Social media is increasingly important in companies' omni-channel strategies for the best possible customer experience. Here’s what you need to do to get it right from the get-go.
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The appeal of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ has been widespread, with businesses worldwide quick to realise the opportunities of using such platforms on a day-to-day basis for brand awareness, sales leads, thought leadership and customer engagement.
However, social media fails are a daily occurrence, including inappropriate and insensitive messages, ill-advised hashtag campaigns and general customer relations disasters.
Here's how you can avoid all that and instead use social media to enhance the reputation of your brand.
1. Develop a social media strategy
With any marketing, there has to be a plan which includes a mission and vision statement, an overall strategy and a set of tactics to execute.
This is important for social media; you need to start with a blank sheet of paper and think about how you’re going to use the various different platforms, and for what purpose.
"It’s essential you don’t just spam your audience, irrespective if they’re customers or just followers"
You should also think of available staff resources and responsibilities, how to integrate social with the different parts of your business, and how to ensure social media is tied to your company’s philosophy and branding.
You should start your strategy with an overview, the benefits, and how it should be managed internally by staff. Budget, potential avenues for monetisation, and security should also be tackled, given this is often an easy way in for hackers.
Once established, the strategy should be circulated amongst the relevant people and checked-in on regularly to ensure social media platforms are been used as expected.
Don't create social media accounts for the sake of it. Select ones that are most relevant to your audience
2. Identify the right technology
There is an assortment of products available on the market for social media management but defining what you want to do is the first port of call – and this should be clearly outlined in your social media strategy.
If you’re an SME and using it for occasional updates on Twitter, you may prefer to start with a Twitter account before migrating to Hootsuite or another management tool.
Some of these are free, others are not, and their features can vary considerably so read carefully about their features before buying. You should also consider ease of use, as it’s likely the person or persons using it won’t always technology-savvy.
Whatever solution you do go for, make sure analytics is part of that package. Ultimately, you should aim to get to a level of maturity where you are checking the performance of your social posts on a daily basis.
3. Communicate – don’t just spam
As part of the aforementioned strategy, you need to carefully define what these channels will do, who they will be targeting, and who you communicate with and when.
It’s essential you don’t just spam your audience, irrespective if they’re customers or just followers.
Engage with customers, respond to complaints, interact with favourable impressions (by ‘liking’ or retweeting posts) and don’t be afraid of sharing photos, interacting with other brands.
Think of how you want your brand to be perceived online and in the ‘real world’. Social media is a two-way street and you must create a positive experience if you want people to engage with your brand.
Spam does more harm than good - so don't bother
4. Be open to new platforms
When creating your social media strategy, you should cast an eye on the future and the possibilities with other platforms. For example, you may have cracked Twitter and Facebook, but what are the possibilities with Instagram, Google+ and Tumblr?
We’ve already seen that there are differences in the use of the big social platforms, and this will likely apply to smaller ones. See how it used, and work out how it can fit in with you brand and social media usage.
That said; don’t feel you have to be everywhere. Figure out which social network has the most impact for your customers and focus on that platform. It's better to excel in one and establish a strong meaningful community than to be half-baked in several.
5. Take advantage of free resources
It sounds obvious, but you’re only going to get better at social media management by learning from the best and that means lots of listening, learning and reading.
On the latter, read as much as you can in the way of books and blogs, sign up for free online courses and don’t be afraid to ask ‘stupid’ questions of your contacts on LinkedIn or in person. Some of the platforms – like Hootsuite – offer free training when you sign up for a Pro package so ensure you take advantage of that.
6. Assign staff to social media management
Depending on the size of your organisation, you’re unlikely to be able to do social media management on your own so you might want to think about assigning it to someone. If you’re an SME, perhaps this could be a customer-facing job, or by your HR or PR if slightly larger.
You should encourage this person, and ideally they have a passion for social media and new technology, to further their skills and learn more.