Social networks are one of today’s most popular forms of online communication. The platforms are utilized daily by billions of users worldwide, so it’s no surprise to find that many organizations have jumped on the bandwagon as well.
It’s important to note that from an organizational standpoint, certain rules of conduct and best practices, with regards to corporate communications, must be observed when conducting outreach via these mediums. As we note in our recent book Netiquette Essentials: New Rules for Minding Your Manners in a Digital World, planning an effective social strategy doesn’t have to be difficult. Following, you’ll find several hints and tips that can help your organization lead, succeed, communicate more effectively via high-tech channels and generally put your best foot forward online.
Effective social media management is often a full-time job: Customers will expect dialogue not only to flow both ways, but also be timely and frequent — allocate resources, time and manpower accordingly. Ultimately, maintaining consistent, running conversation is key, as is regularly making note of and responding to incoming dialogue.
Consistency Is Key
Properly utilizing social media necessitates consistent and frequent commentary, and the use of postings that reinforce your expertise and thought leadership. Figure out what level of response (and response time) works best for your organization and commit to it, allocating time and resources accordingly.
Corporate posts do not have to be made by the same individual every time, or an officer of the organization — however, all should maintain a consistent personality, tone and level of value creation. Always be thinking of how you can contribute positively to public dialogue, and add information or insights of worth to social network connections. In every case, be sure that all representatives of your organization who do post are courteous, respectful and customer-focused, as well as cognizant of brand and style guidelines.
Before launching any social media campaign or presence, make a detailed study of the sites, platforms and services where your desired audience can be found, and that best align with your business’ long-term goals and objectives. Focusing attention and presence on these sites will help you maximize outreach efforts and user engagement (and use time and resources most wisely), rather than causing you to be spread thin and participate less effectively across a wider range of vehicles. Frequency and reach are basic marketing principles, as is audience targeting: Concentrating your aim makes it easier to hit your target than employing a shotgun strategy.
Make sure you or your team members have allocated and scheduled enough workday time to respond and engage within various social media communities. If you can’t post content or respond to incoming queries in a timely manner, your fans or customers may come to believe that you aren’t listening to them. Not responding to a tweet or a Facebook post can be seen by some as the equivalent of not returning a phone call or email — and while you can’t always address all, you can at least make efforts to speak to larger trending topics in public forums, helping assuage the broader user community’s concerns.
Study the Networks, Use Compelling Content
Remember that each social network has its own features, personality and community. Study the outlets you participate in and understand the different nuances so that your message is not simply carbon-copied across each forum in the exact way. Audiences differ, as do consumption models across social media vehicles: A one-size approach won’t work here. While social vehicles may vary, make sure your message and brand are consistent and cross-promoted across channels. Establishing a style guide and dedicated social team or member can be tremendously helpful to maintain consistency of tone, image and overall user impression and takeaway.
The more compelling and meaningful the content you share via social media, the more your customers will engage with it. The key question to ask yourself at every turn: “What’s in it for them?” Encourage people to communicate, comment and interact with you: One example might include placing a call to action (i.e. a request for viewers’ thoughts and feedback) at the bottom of every post. Incentivization is key here — think about the action steps you want readers or viewers to take and what would drive users to take them. Create a two-way conversation that encourages your customers to want to help you promote your message. Simply blasting information out to them is less effective than soliciting their commentary and input.
Listen, Listen, Listen
Listen to your audience to discover its likes, needs and interests, then provide insights and information to match. The more you help customers, the more they’ll become advocates. Loyal and passionate customers should be responded to and engaged with — finding ways to reward and spotlight your community is vitally important. The more you extend the hand of friendship to end users and acknowledge their efforts, the bigger fans they’ll become, and the more goodwill you can generate. The key: to always be up-front and genuine with your audience and afford them the same respect and standing that they afford your business and brand.
Be a good go-to resource. Make sure your content is useful and informative, and give visitors tips, links to helpful articles and sites, and other pertinent information. Likewise, don’t be afraid to shout out or partner with outside organizations, individuals and influencers who share common philosophies and interests — win-win is always the way to go. Always make sure your content and outreach initiatives are relevant to, and create worth for, your customers. This necessitates looking at promotional efforts from new angles so that the focus is on them — not you.
Make sure your organization’s messages meet specific base criteria before posting, including: Is it fun and imaginative? Is it energetic and enthusiastic? Does it draw attention with cool and exciting details? The goal should be to make content inviting, interactive, and accessible — and to deliver a great deal of small, bite-sized items frequently, while encouraging others to interact with you around these pieces of content. Ask questions, start conversations, and otherwise encourage them to share and participate in dialogue.
Award-winning professional speaker Scott Steinberg is among today’s best-known trends experts and futurists, and the bestselling author of Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty, The Business Etiquette Bible and Millennial Marketing: Bridging the Generation Gap. The founder of travel + hospitality trends magazine SELECT: Your City’s Secrets Unlocked™, and host of Next Up on NewsWatch, his website is www.AKeynoteSpeaker.com.
**This article also appears on TheMeetingsMagazines.com