Social Media: Friend, Foe, or Fad?
By now, many businesses have comprehended the urgent need for a social media strategy. The challenge with most, however, is a strategic approach to creative social media management.
Just look at the latest round of stats on Social Media Revolution 2014 by author and best-seller Erik Qualman (I strongly urge that you watch the link if you’ve not done so already. It’s quite the eye-opening experience):
- In 10 years, 40% of of existing Fortune 500 companies will be non-existent.
- If Facebook was a country of its own, it would be the 3rd largest in the world.
- The fastest growing demographic on Facebook is the 55-65 age group (yup, most likely your grandparents).
- More people own a smart phone than a toothbrush.
- 1 in 5 couples are meeting on an online dating site. Yes, that includes the Match.com’s and eHarmony’s commercial you’re bombarded with across the web or even on your TV.
- 1 in 5 divorces are caused due to social media outbursts.
- 93% of consumers utilize social media as a decision maker in their purchasing endeavors.
These stats show that social media is not a choice but rather a necessity for engagement, communication, customer service, or even reputation management.
Ok, so stats aside for a minute: social media is simply inevitable for businesses whose primary target audience has shifted towards the Millennials. Unfortunately, those traditional brands avoiding investment into social media strategy will sooner or later realize that their target audience lives through technology. Social platforms aren’t emerging in our lives, but rather merging with our lives, giving those Millennials prime opportunity for engagement on those very social networks you’ve been avoiding.
Rule #1: Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin
The lack of a holistic social media strategy as a whole tends to be one of the main reasons why an average brand fails in the social media space. Therefore, tackling all social networks at once is a bad idea, equivalent to running around like a chicken with its head off. Any vetted social media strategist will flat out tell you that taking such an approach could ultimately backfire on your brand in multiple ways, such as:
- Necessity for additional resources to manage multiple social entities. There’s only so many hours in a work day to cover ground for all social networks.
- Time is of an essence! Everything in the social space tends to be fast-paced. The average lifespan of a tweet is 2.5 minutes and 15 minutes for a Facebook status update. Existing manpower can usually only manage effectively one or two networks at most with that type of longevity.
- Creating and curating fresh content requires additional time and resources that most brands tend to struggle with initially.
Instead, focus on one or two social networks and master those first before moving on. This is where the employment of a social media strategist or an agency would serve as an intelligent approach to your business model. They can help guide you in the right direction by compiling a holistic social media strategy that coincides with the target audience. Most importantly though, they will be able to pinpoint which social platforms are viable to your brand’s industry.
Rule #2: Retain a Sense of Confidentiality and Privacy
What happens on social media, stays on social media. From a legal standpoint, it’s imperative to retain a sense of confidentiality and privacy while remaining transparent to your target audience. In the traditional mindset, transparency in the marketplace could lead to potential deterioration of the brand. In today’s world, lack of transparency causes distrust in your brand. However, being “transparent” on social media does not equate to spilling the beans behind the entire brand.
Certain messaging should be purposely excluded from social channels to avoid unnecessary clashes. The confidentiality and privacy aspect of social media seems to play a critical role in many industries, including:
- Real estate
It’s quite difficult to comprehend the fact that compliance of a tweet, status update, or even an Instagram requires an extensive yet delinquent process of approval. The turnaround approval time for a tweet at times may take upwards to 14 days, at which point it becomes absolutely irrelevant. Remember that maintaining a sense of confidentiality and privacy on social media is imperative, but overanalyzing the execution prohibits brands from successfully building up a community of followers.
Rule #3: Be Personable, Yet Professional (Act as a company, not an individual)
One of the common misconceptions in social media management is personality differentiation. Likability, approachability, transparency, and punctuation are critical elements to successful tactics. However, it’s quite common for certain brands to damage their reputation by operating their social networks as individuals rather than brands. The level of communication is a bit different when operating social media as a company rather than an individual. A brand’s collective messaging on social media should solidify the wholeness of a brand through congruent representation.
This doesn’t mean you have to forsake all means of personality. Some examples of maintaining a personable but professional tone on social media include:
- Using signatures
- Addressing users directly
- Hiring professional social media strategists
Using a Signature
For example, @ATTcares employs a team of professionals who utilize Twitter as a customer service platform. The brand’s handle is operated from a business perspective by following professional social etiquette while simultaneously giving it a humanized approach.
@derkrodg If you're still having service trouble, and need assistance, please follow/DM for help. Thanks. ^Ross
— ATTCares (@ATTCares) October 17, 2014
Notice the signature abbreviations at the end of the tweet, identifying the specific individual that addressed the inquiry of a particular user. That is one acceptable way to retain a personable yet professional approach from a customer service aspect. Commonly utilized within corporate environments though and can vary based on the communication objectives of that particular brand.
Addressing a User Directly
Other brands, such as JetBlue Airways @JetBlue who are notoriously known for their direct communication take a slightly different approach when communicating with other individuals or brands on the Twitterverse particularly by addressing them spot on.
See, how they did that? No reference of a particular customer service rep or initials but rather simply addressing the user directly.
Hiring a Professional Social Media Strategist
Working on a social media strategy typically involves employment of a social media strategist who is a seasoned individual and ultimately someone who brings great experience to the table. Sad to say, a recent college grad who can fire off a Snapchat to their friends, carve out a tweet, or even Instagram a photo doesn’t quite make them an expert in social media.
Social media remains a revolving medium with ongoing changes presenting ongoing challenges for brands. Professional etiquette paired with fundamentals and proven successful tactics will go a long way. As stated previously, success on social media does not occur overnight. It’s an organic approach to building a solid community consisting of loyal brand advocates and followers. Utilizing the three basic elements of social media management as outlined above will assist in developing a strong social presence, which ultimately leads to improved relationship-building opportunities.