How your business can become better involved in social media
By John Houle
First, understand what social media actually is. Social media is a system of online networks where registered users create content and communicate with each other. It is a network, a place of conversations, a community of individuals – not a mass. It is different from traditional media in that it’s not one-way, pushed, or interruptive. Instead, it’s a two-way, opted-in, free-flow of self-expression and sharing that is aimed at a community.
When social media works, your business can expect:
• Improved brand recognition
• More site traffic
• Increased word of mouth
• Increased referrals
• Rapid announcements of major developments
• A foot in the door for future opportunities
Read on, if you want to do social media right
First, you need to understand your audience by listening to others in the community regarding their social media. You should track relevant conversations about your industry through blog searching and by reading online reviews. The most important part of social media, which is also true in all communications, is listening. You should listen to your customers’ feedback and make changes, but you always should stay calm, constructive and remain genuine. You cannot control what is said in social media, but you can participate, gauge, respond timely, and facilitate discussions.
Put the ‘social’ back into social media
Plan discussion topics ahead of time with an employee who is “in the know” at your company. Speak to your staff and track client questions that are coming into the office. These questions and their answers are what your clients are talking about and inspire further social media conversations. When you post on social media you should ask open-ended questions and listen to the responses.
As with any marketing activity, you need to put in a regular effort. In terms of social media, you should allocate at a minimum 15 minutes per day. An aggressive campaign would amount to approximately 2 hours per day, but that can be a combination of several people, including an outside agency and consultant, playing a role.
Your posts should always be topical and timely. You can gain a better sense of what to post by joining existing discussions in your area of expertise and by following related social media. By recognizing and targeting new sites and audiences, you can stay ahead of the curve. Soon, you can be among the first to discuss hot topics on the Internet. At the same time, promote selectively, and never post for the sake of posting; you don’t want to become spam or the equivalent of that screaming person at a cocktail party who talks for the sake of being heard.
In social media, it always comes back to listening. You need to talk with participants, not at them. It’s essential that you become involved with two-way communications where possible. But, you’ll have to give up control, since you won’t be able to control the conversation. However, don’t fear what is being said, good and bad about you. Honestly, it’s being said anyways, whether you participate or not, so at least now you have a forum to respond. That’s why it’s always critical that you be honest – spin doesn’t work well on social media sites. Always be thinking for the long term, since it can take time to build trust and connections.
So, who does the work?
Your communications team of course. This team can be comprised of people inside or outside your organization. Whether you decide to outsource your social media or do it internally, you absolutely need a member of your staff to serve as the inside liaison for all subject matter. Your social media campaign can be monitored by a lower-level person in your office, who serves as the coordinator and is advised by a social media advisor or consultant. Everyone in the company should be coached to reinforce the organization’s social media goals. But, it all comes back to the company leadership. Some social media has to be done by management, even if it is simply embracing that this is for real and it’s time to do it right.