- Social media can be a boon to businesses that utilise it wisely, but many ignore it completely or dabble without purpose.
- While sometimes tricky, there are a few golden rules that will help companies make the most out of the medium.
- Getting the basics right will put brands in the right place to take things to the next level and add real value.
The world of social media has moved on from its deeply personal days of yore when branded content was simply not tolerated among posts and chat associated with people’s leisure time. These days, brands are expected to have corporate social media accounts, be omni-channel and respond to customer needs. Even so, many brands are not using social media to the fullest, and even worse, are making basic mistakes that can cost dearly.
Here are 10 things that businesses should keep in mind when they interact online.
1. Social media is the new yellow pages
Believe it or not, there are still brands that are not on social media. But being absent isn’t a choice these days. Would you think a company was legitimate if it didn’t have a phone number, address or sign? A social media account is the same thing. You don’t (and shouldn’t) be on all social media channels, but you should at least be on the one that’s most relevant to your customers.
2. Strategy, strategy, strategy
To choose where to spend your efforts, find the channels where your customers are. Fashion label for teens? Snapchat away. Travel for seniors? Facebook’s your friend. You’ll also need different strategies (and content) for what you post on each channel, even if it’s as basic as “short humorous things on Twitter to build brand”, “emotive stories on Facebook to drive engagement”. You should, ultimately, be aligning this with your business strategy.
3. Your social channels are not free marketing
If you’re smart, they’ll do that for you, but if you get on social media in order to post nothing but how good your products are, tweet ads or start corporate speak-ifying all over Facebook then you’re unlikely to impress. Though brands are now on social media, they’re only there by the grace of customers. There’s a fine balance between ruining people’s social space and getting your own needs met.
Consider the 4-1-1 rule: post four pieces of original content, share one thing of other people’s and have one piece of content that is a bit more salesy. Earn your keep with the first two to get away with the last.
4. All work and no play makes…
Dovetailing with point number three, you need to be social on social. While it will vary depending on your brand, social media is where you should be developing your own tone of voice – one that is not corporate or jargon-filled. Being boring is a sure way to lose followers. This might mean thinking outside the box in order to produce fun content (accountants, we see you there). A quick Google will show you that there are tonnes of ways brands can get creative in order to provide some entertainment value.
5. Give better than you get
While you may get your fair share of customer gripes coming your way,* social media is the perfect place to build up goodwill and give fantastic customer service. It will also get easier as you go. As you build friendly feelings by providing honest, helpful service, comments tend to get nicer (and other customers will defend you when confronted by out-of-line ones – love the former dearly, and bite your tongue on the latter). This means sending individual responses – not the same copy /paste reply to all – actively solving problems instead of sending them off to a phone number (where possible), and always acknowledging when the company has screwed up.
* It happens to all of us.
6. Stay where you are, I’ll come to you
If your customers have come to social media to talk to you, there’s a reason they’ve done so. It means they don’t want to sit on your customer service line for hours, or they have and got nowhere. Answer their question on the platform they’ve come to. If it involves identifiable customer information, help them in private, but still via the platform. For example, via direct messages, chat, or even chatbots.*
* Worried about the storage of this information? There are many workarounds for this so you can keep control of the data
7. Think like a scout and be prepared
Much like cyber attacks, social media crises do happen, you often can’t stop them and your response is your best mitigation. Make sure that social media staff have access (and the knowledge of when) to get executives involved, don’t move the crises between social media channels and never, ever delete comments – unless you a) have a social media policy people can see and b) they are crossing the line into illegality, such as hate speech, discrimination etc – People have screenshotted what has been written, even if it was only up for a nanosecond, and they will accuse you of a cover up.
8. Empower your staff
Social media staff are many things. They are part marketing, comms, brand, customer service, mother, confidant, friend, sales and product. Never underestimate these roles. They need to be trained, but importantly, they need to have access to what’s happening in the company (so they can head off potential issues), be trusted to respond in a way you’d approve of (and enabled to do so) and have agile policies that do not get in their way (allowing them a measure of freedom in responding to customers to get the best result).
Losing a customer is an almost criminal offence in these days of volatile retail, and your social media bastions are your last (and often most effective) line of defence. Social media staff are the face of your brand. Their responses and comments give a humanity to your business. If your brand could talk – this is their voice… that’s how important they are.
9. Look. Listen.
While it should be all about the customer, it can also be, well, all about the customer! Social media is a fantastic place to learn about what your customers want, who they are, and who they will be in five years time. A mechanism to capture and feed insights back from the social team to the business is a must. Internal integration is a key point here. Social media can be the canary down the coal mine (or an echo chamber, but we’ll cover that another time). If your sales & marketing people are not consulting the social media team when looking for insights then they are flying blind.
10. Take it to the next level
Done well, social media can be used to enable real business outcomes. Investing in a channel that takes up one out of every three minutes of your customer’s mobile activity – including text and talk – is a huge opportunity. Having the devoted attention, merely two feet from their face, of someone who will happily risk walking into a tree or down a manhole in order to not miss their dose of social? That’s the kind of engagement traditional marketing can only dream of.
Imagine what your brand could do if it capitalised on that?
Yet, surprisingly, or not surprisingly if you’ve ever interacted with a brand on social media, there are heaps of brands online today who are not getting these basics right. Follow the above tips and you’ll be closer to a point where you can start to take it up a notch and make waves. That’s when things get really fun.
Stay tuned for a future article where we’ll expand on the nitty gritty of getting the most out of social media.
In the meantime, go forth and get social.