This past summer I spent 12 weeks in Boston. I won’t go into the specific circumstances of why I was there, but I can tell you it was wonderful. Running by the Charles River, living in Back Bay, enjoying the city’s rich history, beer selections and glorious food. I’m still in my 20s, and I fit in perfectly with the college-town demographic.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to get a job such as waiting tables, bartending or otherwise. To fund my travels, I instead tried my hand at working remotely. I won’t write a love letter to the Internet, but I do appreciate that I live in a time when it’s entirely possible to work from home, or in my case, work from vacation.
I bring this all up, not to start a “my summer was better than yours” competition, but to highlight how I managed social media for Raleigh-based companies 12 hours away. Hopefully, I can provide tips to those of you who manage accounts with target audiences in another geographic location entirely. Or, if you do a lot of consulting work, perhaps this will help you feel more confident when pitching to a client across the country.
What was it like?
The hardest part for me was not finding content or keeping up with my clients (although both were a challenge, and I’ll provide tips below). It was actually maintaining any kind of a focus on Raleigh. I had never been to Boston before this summer, and I wanted to experience as much of the city as possible during the three months I was there. Thinking about Raleigh was distracting.
Also, there’s a certain sense you have about things when you’re living in an area as opposed to reading about an area. You intuitively know what’s interesting to a target audience when, in a way, you’re part of that audience.
While managing many of my clients’ accounts didn’t require I keep up with legislation, I think this example helps illustrate my point. During my time in Boston, the North Carolina legislature voted several massive changes to our state’s policies into existence. Even though I read about the changes extensively through media coverage (and it was extensive … even The New York Times jumped on board), I felt as if I was reading about another state. The Facebook conversations felt distant, and I was less engaged in something with which I otherwise would have been obsessed.
Now, despite all of this, I never let my work’s quality slip. I knew how desperately I wanted to experience the city before I moved up there, so I took several steps to prevent myself from losing focus:
I religiously kept up with my clients’ needs:
I made sure I kept up with clients through email, and sometimes phone calls so that I didn’t accidentally miss something. I’m sure this sounds pretty obvious (how else could I know what they wanted?), but the summer was different because I formalized the process. Previously, I would communicate with clients whenever either one of us felt like we had something to say. This summer, I made sure to keep the communication channels open, even when there wasn’t a pressing topic for discussion. (Seriously, if I had a dollar for every email I sent with the subject “Just checking in…”)
I made sure to read Triangle-based media:
Not media about North Carolina. Not media from another area of North Carolina (such as Charlotte), but papers or blogs written in Raleigh, Durham or Chapel Hill. Out of everything I did to maintain a feel for home, this was the most helpful. The hard news articles provided information on what important things were happening, and the editorials filled in the details of public opinion.
As I mentioned before, it still felt as if I was reading about another state, and I’m not sure how to prevent this from happening. I’m also not sure it was entirely a bad thing. Keeping up with North Carolina media prevented me from ever making an Aurora Tweet-like mistake (the textbook case for outsourced social media gone wrong). In a way, it allowed me to keep things separate. When I thought about Raleigh, I was working. When I thought about Boston, I was playing. Argue whether or not you think that’s a good idea, but I found it very easy to slip into work mode after reading an article or two about North Carolina.
I kept up with Triangle-based people on social media:
I’m not talking about my clients here. I’m simply talking about residents of the Triangle. Granted, I had a huge advantage here because I’m from the Triangle and didn’t have to remotely cultivate relationships with friends and family after I moved to Boston. The only thing I can think of here for those of you that don’t have many strong relationships in a client’s area is to either network every time you visit the city or to follow thought leaders such as LinkedIn Groups, mommy bloggers, political tweeters, etc.
I picked projects that would keep me interested in the work:
About halfway through the summer, I noticed I was getting a little stale. I was meeting deadlines and target numbers, but everything felt very robotic. I decided to keep things interesting by creating little projects for myself.
My favorite random project was a case study I wrote about our success with one of our clients. It helped me stay engaged because I had to have a call with the client to go over specific details, and I reviewed that client’s social media activity for the past year. When I was done, I tried to pitch the case study to a few bloggers. It was just out of the ordinary enough that I was re-engaged with my work in Raleigh.
Managing social media remotely isn’t too radically different than managing it in person (although, you could argue “in person” is a bit misleading). It just takes extra effort to stay on top of tasks and maintaining a feel for another area.