do this without hauling them over the coals, and they’ll learn from their mistakes.

This tradeoff may be higher than your appetite for risk. That’s fine. You’re allowed to run your organisation however you want. But rather than try to create a social media strategy that jams a square block into a round hole, you should consider just not using Twitter at all.

Otherwise you risk wasting money and dealing with embarrassing news stories, when it inevitably comes out that you’re using 1.5 people to do 50 tweets a month.

Some follow up points

I have some stray observations that didn’t fit anywhere in this blogpost. Enjoy.

  1. Larger organisations, with lots of engagement on social media, may well need 1.5 people, or more, to handle all their replies. This does not appear to be the case here.

  2. The article’s estimate that each person is being paid more than $100,000 a year is a bit sensationalist.  They’ve taken the average for public sector workers, which would be artificially high because of the 1% of public servants earning $150,000+ per year. Most full-time Canadian public servants earn around $75,000.

  3. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a calendar. In fact, calendars can be great for planning content in general. But there’s a big difference between planning your content in advance, and planning your tweets in advance. We’ll cover that in another blogpost.

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