Ask Bandwidth Genny: How do I get started using social media?

At Doyle McDonald, we're DIY communications experts. Decades of working with (and for) nonprofits, trade associations, and small businesses have taught us a boatload of tricks, hacks, skills, and strategies to help you—and the millions of other people in the Bandwidth Generation—to manage your many competing priorities. 

So we’ve launched the “Ask Bandwidth Genny” series to teach you how to wear a lot of hats … with style.


Dear Bandwidth Genny,

I know we should be doing social media. Everyone says that it’s critical. But I’m already overloaded with work! I don’t have time to learn—much less do—social media. How do I reconcile these problems?

Even as a teenager, I wore a lot of hats!

Even as a teenager, I wore a lot of hats!


A lot of the people we work with have these challenges. Lean organizations like nonprofits and small businesses are so committed to reaching their goals that they often overstretch their staff and allocate resources towards projects, rather than infrastructure. And this leaves their dedicated staff stressed and overworked, so even discussing the idea of learning—much less implementing—a new system elicits frustration and alarm.

Luckily, there are a number of tactics and tricks that you can use to make learning and incorporating social media a relatively painless process.


Social media: It’s not what you might think

There’s a lot of mystique and hype around social media. Some people see it as a silver bullet to accomplish any goal, achieve worldwide fame, and/or gain thousands of dedicated fans. Others see it as a time-consuming fad that yields no benefits.

The truth is as simple as this: social media isn’t something you do. It’s a universe of tools that you use. And like any other toolkit, choosing—and utilizing—the right tool for the task is crucial to your success. You can spend a lot of time and effort trying to loosen a bolt with a sledgehammer, but you’re probably not going to be pleased with the results. If you use the right wrench, however, you can loosen that bolt far more quickly and effectively than if you were using your hands.

Social media is a set of tools. That’s it. It’s no more magic than email, direct mail, or the telephone. But it’s at least as powerful when used properly.

That said, social media does require certain adjustments to how you approach and think about your communications. Each platform has its own distinct culture and format, and the rise of social media has both driven and resulted from a fundamental change in the way we communicate.


So how do I get started?

You get started, ironically enough, by looking at your existing communications. One of the most overlooked steps in successfully using social media is not having a strategy that moves the larger marketing goals forward. So ask yourself:

  • Who are you trying to communicate with?
  • What content are you already producing?
  • What are your communications and marketing goals?

Then, start small. With one platform. Seriously. ONE. And since you’re going to pick just one, you need to choose wisely.


In Part II, I’ll talk about how to choose the right platform and get your feet wet.


Do you have a question for Bandwidth Genny? Drop me a line at [email protected]