6 social media lessons we can learn from man’s best friend

Two years ago this week, we adopted our dog Niles less than two weeks after our honeymoon. Since then, he’s taught us a lot about love (it’s amazing you can look into the eyes of that little fluff ball while cleaning up his vomit from the grass you begged him not to eat, and still think he’s the cutest thing on the planet), family and surprisingly, social media.

Yes, it’s true. These little creatures of habit and impulse can teach us quite a bit about managing a social media program. Here are 6 social media lessons he’s taught me in our two years together, and counting.

1. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s really in charge

social Media lessons I learned from my dogLet’s be honest. Being in charge of social media can send you on a power trip at times. You’re the gatekeeper to all of your brand’s social connections! With one click, you have the potential to communicate to hundreds of thousands of people at once!

A good social media manager doesn’t just publish whatever they feel like whenever they feel like it – they monitor feedback closely from their audience, and tailor their scheduling and content choices around what will perform well. It’s a constant hunt for that sweet spot between pandering and force feeding – you need to deliver content that your audience wants to read while staying true to your brand’s mission and goals.

It’s kind of like owning a dog – we as humans decide when they eat, when they go out and where they sleep. But when was the last time your dog cleaned up after you? We may be the gatekeepers for these essentials, but when you think about it, they hang out and sleep all day while we buy their food, prepare their meals, take them outside and pick up their poop. So, who’s in charge? Dog or human? Not as black and white as we’d like to think.

2. The bark is bigger than the bite

Dogs can be pretty scary when they’re frightened or angry. They bark, they growl, they show their teeth and sometime they even lunge. But most of the time, that’s as far as it goes.

The same can be said for online “trolls.” Social media is a place where people can choose to be somewhat anonymous, which often grants them license to say things they’d never say in real life. They lie, they pester and sometimes they even threaten – but only rarely does this cause any real problems for the brand. Most of the time, people are able to see them for what they are – irrational attention-seekers – and their words carry very little weight.

3. I’m going to keep barking at that squirrel even though no one else cares

Yes, we get it. There’s a squirrel in that tree. Right now, this may be the most interesting thing in the world to your dog, but that doesn’t mean that his human friends find it all that fascinating. A squirrel. We get it. Let’s move on.

The point is, your dog doesn’t always listen to feedback from his family, and the result is that he just ends up annoying everyone. The dog doesn’t care that you don’t care about that squirrel.

Don’t be a dog on social media – listen to your audience. If you’re posting what you think is the most amazing content in the world, but no one is engaging with it, it’s time to move on and try something else.

4. It’s much more fun to lick a dirty dishwasher than a clean one

Everyone loves a good, dirty scandal. Negative information circulates much more quickly than positive. Celebrity breakdowns are more exciting than celebrity charity work. In fact, people will often look for the negative, even when it’s not really there. Everyone wants to be the one to break the next scandal. It’s just human nature, and you’re not going to change that.

But that certainly doesn’t mean you have to give into it, either. If people accuse you of misinformation, politely correct them. Sometimes this can even be a positive for your brand image – it gives you an excuse to promote your strengths in an organic way, and offers your brand evangelists an opportunity to come to your defense (they will love being the hero – make sure you treat them as such).

5. I’m just going to bury this tasty treat and save it for later

My dog has a bunch of bones lying around the house. When he’s not eating them, they are buried in a blanket, couch cushion or pile of laundry. This is not because he’s intent on destroying my home – it’s because when he has a surplus of good things, he stashes them in a safe place so he can return to them at a later date.

Content sources ebb and flow depending on time of year, campaign schedule, and a whole other range of factors. And, more often than not, when it rains, it pours – meaning sometimes you get a whole lot of great content all at once. When this happens, don’t feel like you have to push it all out on your social channels at once. Some content will likely be time sensitive, but others will be more evergreen – meaning it will be relevant no matter how far in the future you share it.

Figuring out how often to post on each channel is an art form – too little and people lose interest, too much and people are overwhelmed. Also, if you follow a really great post up immediately with another great post, they will detract from each other. Give your good content some time to shine, and save the rest for a slow day.

6. If you feed me at 6 a.m. every morning, I’m going to expect my meals at 6 a.m. every morning

Consistency is an important part of your dog’s life, as well as your audience’s social media diet. What happens when you sleep in one morning? Your dog is pawing at your face, crying for his breakfast. Your Tweeple are waiting with pitchforks (ok, maybe not that extreme).

Still, if you deliver content around the same time every day, people will come to expect it and, if you’re doing your job well, look forward to it. Guess what? That’s a good thing. You want to put your social media audience on a schedule. You want them to be hungry for your content, but confident it will be delivered on schedule. There’s comfort and trust in that – which is exactly what you want to build on social media.

That’s not to say if you post on Facebook at 10 a.m. today, then you must post at 10 a.m. sharp tomorrow. It doesn’t have to be on the dot – just the same relative time of day. And don’t be afraid to test the waters every once in awhile – post at a time you don’t typically post at and see how it does. Just don’t do it at the expense of the time slots your supporters have come to expect.

Have you learned about social media from an unexpected source? A bird? A guinea pig? An inanimate object? Tell us in the comments below!


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