“We have a Facebook page set up, but we’re not exactly sure what to do with it.” We hear variations of this all the time. Especially from B2B brands in industries like medical technology and manufacturing, the question remains: now what?
Businesses often become paralyzed by the belief that people only want to interact with the Nikes and the Coca-Colas of the world on social—the booming brands backed by a celebrity spokesperson, a trendy or timeless product, and an army of social media marketers. We see many businesses who have a Facebook page or a Twitter account set up, but find themselves at a loss for how to start engaging their target audience, especially if their product or service doesn’t feel all that engaging to begin with.
If you can relate, think for a moment. Who were social media platforms originally created for? Real people. And who do real people like to interact with? Real people. And who is your business made up of? You’re catching on…
I recently traveled to Las Vegas for Pubcon 2016, and one of my favorite sessions was called Social Customer Service. Between Melissa Fach’s psychology perspective, Victoria Edwards’ SEO perspective and Lisa Buyer’s PR perspective, each speaker brought a unique dimension to the conversation. Through each speaker’s point of view, though, I was reminded of one major message: social media at its core is about connecting with people. Social authority is not built with smoke and mirrors, but through sincerity, usefulness and consistency.
With this motive in mind, here are 7 of the most important things to remember as a business using social media. You’ll soon find social media is not as daunting as it seems.
1. Be friendly.
For businesses, social media is your opportunity to show the human side of your business. To be a likeable and inviting presence, make sure to hire a people-person (or a bunch of them) to manage your social media platforms. This role requires significant time and energy; it simply cannot be neglected by a person who’s not a good fit. If the person in charge of your social presence either a) doesn’t really like people or b) doesn’t really like social media, the truth will be obvious sooner or later. In an age where an astronomical amount of time is spent on social media, how you interact with people on social media is just as important as offline interactions. Every tweet, Facebook post, Snapchat story and anything in between is a direct reflection on your brand. Hire accordingly.
The person behind this tweet from Bing is definitely a people-person...
2. Be organized and prepared.
Drawing from experience in the medical industry, Victoria Edwards recommended taking the time to create Standard Operating Procedures for social media use. For highly regulated industries, the benefit of having this infrastructure in place is huge. Build out decision trees to guide social media managers as they engage on social in a way that represents your business appropriately. Create a spreadsheet of possible scenarios and social responses. Get your legal team involved early on to approve specific responses in advance if need be. Create protocols for everything from internet trolls to billing questions. Plan ahead so you’re not scrambling when these types of situations arise.
3. Be brand consistent.
As Melissa Fach explained, Superman today may be rocking an edgier look than he was in the 80s, but he’s still the Clark Kent we know and love. Different outfit, same person. The same should be said for your business on social: different channel, same brand. Work to create brand synergy and a consistent brand experience across departments and channels, on and off line. While the way you communicate should differ slightly from channel to channel, who you are as a brand (voice, personality, values, imagery, etc.) should remain the same at its core.
Two tips here:
- Make sure to claim all your brand listings on social and local, from individual Facebook location pages to your Google My Business listings. It’s the only way you can control your brand image.
- Create a document (as part of your Standard Operating Procedures) defining how you want your brand to be perceived on social. What words will you use to talk about your brand? How will followers recognize your brand’s voice? What’s your brand’s personality? What look and feel will your imagery have? Answer these questions and then commit to them unswervingly.
4. Be helpful.
Social media platforms relentlessly add features and updates to be more useful to their users. Facebook allows for private messaging between customers and businesses. Twitter creates a space for customer support. Instagram business profiles have built in buttons to contact the business directly from the app. And that’s only scratching the surface! Take advantage of these user-friendly elements and make sure your profiles are set up properly to better serve your followers.
Utilize the "Contact" button so followers can reach you quickly and with ease, like WeWork.
Additionally, before posting, it’s always a good idea to ask yourself: what purpose does this serve? Follow social media best practices, like using visuals and strong imagery, to cater to the user interface of the platforms so the content you’re sharing is in a digestible format.
5. Be responsive.
“Say something I’m giving up on you.” This, the siren song of your prospects, underscores the most basic way for a business to participate in social media. Social media is a two-way conversation. If someone asked you a question, gave you a compliment, or complained to you to your face, you wouldn't just stare blankly back and walk away. The same goes for interactions with people online (with some exceptions).
Customer service conversations like the Bing example below are becoming more and more commonplace.
Not only is it important to respond to or acknowledge questions and comments, it is imperative to respond to reviews. I echo Lisa Buyer’s words: “Always respond and acknowledge reviews, both positive and negative.” Online reviews continue to grow in importance for SEO as they show up in organic search listings and impact your brand’s first impression. Responsiveness is critical to encouraging positive reviews and to showing there are real people who care behind your brand. Say thank you for kind words and do what you can to address complaints in a timely manner. Remember: oftentimes people just want to know they’re heard.
6. Be proactive to earn and own your reputation.
It’s next to impossible to remove bad press from the first page of the SERPs, but sometimes bad press happens. Use your social platforms, your “owned” media, to counteract that in advance by making some noise about the good. Did your employees run a 5K to raise funds for a great cause? Post pictures on Facebook. Did your CEO get nominated for an award? Share the good news on LinkedIn. Did you just have a ton of fun bonding at your company potluck? Instagram it. Real people want to see real people doing good.
An example of Oracle setting itself up for success in this endeavor.
7. Be creative.
Make lemonade when you can. Turn complaints into content, like blog posts or social media messages. Don’t feel confined to talking about your specific niche or product offering. The best businesses on social media make a point to be human, prioritizing human connection over lead generation. Social media is the long game. While you may not see direct sales or leads, trust the process and remember it’s not going away anytime soon. It pays to invest time and energy into building your social presence.
Lemonly creatively connects with their audience with a relatable sentiment and a Dwight Schrute bobblehead - making a point to show their human side!
The above tips are meant to guide you as you find your rhythm on social media as a business. Don’t be daunted by the task! At its most basic level, social media for business is really about building a relationship with your target audience by meeting them on their turf.
Wondering what this might look like on a day to day basis? Talk to us to learn more about developing a social media strategy.