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5 Steps to Follow if You're Taking a Social Media Hiatus
By: Christine Geraci
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Over the weekend, my sister and brother-in-law took my son out for an afternoon of fun. Before they arrived to pick him up, I packed a bag of supplies, snacks, and other typical "just-in-case" items for a toddler. But I forgot to pack one thing: fresh baby wipes. And as a result...yeah, let's just say a mad dash for rest room toilet paper was involved. 
I rarely forget basic stuff like this. Because the pouch I keep the wipes in looked full, I didn't bother to open it. I should have been more thorough. And although in the end it wasn't a huge deal, it forced my poor sister and brother-in-law to...ahem, improvise. 
So what on earth does this have to do with social media, you ask? Well, if you're the "social media person" for your organization, there will likely be times when you have to hand the reins over to someone else while you're on vacation, maternity leave, sick, etc. And you don't want that person to end up in a situation where he or she must use less-than-ideal tools to clean up a huge mess.
So if you're planning on taking a brief hiatus from your social media duties, follow these suggestions to ensure nothing suffers while you're away:
1. Designate a person or team to take over your duties well in advance. If it's not your call, make suggestions to your manager. In an emergency situation where you have to leave unexpectedly, the person or people backing you up should be able to jump into action, no questions asked, without skipping a beat. And you shouldn't have to worry that your social presence is suffering while you're away. 
2. Let your audience know you'll be gone for a while. Some people might disagree with this one, and admittedly, this is a moot point if your organization's social media channels are maintained by a team. But if you represent your organization with your name (such as by explaining in a Twitter bio that you tweet on behalf of the organization), then your backup shouldn't be posing as you while you're away. Just be honest with your audience — they'll understand, and will appreciate the disclosure. And it's better than confusing them by attaching your name to another person's style. 
3. Be clear about what you expect your backup(s) to do. Outline your duties clearly and concisely on paper, then give each duty a priority level based on how you would normally execute tasks in a given week. If it's a situation where your backup will be picking up your slack on top of their own workload, then make sure that person knows what absolutely must be done first (for instance, answering audience feedback or updating your company blog at least twice per week). If need be, find a backup for your backup who can step in to take care of less time-consuming tasks (such as scheduling tweets or Facebook updates). 
4. Don't forget to hand over "the keys." Your backup should be given the usernames and passwords for all of the social media accounts and blogs you maintain for your company or organization, and/or should be given "administrator" status so their own usernames and passwords will gain them access to the company's accounts. Ideally, these usernames and passwords should be fairly generic anyway (if not all the same), especially if your company's social media presence is maintained by a team. You should also make sure your manager has a copy of the usernames and passwords just in case.
5. Never, ever assume. Go through the above steps with your backup(s) as if it will be the first time they have ever managed a social media presence — even if it's not. Let them know in advance that you might be covering procedures they already know how to do, and it's because you just don't want to leave any stone unturned — not because you think the person is somehow inacapable. You don't want to be the one who forgets to relay a key component of the plan because you ASSumed your backup would just know what to do.
How else would you ensure a seamless transition if you had to take a break from maintaining your company's social media presence for a while?

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About the Author
Christine Geraci is the Social Media/Promotions Specialist at MVP Health Care in Schenectady, NY. Connect with her on Twitter @christinegeraci.
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