Love it or loathe it, social media is a core element of modern corporate life. From client complaints on Twitter to Facebook advertising, the graphical symbols of leading social media services have become as ubiquitous as Nike’s swoosh or Ford’s blue oval badge. Despite its many detractors, Facebook has two billion users, while YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine behind parent company Google.
However, many companies have made mistakes with their social media management. This is a confusing world of immediacy and spontaneity, played out in front of the world. Criticism and praise can spread within seconds, introducing new audiences to the firm’s activities and generating coverage that couldn’t be achieved any other way. That’s especially remarkable when you consider social media accounts are free of charge for businesses of all sizes.
Of course, social media management isn’t completely free. Advertising is a bottomless money pit, and even daily posts have to be written by a salaried employee or contracted freelancer. Even so, it represents tremendous value for money, assuming interactions are handled correctly and appropriate etiquette is followed. A survey in 2013 concluded that almost 90% of companies gain greater exposure for their businesses through social media, while being able to advertise products and services to a willing audience for free simply cannot be overstated.
For companies struggling to build a following or generate dynamic content, our Ten Commandments of social media management could be of value. It starts with perhaps the simplest instruction of all…
Choose accounts carefully.
WhatsApp is technically a social platform, but encrypted conversations won’t have any impact on wider brand awareness. Register with at least two of the Big Five, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Snapchat appeals hugely to younger audiences and LinkedIn has 15 million UK members. Platforms like Google+ and Tumblr now lack the audiences to justify major involvement. Don’t choose platforms to suit yourself – choose ones with relevance to your audience.
Having created accounts on your chosen platforms (and closed those on obsolete ones), regular updates are essential to build and maintain engagement. Forgetting about a social account amid daily work pressures will leave it in hibernation – publicly visible, but neglected. Social media demands regular updates and interactions, and automation tools like Buffer enable content to be uploaded en masse and distributed at pre-specified times. Study historic posts as well, and consider how they may be improved.
Optimise for SEO.
High-profile companies tend to have their Facebook and Twitter accounts listed on the first page of search results, alongside their own website. Use tools like Google Analytics to identify keywords and industry buzz phrases, and incorporate these into every post. Ensure uploaded images are fully tagged and captioned, use trending hashtags in response to breaking news, and provide multiple links between social media accounts and your primary website.
Be as professional as possible.
Avoid uploading rambling posts or late-night rants. Always re-read content before hitting Publish, preferably the next day with a fresh perspective for spelling mistakes or ambiguous wording. Never get into spats with customers – it’ll make you look petty and immature when viewed out of context at a later date. Try to avoid carrying one message across multiple tweets (280 characters should be sufficient), and develop a cohesive tone of voice across every platform.
Maintain a corporate focus.
Publishing a blog is a topical event that deserves the real-time promotion delivered by social media. Companies rarely identify the individual/s responsible for their social media management, so anything posted reflects the business, not its employees. For that reason, keeping personal opinions out of social timelines is absolutely imperative. Social platforms should be used for positive business stories, not rants about the Passport Office or your neighbour’s dog.
From Facebook to YouTube, live content is increasingly being used to add immediacy and urgency to campaigns. Similarly, Instagram and Snapchat stories have a 24-hour lifespan before they disappear forever. And while generating content for such a narrow timeframe might seem counter-productive, millennials love it. Live content often pushes standard timelines into the background, and it’s acceptable to be less scripted in these scenarios.
Develop networks by establishing authority.
Audiences will gradually build in response to organic content, but it’s possible to accelerate this process by following other people and attempting to engage with key influencers. A single retweet by a high-profile follower can generate impressive traction, but these people are only impressed by dynamic and original content. Position yourself as a knowledge leader or expert, invite guest comments or blogs, and use industry keywords carefully.
Respond to a crisis in real time.
The world is watching, and a complaint received on Friday afternoon can’t wait until Monday morning – that would infer the account neglect outlined above. Small companies might wish to establish a rota system for out-of-hours account management, with login credentials enabling people to respond to criticism. Even if complaints are unjustified, a polite response should be issued and attempts made to redirect communications via private messaging.
Always respond to interactions.
Interestingly, Instagram’s engagement levels are almost ten times higher than parent company Facebook. Building a rapport with followers is essential for maintaining their interest in your activities, down to liking replies to tweets or automated messages on LinkedIn. Positive comments should be publicly appreciated (not least since it’ll distribute the original praise to a wider audience), and these enduring testimonials will be worth a hundred display adverts.
Avoid hyperbole or hubris.
As another series of The Apprentice draws to a close, some candidates have clearly exaggerated their skills and experience. Companies doing that on social media will be found out in a very public way, typically through caustic page comments and negative reviews. Similarly, boasting about poaching a client from a competitor is very different to calmly announcing their arrival. Few people are enticed by arrogance, whereas modesty and gentle humour are evergreen.