Having two kids is a blessing (or a curse depending on when you ask me.) In the average day I change a dozen or so diapers, prepare almost as many meals or snacks, and find myself in a near constant state of motion for 17 hours or more. When I have a minute to sit down and think about the parallels between parenting and media monitoring, several similarities strike me:
It’s a 24/7 job – The ‘round the clock news cycle that is endemic in social media, and now traditional media, means that you need to be monitoring at all hours. While most action takes place during daylight hours, you always need to have a baby monitor on, just in case.
Constant din of noise – As soon as my kids wake up in the morning the chatter begins. Add to that toys, games, and television and you’ve got yourself a cacophony echoing throughout the house. You have to keep an ear out to make sure that nothing is being broken and the kids are safe. So too with media monitoring – each day there are millions if not billions of posts to blogs, forums, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and all the other social media outlets. Not to mention all of the traditional news stories, press releases, and other mainstream content. It’s best to have a monitoring system in place to help you cut through the buzz and hear what’s most important.
Introduce new foods occasionally – Most days it’s just grapes, chicken fingers, and French fries. But others it’s a vegetarian curry, mango parfaits, or salt cod on toast. It seems like a constant challenge to try to introduce new foods or serve up the old stand-bys in different ways. It’s a good reminder for those involved in media monitoring to branch out of your usual niche and look at new sites, comment on a post from a blogger you don’t already know, or add a new feed to your RSS reader. Also, the most important stories aren’t always in the biggest news outlets. Local and regional sources as well as trade publications may have a unique take on a topic of interest.
Playgroup is a priority – Both in parenting and social media, engagement with others leads to a well-rounded and more fulfilling experience. Whether you are chatting over coffee and watching the kids play, reTweeting your colleague’s thoughts, or commenting on a blogger’s latest post – discussion and interaction are at the center of the community. Even traditional media often offers ways for readers to respond, from letters to the editor to comments on individual stories.
There are always poopy diapers – You can’t get through a day without a little bit of the stinky stuff, so it’s good to always have the diaper bag handy. There are usually a few detractors posting negative messages. It seems to be a given in social media and is seen more and more in the reader comments on traditional news stories. Best to be prepared ahead of time to catch any of this buzz before it gets to be too big of a mess.
Be ready for the occasional fever – Kids get sick; in fact sometimes they seem like little germ factories. Again preparation is key – have the tissues on hand, children’s meds stocked, and the doctor’s number handy. With media monitoring, if you have a plan in place and a cache of responses, you can face almost any situation undaunted. Sometimes it’s best to step back and let things run their course, but don’t hesitate to call in a professional if things are outside your normal range.