Guiseppe Getto, Ph.D.

professor, technical communicator, ux consultant, content strategist

A Social Media Strategy Template for Small Businesses and Non-Profits

A lot of the clients I have worked with over the years have needed help with social media strategy. Invariably they come to me with a request such as “I need to learn Twitter” or “I need to be better at Facebook” or “I need to get 10,000 reblogs on Tumblr!!”

They could be the character in the following cartoon, in other words:

A cartoon depicting a joke that could be about using a bad social media strategy template. A person is saying "Tweet" and another saying "This is my riend Woody. You'll have to forgive him, he doesn't get out much."

Image source: http://bit.ly/1CW1d1v

What I give them is a social media strategy template that I’ve designed to help them get out of this mindset.

What People Get Wrong about Social Media Strategy

Like the character in the above cartoon, many people think about the medium before they think about the message, when it comes to social media. With all due respect to Marshall MacLuhan, while the medium is important, without a clear, consistent message, you might as well be an awkward person at a social gathering who doesn’t understand how to mingle.

I define a social media strategy as a plan for an authentic, focused, and consistent social media presence that is maintained through a series of weekly tasks, and that includes triggers for when tasks are to be performed.

The first stage of developing a social media strategy, then, is to think strategically by considering your overall message.

Initial Questions to Ask Yourself

In order to break clients out of this cart-before-the-horse mentality, I start every initial meeting about social media strategy with the following questions:

  • Who do you want to connect with as part of your business plan?
  • Why do you want to connect with those people?
  • Who are your clients/customers?
  • Where are your clients/customers?
  • How long have you been on social media?
  • Why did you choose [a specific social media platform] over others?

The goal of these questions is to figure out why they’ve made the choices they’ve made and what media are best for them, given the message they are developing.

Core Components of Social Media Strategy

At the same time, there are commonalities to social media that everyone should know. These commonalities include:

  • Authenticity: even if you’re posting on behalf of someone else, you need to be authentic, meaning real, honest, and true to your word.
  • Focus: you need to develop an identity that is shaped around sharing a particular type of information.
  • Consistency: you need to deliver content in a timely, regular manner.
  • Task-based: social media is task-based, meaning it is about performing lots of small, simple operations like posting something, responding to a direction message, or following new people.
  • Triggers: it needs to be clear what the triggers will be for when you need to perform which tasks.

Here’s my entire social media strategy template in a Google Doc for ease of use: http://bit.ly/1M3Yd3U

Using UXPin for Rapid Prototyping

A stylized UX workflow featuring a screen, some gears, and user interface icons
In an era where responsive, or mobile-first, design is ruling the day, it’s essential to use a design process that is quick and efficient. As Scott Hurff put it in his article on rapid prototyping for Smashing Magazine:

Rapid prototyping’s primary purpose is to focus your already limited time. You’re cutting out fluff, tangents, and feature-creep to bring to life a very specific use case or workflow. Your job is to identify that:

  • You’re building the right thing.
  • This piece of your product solves the right problem.
  • This interaction is something your team is capable of building within a reasonable timeframe.

The first goal of prototyping is to test, prove, or conceptualize an idea that’s in your head within a limited timeframe or budget.

I use a tool you may have heard of called UXPin for rapid prototyping. I use it on client projects to create deliverables such as personas, wireframes, clickable prototypes, and even business process models.

Below I explain why I like UXPin in particular, and why tools like UXPin have sprung up due to the changing needs of designers everywhere.

People Are Making Stuff in as Little as Two Weeks

Most organizations simply don’t have the time or budget to spend months vetting a new design, or redesign, of a product or service. When a client approaches me with an idea, my first job is to help them conceptualize that idea as quickly and efficiently as possible.

For me this means:

  • Showing them something visual that displays key functions and design features
  • Making something I can test with users
  • Not locking them into code

The great thing about tools like UXPin is that they allow you to do all the above with a few simple clicks and virtually no training.

A screenshot of the UXPin rapid prototyping tool showing the design of a mobile app

Essentially, this new generation of tools allows you to use common UI elements like buttons, typefaces, and screen sizes to collaborate on prototypes with team members. You can drag and drop an image from anywhere, or can use the common elements from UXPin’s UI library.

It’s kind of like Photoshop, but made specifically for UX designers.

People Are Re-Making Stuff All the Time

The other thing I use UXPin for is redesigns. Clients often come to me with an existing website or mobile app they’ve cobbled together, but it’s not working like they’d hoped. They’re not getting enough hits, their content isn’t trending in the right places, or they’re way behind where they thought they’d be for monthly downloads, or monthly active users, or both.

Here, UXPin allows me to test a new, clickable prototype against the existing design, as I just recently did with this prototype of an interactive tour for an online mapping tool:

A screenshot of an interactive tour I designed as a rapid prototype

You can insert screenshots or actual UI elements from developers, or use those native to UXPin. This enables you to make a full-blown prototype in a few hours, or to prototype individual features in minutes.

Most importantly: any prototype you make in UXPin can be deployed as a link to a clickable prototype, so you can transition to usability testing very easily.

UX Designers Need Tools that Don’t Lock Them into Code

This is a bit of a controversial topic in the design world right now, where lots of developers are learning about UX and adding it to their list of skill sets. I firmly believe that UX is something you have to practice full-time to be any good at, however. I wouldn’t describe myself as a developer, even though I make custom WordPress sites for people, because I just don’t live in that world full time.

There’s also a real danger in putting a particular design platform in front of the needs of the people who will be using the design. I’ve never met a developer who is equally good at every language or platform available. Similarly, people that describe themselves as being equally good at development and UX are typically people who are either geniuses, or are mistating some of their expertise.

Don’t get me wrong: the design unicorns do exist, but the rest of us need tools that can help us make and remake things quickly to keep up with a very agile web-based marketplace. Without these tools, it’s too easy to shortchange UX in favor of going with what makes the most sense from a purely technological point-of-view.

Why WordPress Is One of the Best Website-Building Tools for Non-Profits and Small Businesses

The WordPress Logo
 
WordPress is a powerful, open source website development Content Management System (CMS) that was recently called “the best choice to build your website in 2014.” Many people think WordPress is just WordPress.com, the popular blogging site, but at WordPress.org you can download the software used to create blogs at WordPress.com and from there can install this software onto any hosting plaform that meets its minimum requirements. With WordPress you can effectively create any kind of website you want at very little cost. The advantages of WordPress are many, and in this post I go through four of them.

WordPress Is Learnable

WordPress was the first website-building platform I learned when I started building websites seven years ago. Seven years later, it’s easy to see me as an advanced user, which I am, but like everyone who starts with a new platform, I started by playing around with the technology to see what it could do.

Since then, I have used a lot of other platforms, including Drupal and Joomla!, to build websites. Over the years, I kept coming back to WordPress, however, as my favorite platform. I use it to teach, to help people learn design fundamentals, and to build websites for clients. Having tested out the technology myself through dozens of versions, I have personally found it to be one of the easiest platforms to work with for building websites. Perhaps more importantly, however, I have found that people with little to no design experience can usually learn to use WordPress quickly and easily.

WordPress Is (Fairly) Usable

One reason why WordPress is easy to learn, is that it is fairly easy to use. The organization behind the technology maintains a group that anyone can join, who is charged with ensuring that the technology is usable. Members of this group perform usability testing on every new feature that is rolled out to ensure that each feature meets minimum requirements for learnability, efficiency, and memorability. This attention to the user experience also extends to accessibility.

WordPress also maintains a very strong developer community that is very responsive to concerns users have. I have never personally had a question go unanswered on the support forums, and most of the time my questions have been answered in less than 24 hours.

I say “fairly usable,” because as a UX designer, usability is always partially a product of the user’s context. Like any technology, WordPress has a learning curve and is designed with certain opportunities and limitations in mind.

WordPress Is Open Source

Many people who are new to design get confused about the term “open source,” which refers to the licensing behind the code used for a web application. The important thing to know about the way WordPress licences its code, is that anyone can use it, as long as they don’t claim to be the originators. Essentially what this means is that if you do a full installation of WordPress via WordPress.org on a domain that you own (such as http://guiseppegetto.com), you can add or delete any code you wish.

A screenshot of the WordPress dashboard showing the "Edit CSS" feature

The ability to control all the code on your site, whether you initially know how to do so or not, is a very important attribute. Any truly “open source” technology (such as Drupal or Joomla!) grants users this ability, but there many website-building platforms that don’t, or that charge exorbitant rates for the ability to make even minor changes to your website’s code.

WordPress Is Sustainable

Most of my clients over the past seven years have been smaller organizations: non-profits, schools, and small businesses. I usually recommend WordPress to these clients, because it’s easy to sustain. It is updated frequently, and the updates are easy to apply. There’s also a clean separation of custom code from the default settings, so the updates typically don’t break any code I’ve created for them. In addition, WordPress automatically saves versions of any content you create, and is easy to backup to an external source like Google Drive.

Regardless of whether you want to create a blog, an organizational website, or a full-blown e-commerce site, WordPress is a great platform to work from.

To get started with WordPress, feel free to check out my Definitive Guide to Definitive WordPress Guides or contact me for a free initial consultation.