Almost everyone uses social media, from chatting to friends on Facebook and following celebrities and organisations on Twitter, to sharing holiday snaps and family time on Instagram. But what about social media for business – where does that come in?
For this post we’re excluding LinkedIn, as people tend to use the site differently due to it being designed around the business world (if you need tips on using LinkedIn, please go here). Instead, we’re looking at how Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be used to effectively involve an audience in your brand, products and services whilst steering clear of stumbling blocks and schoolboy errors. If you want to become a digitally social company, read on to discover our top tips.
A picture is worth a thousand words
The first thing that visitors will see when arriving at your social channels is the visual design. All it takes is a badly cropped logo, a boring or low quality cover image and/or a feed filled with text without images, and your brand will come across as mediocre even if the written content is first-rate. If your communication style and use of images is restricted by corporate guidelines, make sure that everything still looks crisp, clean and specially designed for each individual platform (e.g. Facebook and Twitter use square logos, whereas Instagram uses a circular version).
Be interesting and entertaining
Once your channels engage the eye, they then need to engage the intellect and emotions. Share content and insight that makes people think, feel and take action, all while staying true to your company philosophy, mission and culture. Updates should also offer variety and versatility, such as industry news, company updates, CSR activity and two-way discussion, whilst leaving room for responding to topical developments and unanticipated trends. Also, mix up text and images with videos, infographics, how-to guides, polls and anything else that you feel is relevant to your brand and worthwhile for your audience.
Reply and respond as much as possible
When it comes to social media, there’s a big difference between replying and responding. If someone sends a private message, it will almost certainly require a reply. However, if someone leaves a comment on one of your posts, it may or may not warrant a conversation. A good example is if you post about some charity work your team has been involved in and a follower comments with “Well done!” This could be responded to with a comment (e.g. “Thanks very much”) or simply a click of the “Like” button. Similarly, if someone comments with nothing but an emoji, such as a smiley face, you could either Like it or even just leave it be. As with other forms of conversation, your level of input depends on the circumstances and can often be a judgement call.
Fight fires and diffuse situations
No matter how captivating, diplomatic, supportive and friendly your company may be, chances are you’ll receive negative feedback now and then. How this is dealt with is also very much down to judgement and may sometimes be worth a second opinion or involvement from a higher authority. For example, if someone publicly complains about your brand, offer a warm greeting and request that they send a private message so that the problem can be rectified. On the other hand, if someone is clearly trolling (causing offence and creating a scene for no rational reason), it’s often a case that they cannot be appeased. Examples are the user aggressively commenting across multiple posts, verbally attacking the company or other followers, or showing no reaction to your efforts to make amends. In this scenario, it might be prudent to ban the user from your channel, although this measure should never be taken lightly.
Realise that it's an investment
Whether you’re putting time or money into your social media, you need to remember that the key investment is your audience. Legitimate fans don’t just follow you wily-nilly; rather, it’s because your brand and communications have caught their attention and they believe that you’re a worthwhile account to stay in touch with. This is a privilege in itself as no one is obliged to follow your channels, so reward your audience with quality content, actionable insight, regular updates, speedy responses, and perhaps the odd thing to make them smile (you can’t go wrong with cute dogs).
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