I speak to a lot of small- and medium-sized business clients who want to talk about social media.
Why? Because they’ve seen countless articles and blog posts, and attended dozens of webinars, touting social media as an endless cornucopia of frenzied customers/brand evangelists — and it’s all FREE! What could be better??
Well, here’s the thing: social media is NOT free. Executing an effective social media strategy requires thought, planning, and — most critically — execution. “Execution” means “someone whose job is to implement the plan and monitor results.” Strategy, by itself, is nothing but a starting point. It’s the map but it’s not the journey. A social media consultant can point out the route to you but, unless you hire help, it’s up to you to make the drive.
Let me say this another way: of all the businesses I’ve consulted with, the channel most likely to be neglected, if not completely ignored, is social media.
And that’s a shame. Because, when done right, social media really can give your business a voice. Properly managed, social media enables people to connect with your business directly, deftly side-stepping your AVR phone-labyrinth. And social media forces businesses to respond in a public setting, with all the attendant risks and rewards.
Today we’re going to talk about how to use social media the right way.
Step 1: Your social media strategy
Most people begin step 1 by creating accounts on FaceBook and Twitter and Pinterest and LinkedIn and so on.
BUZZZZZZZT!!!Do not start until you have read and understood this article. I don’t know Angie Schottmuller personally, but she’s forever won my heart with this simple graphic:
To belabor the metaphor used above: how can you know where you’re heading unless you have a map?
Quantify your business mission and business goals FIRST. Then move on down the funnel to tactics!
Step 2: Who’s going to execute?
Regardless of the goals, tactics and KPIs you define, you still need someone dedicated to doing the work. According to this presentation 77% of businesses lack sufficient resources for social media.
A marketing agency can help with this process. Alternately, I’ve recommended the following to many small-business owners: “I bet you have a child, or maybe a niece or a nephew, who’s all over social media, right? What you want to do is discuss your goals and tactics with them and hire them to do the work. The best part is, they’ll usually work for a case of Red Bull…”
The main point here: it doesn’t matter so much WHO does the execution so long as SOMEONE does the execution. A strategy with no execution is a waste of time and money.
Step 3: Define your personality and positioning
Ah, business social media accounts… they generally have all the character of the text you find on the side of a tube of toothpaste. In order to engage with your customers, you have to set yourself apart from the bland nonentities typically associated with businesses.
Keep in mind that humor, especially put-downs, can go badly wrong.
- Failing to understand your customer base and the risks inherent to social promotion even at the most basic level, as in McDonald’s disastrous#McDStories campaign.
- Attempting to gloss over problematic issues by refusing to discuss them in social channels, as Lululemon demonstrated during their see-through pants crisis.
- Failing to communicate openly and honestly with users in a timely manner—see Sony’s four-day silence on their April, 2011 hacking.
- Planning to fail by failing to plan, as was demonstrated by HMV execs, who had no process in place to remove access when employees took over their Twitter as they were being fired.
- Panicking and removing the brand from the conversation (which will inevitably go on without you); see the City of Regina Police Department’s social meltdown after an officer killed a dog in a backyard. The flurry of social hate was “unmanageable,” so they shut their Facebook Page down completely… for 5 months.
But here’s the thing: so few businesses are willing to take any risk at all, especially in the all-too-public social media forum, that most business social media accounts are so stultifyingly dull.
I strongly recommend taking a risk — if it’s in line with your brand and your business practices.
Step 4: What social media is really for
For businesses, social media is primarily for:
- customer service
- giving your business or brand a voice and a personality
- another channel to engage customers
Although it’s POSSIBLE, it’s not easy to use social media as a direct marketing channel. If you do those 3 things right, you will get traffic. Build your social media presence and your customers will come.
Here’s a great analysis of a business using social media for damage control.
Use your social media accounts to:
- introduce new products
- launch special offers
- share research or educational material about your business
- bring attention to your fresh content (blog posts, whitepapers, press releases)
- publicize other people’s content relevant to your business
- welcome new staff and say goodbye to former staff
… and so on. Think of your social media accounts a news feed for people interested in your business or services.
Also keep in mind the social media rule of thirds:
- ⅓ of your social content promotes your business, converts readers, and generates profit.
- ⅓ of your social content should surface and share ideas and stories from thought leaders in your industry or like-minded businesses.
- ⅓ of your social content should be based on personal interactions and build your personal brand.
Is social media worth the time and energy?
Absolutely — but only when done right. Make a strategy, devote the resources, execute, and measure results.
If you need help creating a social media strategy for your business, I can help! Give me a call and I’ll help you put it all together.