Social media for business is becoming more and more pervasive. As new social networks are introduced and the average age of Facebook and Twitter users increases, ‘traditional’ social networks become an online marketplace for business-to-consumer and business-to-business interactions. For native users of social media, this transformation is met with mixed reviews. Lots of consumers enjoy having a forum to engage with the brands they invest in…at any given moment, your organization’s customers are taking part in a dialogue around your brand. Whether or not you choose to engage is an important facet of your digital strategy.
The other side of effective social dialogue that takes place around specific brands is the unfortunate eventuality that many businesses who don’t have a strong understanding of what affects positive engagement in an online social environment tend to use their platforms as a tireless digital megaphone, blasting the same promotions and superficial messages through cyberspace at regular intervals. As quickly becomes apparent, this is not the way to inspire influencers to take part in a meaningful dialogue around your brand. In fact, it often has the opposite effect. Potential customers become frustrated with the lack of meaningful content that stems from your digital presence and this inspires a much more negative discourse around a company’s brand.
If marketing in the age of New Media has taught us anything, it’s that when Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message,” he wasn’t kidding around. It’s not what you say, necessarily, but how you say it. Content marketing encompasses most facets of online advertising – social media promotion, especially. In order for your brand to mean something to people when they recognize it, it’s essential to cultivate a positive association with your online identity. This is accomplished through creating content that edifies the user in some way. Many companies don’t quite understand this concept – why should I spend time creating a piece of advertising that has no immediate, direct affect on my bottom line? Content marketing and social networking for business, when done well, involve a commitment to strengthening your brand and inspiring a social dialogue around your online identity by means of enriching, unique content; the end result is an increased audience and strengthened brand equity that goes hand-in-hand with establishing yourself as an expert in your industry and a resource for potential customers seeking answers about your particular product or service.
That said, there is still a stigma attached to using social media to market an idea, cause, business…the list goes on. The reality is, though, that social media as an educational tool, a way of blasting a meaningful message to a widespread audience, has been used for some pretty incredible things. Namely, cause marketing. Marketing for a cause via social media is something that a business can take part in, an individual can jumpstart or an NGO can avail of to get the word out to a much more diverse range of influencers than is possible through traditional media.
In 1999, an Australian news channel aired a story about how a group of men from Adelaide came up with an idea at the pub one night – they would get the men in their community involved in an initiative to raise money for prostate cancer awareness…they would grow moustaches in the month of November.
Movember was born.
Beginning with 80 men from Adelaide, Australia, through the power of New Media and digital crowd funding, the initiative has exploded into a global phenomenon, to date raising over $170 million for prostate cancer awareness. Without social media marketing and digital storytelling, this would have undoubtedly been impossible. But, Movember is here to stay. All over the world, throughout the month of November, men grow interesting facial hair and solicit donations for this cause. Corporations and small businesses get involved, creating pages on the Movember site and campaigning to make a difference.
Now, I can’t say that you’re social campaign for a cause will take off in the way Movember did. But, here are a few steps to ensure an effective foray into cause marketing with social media:
Image Source: www.granitebrewery.ca/movember-is-coming/
As seen in Inside Trucking.
If you’ve ever witnessed a company meltdown over social media, you know how scary it can be. It usually starts with the most insipid, silly customer gripe and blows up in a matter of hours. After nearly a year working in social media, primarily for transportation, one of the most common fears I face in clients and prospects is the paralyzing suspicion that engaging in social media for business is akin to opening the floodgates for disgruntled customers to rant on a public forum, thus sullying the company image and brand.
This isn’t the case at all. But, as an organization, you must be prepared for the inevitability that negative customer feedback will come through your social media channels. Keep in mind, customers are constantly talking about your brand, your products and your services online, whether you have a social media presence or not. It’s essential to monitor this kind of feedback and know how to respond.
Here’s a hypothetical, yet totally common, situation in which you can either showcase your social media customer service prowess or have a total social media meltdown:
A customer in Vancouver just received a shipment of freight from you. The boxes were poorly packed and loosely secured. As a result, the freight is damaged and the customer is fuming. She snaps a picture on her smartphone and quickly posts it on your company Facebook page and tweets it out with the hashtag #PoorService. She includes a description of what happened with her post: “This was an important shipment and my freight was horribly mishandled! What are you going to do to fix this?”
How do you respond? You could have a customer service disaster on your hands or you could have an opportunity to show how attentive and genuinely contrite you are. It’s a matter of looking at the glass half-empty or half-full. Here are some essential things to remember when you’re dealing with an upset customer through social media:
1. Whatever you do, DON’T delete the ‘offending’ post.
…Unless, of course, it’s spam, trolling, hate speech, etc. In those cases, delete away. But, if you find yourself in a situation like the one I’ve described, deleting the comment only makes it worse. Typically, it adds fuel to the fire of the person who posted. And, once other people catch wind (and they will) that you tried to cover your tracks, it really takes away from your credibility. Remember, on the Internet, nothing is forgotten. Chances are, someone has already taken a screenshot of the post. Deleting a post rather than responding to the customer feedback publicly makes it seem like a) You’re ashamed of what happened b) You don’t know how to make it right and c) You can’t be bothered to find a solution. None of these are ideal when it comes to furthering your customer relations.
2. Respond to the post on the double.
Don’t let that negative post fester on your Facebook wall for too long before you take action. The longer it sits there, un-responded to, the more negative attention you garner. You’re also inadvertently encouraging other users to weigh in through comments, causing the issue to potentially snowball out of control. A simple “We’re so sorry to hear that! A customer service representative will be in touch with you soon. Let’s fix this!” is miles better than radio silence and buys you time to take stock of the situation and figure out how to rectify it.
3. Apologize. Just apologize.
If you are in the wrong, apologize. Sincerely. Don’t try to justify the oversight, give excuses or deflect blame. In these situations (and in life, generally), a good starting point in resolving an issue is just saying, “We’re sorry.”
4. Appoint the right people to respond to user feedback.
Make sure the people who are answering user feedback know what they’re doing. Make sure they have knowledge of your company, your policies, your standards, you mandate and how you’ve resolved, as an organization, to handle customer feedback. It’s imperative to keep your company’s identity and brand top-of-mind when engaging in customer relations—no matter the channel. Be judicious in who gets access to what platforms and make sure there are checks and balances in place to ensure your team is presenting a united front and serving the customer first and foremost.
Some of the most notable social media meltdowns have taken place over the use of inflammatory, political statements made by organizations through their social media channels. Others come to light because of human resources faux pas and breaches in ethics. For instance, recently, HMV mass-fired 190 people…who live-tweeted getting the axe. Beyond the obvious solution of being ethical and above-board in your operations, it’s a good idea to create a social media policy that lets employees know specific guidelines for acting as digital representatives of your company.
Remember: a social media meltdown isn’t the end of the world. But, it’s usually preventable. If you’re experiencing the wrath of a disgruntled customer through Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, the best thing to do is always approach the situation with humility. Try not to get defensive. Responding to feedback through your social media channels is an excellent way to demonstrate your commitment to customer service and your ability to be flexible when it comes to problem solving for a client.
As a social media coordinator, it’s become important for me to surround myself with a network of people who understand what it means to work in a form of mass media that’s still evolving.
It’s not easy. Despite what many people think, managing social media takes a lot of commitment. You’re basically attached to your phone and ‘time off’ doesn’t really exist. Even when you’re technically off the clock, if user interaction happens and no one responds…yikes. It’s pretty much a disaster.
Here are the top five questions I get asked on a regular basis, working in social media (this is, by no means, an exaggeration):
1. Aren’t you paid to go on Facebook all day? Not quite, no.
2. How do I get verified on Twitter? I have no idea…ask Justin Bieber or Richard Dawkins, I guess.
3. What do you do again? Deep sigh
4. Isn’t Twitter just for letting people know what you ate for lunch? Well, you might think that…but, surprisingly, there’s a bit more to it.
5. But you only have, like, 200 Facebook friends…how is that possible? My work isn’t my life! …Scratch that, yes it is.
That said… it’s kind of understandable why not everyone really ‘gets’ social media yet. It’s due, in part, to it being a new faction of PR and marketing, in part to the constantly evolving nature of social media marketing and in part to what myself and a couple social mediavore friends have decided is a distinct gap in the market—wide-reaching, comprehensive, reporting tools that you DON’T have to pay for.
Call me crazy, but I think that the statistics from the social media campaign that you manage, toil over, stress about…should be free! The day someone comes up with a free report aggregator is the day my death certificate will read “happiness.” Of course, if you’re outsourcing your social media to a PR agency, you’re in good hands. Chances are, they’ve sprung for some fancy-schmancy social media dashboard that provides custom reports and you can avail of their expertise…for a price, of course.
But, if you’re a small-business owner, an entrepreneur, or a freelance social media strategist with limited funds to splurge on extravagant ROI reports with branded headers, don’t despair. With a little bit of extra diligence, you can measure your social media’s output and intake and view how that directly affects your campaign—for better or worse.
Let’s take it platform by platform, shall we?
Facebook has these great things called ‘insights.’ Upon first glance, maybe they seem a little intimidating…graphs and charts and whatnot. I know lots of people who manage their own Facebook pages make one of two mistakes. They (A) don’t pay attention to their insights at all or (B) put WAY too much stock in their insights and have an aneurysm every time the squiggly blue line that shows engagement dips below average.
Neither of these is constructive. A measured approach is best, as with all things. Here are the top three (according to me) things you should pay attention to when it comes to Facebook insights:
I don’t know why, but I kind of love LinkedIn insights. I always feel like they have good news for me. Granted, they’re pretty new…here are a few things to pay particular attention to:
Note: There’s a section of LinkedIn analytics that shows you “how you compare” against other organizations in your niche. I mean…it’s ok to take a look at that, but don’t get too hung up, especially if you’re just starting out. Focus on what’s best for you and your existing followers, post interesting content and engage regularly. Getting fixated on how you stack up isn’t productive.
Your Twitter page doesn’t have the same kind of built-in analytics as LinkedIn or Facebook. But, don’t despair! Use Twitter Counter! Some features are ‘premium’ (read: you have to pay for them), but you can track followers, Tweet interaction, and ‘milestones.’ You can even compare stats from multiple Twitter accounts for free! It’s a great tool, and one I only started to use recently.
Now, to produce a DIY report for your files, screenshot is your best friend. Take snaps of your stats; combine them into a PDF and save them on a regular basis. Trust me—having records of your progress will save you digging later on, help you evolve your strategy and, should you decide to hire a social media consultant as your business grows, they’ll be very grateful for the ready-made insight.
So, there you have it. Get cracking. Don’t sweat the small stuff and know enough to filter in the useful information: the keys to effective DIY social media strategy analysis.