10 Social Media Lessons From Home Improvement

If we’re connected on Twitter or Facebook, you may have noticed me posting a lot about the renovations we’re currently conducting on our new house.

In a brief moment of downtime, I started thinking about the social media lessons you can learn from the process of renovating a house. I came up with ten – let me know what you think of them in the comments:

1. It’s all about the foundation

If the foundation of your home isn’t solid, things will fall apart when placed under stress.

Similarly, while it might seem easy to ¬†launch into a social media campaign, if you don’t prepare properly – nail down your social media policies, engagement guidelines and escalation processes, among other things – then when issues emerge you’ll be in trouble.

2. You need to get the structure right

When we first looked at our new home, one of the first decisions we made was that we needed to re-structure the main living area – the rooms didn’t flow well and didn’t make the most of the space we had.

One of your foundational steps when embarking on a social media program should be to determine how you will structure your activities – centralized? Hub and spoke? Decentralized? Where would the “centre” be? How will you coordinate the functions that are involved?

Failure to determine this can lead to duplication of effort and dysfunctional programs.

3. Most of the work goes unseen

We worked on our renovation¬†for six weeks before we got to the point of addressing the things that people will see once it’s finished. We ripped out wiring, re-routed the air ducts, installed new plumbing and more – none of which is visible but all of which is essential.

Similarly, the vast majority of work that goes into a social media program will go on behind the scenes – strategy, planning, asset design and development, content planning and production, engagement triage and workflow and so on. The piece the public sees is the tip of the iceberg.

4. Success is in the eye of the owner

Whatever your objectives are for your renovation, other people will judge it based on whether their own preferences. We chose to paint our living room red; if you don’t like red, you won’t like what we’ve done with it, whether or not it achieves our goals.

If you run a high-profile social media program, you’ll run into a similar situation – people will judge your activities based on their own perception, regardless of your objectives. Welcome criticism if it can help you become better; if it’s simply based on incomplete information then stick to your goals and don’t let it phase you.

5. The surface level gets all of the attention

As I mentioned earlier, we spent six weeks working away at elements of our house that will rarely, or never, be seen once we’re finished. Despite that, people will judge the results based on the light fixtures, the paint colour, the colour of the counter top or some other finishing detail.

People will judge your social media activities in a similar way – by the content of a tweet, a personal support issue, the wording of a comment or the like. Accept that that’s going to happen, as you can’t stop it. Still, this makes the next lesson all the more important…

6. Attention to detail is critical

Even with all of the work that has gone in behind the scenes, the house just won’t look as good as it could if we don’t sweat the details. So, we’re being obsessive in ensuring that the painting is flawless, that the flooring is level and so on.

People are going to judge you on what they see, so be sure to sweat the small stuff. That monitoring alert you want to ignore could be the post that starts a major issue. That spelling you forget to check could undermine the credibility of the content you post.

Take the time to get things right.

7. It’s a long-term game

We’re seven weeks into our renovations; we’ve likely got a few months left yet too. It was weeks before we stopped tearing things down and started to build them back up. Sure, we could have done a smaller job and had it down sooner but the results wouldn’t be as rewarding.

Social media is a long-term effort. Don’t expect immediate results; don’t quit if you’re not generating instant leads when you first start. Set a long-term goal; set intermediate goals along the road to that main goal. Stay the course.

8. Sometimes you may need help

We certainly wouldn’t be where we are now with the renovations without the help we’ve received from others – from my father and father-in-law through to friends like Eric Portelance and Jeremy Wright who have lent a hand along the way. We also contracted-out the drywalling, which we just didn’t have the time or desire to do ourselves.

You don’t have to do everything yourself. There will likely be elements of your activities that you don’t have the skills, the time or the inclination to handle. Don’t be afraid to draw on internal resources or agency support to get the work done.

9. “Good” doesn’t come cheap

You can get good materials or you can get cheap materials. We went for good – it costs more, but we’ll reap the rewards in the long-term.

The same goes for social media activities. Some of the tools may be free, but time and expertise isn’t.

10. Everything is integrated

We removed a wall between our living and dining rooms. When we did, we had to re-route an air duct, re-wire an outlet and move a central vac point. Everything in a house, you see, fits together like a jigsaw.

The same goes for a good social media program. Your properties and activities should support each other – driving people from one to the other, supporting the messages and working together to support your objectives.

Integration will be a big theme for social media practitioners in 2011.

What else?

These ten lessons stand out for me. Do they make sense to you? What else would you add to the list?

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.