#Fail – 11 Social Media No-No’s

#Fail, Social MediaWhether you’re a small business with a solitary Twitter account, a mid-sized agency using the latest social monitoring tools, or a huge enterprise with a multi-million pound cross-platform presence, at some point, we all will make mistakes with social media.  

It’s OK to be honest and admit that you get confused about social media, its benefits to your organisation and what you should and should not be doing. With so many social media platforms around that are changing all the time and new ones coming along, it can be a real challenge to keep on top of everything….oh and run your business!

Add to that all the noise from every marketer under the sun who is suddenly an expert on what is the right thing to do, there’s no wonder so many businesses just give up on social media before they even get started or they get started then give up because it doesn’t seem to work.

It’s not OK to ignore social media though! Sticking your head in the sand is not an option. Chances are that your customers are talking about you via social media. Your prospects are looking for you. Your competitors will certainly be using social media. You’re missing a relatively cheap marketing opportunity to get your brand noticed in your marketplace.

Hopefully this post can help you to get your head around some of the most common mistakes that organisations make with social media.

#Fail 1 – Build it and they will come

So you’ve paid for a great looking profile photo and background, your ‘About’ section is all filled out, you have call to action to collect leads and you get someone to post your company news and latest offers every month or so. Done? No!

SOLUTION: Update your pages regularly with new and interesting content and engage your users daily. Engagement is THE most important element of social media. A content marketing strategy for your business will really help you engage with your audience in the right way. Content marketing is really about providing valuable information or content to current and potential customers for the purpose of building trust, branding, awareness, and positive sentiment. A successful and ongoing content marketing campaign establishes you as an expert in your field, and that sets the groundwork for a long-term business relationship. Simply put, its primary focus is on building the relationship, not the hard sell.

Types of content that typically form a content marketing strategy include:

  • Blog posts
  • E-books
  • Email newsletters
  • Presentations
  • Podcasts
  • Videos
  • Social media posts
  • Webinars
  • White papers

#Fail 2 – Not committing to social media as a long-term strategy

Too many marketers get all excited about the launch of their Facebook or LinkedIn page, their new Twitter feed or their Google+ community only to forget to update it because the next shiny campaign comes along or the next important event needs organising. Social media does need effort. You need to listen, engage, be true to your organisation’s values and share great content…..not necessarily your own.

SOLUTION: Embrace social media as part of your business every day. If you’re a larger business, make it several people’s job to set aside at least 30 minutes every day to work on it. Don’t try to accomplish everything at once, but take it one piece at a time. It can take a couple of years of effort and great content to build up a solid and engaged following that drives sales and customer satisfaction. You can spend thousands of pounds on Twitter and Facebook advertising to give you thousands of followers but that doesn’t guarantee an engaged audience or indeed an audience that will buy from you.

#Fail 3 – It’s all about me

Unlike traditional marketing where you talk about how great you are and how fantastic your products are and what special offers you have this week, social media is generally about others, your community and what they’re interested in. Only posting about you will very quickly turn your followers off!

SOLUTION: Post content about your industry, your clients and their success, new technology breakthroughs for your industry, ‘how to’ guides and the great things your employees or customers are doing. Ideally you should be looking at a ratio of 1 in 20 posts being about your brand and at worst 1 in 10.

#Fail 4 – Post Overload

There are no rules as to how often you should post on the various social platforms, but you need to be careful about post overload and turning off your followers and connections and/or losing them for good!

SOLUTION: Spread out your posts and plan them. It really does depend on your business and your marketplace as to what the best times of day are to post. Generally on Facebook a page getting good engagement should post 1-5 times per day at most. On LinkedIn, 1 or 2. Spread your posts out through the day to see when the best time is for your page though.

Twitter and Google+ are different to Facebook. People consume information there faster and are not sitting on it staring at the newsfeed like on Facebook. So my recommendation is 5 – 10 posts on Twitter per day and 3 -5 on Google+.  That said, there are no hard and fast rules and it really does depend on your market, your geographic reach and your target followers. So at the outset carry out some testing and check out other highly engaged brands in your markets and look at their social media posting volumes so that you can gauge what works and what doesn’t.

#Fail 5 – Not posting at all

This is the exact opposite of #3. Have you ever gone onto a company’s social media page and noticed that they haven’t posted in 4 months? How does it make you feel? For me it lets me know this page owner isn’t switched on or engaged with their customers and prospects. It tells me that they’ve given up or worse have nothing to say!

SOLUTION: Have a content strategy and post at least once per day or at least once every couple of days. Maybe your page is new or you are a small business owner strapped for time. That’s fine. Sit down on Monday morning and schedule a post to go out at least once per day for the whole week. Or maybe even the whole month! If you aren’t posting, then no one is finding out about your company on social media. There are some great tools out there to help you.

#Fail 6 – Everything is fine (when it isn’t!)

Never ignore, or knowingly lie (even a white lie) to, a customer. You will get found out! So many huge international brands have fallen foul of viral complaints that have been ignored. Some have even lost double digit percentage losses on the stock market because of a tweet, YouTube video or Facebook rant. See United Breaks Guitars below. Within 4 days of the video being posted online, United Airlines’ stock price fell 10%, costing shareholders about $180 million in value.

 

SOLUTION: Don’t stick your head in the sand! You should respond to EVERY pertinent question and post made to your page. It’s ok if your response takes 24 hours sometimes, especially if you are a small business.

The key is to make the person feel their input is important. Even if you don’t have the answer. Simply saying “Hi Sheila thanks for that comment/question and etc. Let me find that out for you.” is better than no response at all. If you treat your followers (potential customers) with kindness and empathy they will remain loyal and not lambast you across the internet

 

#Fail 7– Inconsistent Messages, Tone of Voice and Branding

In many larger organisations several people are often responsible for social media. They may even split up their social media feeds by person or department to spread the load or even post by function – marketing, customer service, corporate social responsibility, PR, Engineering and so on. You may even have a few ‘Thought Leaders’ blogging independently and in their own time. If these are completely uncoordinated you might end up with different messages going out, with conflicting branding or tone of voice.

SOLUTION: Ensure your branding is recognisable on all platforms and consistent throughout. You’re going to have variations of backgrounds etc. on the different platforms, as the specs are different on each, but your branding should be clear when someone visits your different accounts.There are many inexpensive resources out there to get consistent branding. If you’re serious about your business don’t just throw it together and hope no one notices… because they will.

It’s also important that you’re not too prescriptive with your people, especially your thought leaders. Having some Social Media Guidelines can be really useful to help with this. As long as people are largely on message with what your organisation is about, don’t get involved. You’ll probably find that with the right support, and if their content is good, they’ll drive your Google page rank higher than your marketing department can or indeed your marketing agency.

#Fail 8 – Don’t ‘Panda’ to your audience

Unless your organisation is the RSPCA or World Wildlife Fund, posting only pictures of pandas and cute cats is not likely to drive sales or increased customer satisfaction for your brand. You may get a massive following online, loads of engagement and positive comments, but is that really what you want your social media to be focussed on? I would suggest not.

SOLUTION: If you’re posting dozens of pictures of cute animals and lots of funny videos every day and that has nothing to do with your business, I would suggest only one thing. Stop it! Every once in a while it’s fine to post something to make people laugh or share one of the ‘funnies’ that get floated around online, but if that is your only strategy to garner engagement on your organisation’s pages you’re going to fail.

People will only be commenting because it caught their attention, not because they love your content or want to buy from you. If you’re serious about your business then you owe it to yourself and your followers to post relevant content that adds value to their day.

#Fail 9 – Everywhere, but nowhere

Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, FourSquare, Pinterest, YouTube, WordPress, StumbleUpon, Reddit and so on. There are literally dozens of social media sites today for business people to wrap their brains around. It can be overwhelming for some.

SOLUTION: Choose ONE, yes I said ONE, platform and master it. At least at first. Don’t feel like you need to be everywhere. The worst thing you can do is to open accounts everywhere and neglect them. Maybe for your niche you’re best suited only focusing on Facebook. Pick the one where you can get the most quality engagement and where you can invest some time.

Once you’ve mastered that one and you want to branch out and add say Twitter, go for it, but don’t feel like on day 1 you have to open an account everywhere. Doing so usually means you get overwhelmed and you end up failing.

#Fail 10 – Keeping Social Media separate from business as usual

I’ve seen this so many times. Your marketing needs to be joined up. It’s not optimal for your marketing agency or marketing department to send out a huge volume of direct mail or email only to find out that your social media, website, PR activities, online advertising and your sales teams exist in isolation from each other; the impact of all of these efforts are magnified by linking them wherever appropriate.

SOLUTION: Marketing activity and PR should link to related content on your website or blog as well as to the profiles of anyone quoted. Your website, email newsletters, even employee email signatures should link to your blog and Twitter account. Product microsites can be linked back to your website or blog for additional information. Cross-linking between these different sites and sources raises your profile in search, maximising your web presence within your industry and product space. Always brief your front-line employees about any major push online or offline!

#Fail 11 – We all mess up – APOLOGISE…and quickly

Sometimes, even the best of us get it wrong. As you’ve seen with ‘United breaks guitars’ some of the biggest brands on the planet have made some major mistakes with their social media. It happens. Especially if you haven’t invested in training or that you have the wrong people managing your social media platforms.

SOLUTION: The culture of social media demands that you address people’s issues. That doesn’t mean you have to discuss every detail in public. So tweet or comment back and say something like “please e-mail me more info” or “looking forward to helping you. Can you DM/message me more?” Also when it’s resolved, tweet that back as well. Try “Thanks so much for letting us know. I hope the issue has been resolved for you?” Follow up is KEY. If it’s on Facebook, make sure you comment on the original stream where the complaint was written.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have more examples of #Fail, I’d love to hear from you!

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The New SMS – Social Media Strategy

Social Media StrategyFollowing on from my last post the A-Z of Business Social Media, I’ve had some feedback that whilst the A-Z was really useful, for people who are new to social media, particularly in a business sense, they don’t know where to start and how to get the most out of their limited resources, time and money.

So, with that in mind, this post will focus on how to build your social media strategy and where to focus your energy and money.

Your social media strategy needs to be tailored to what your organisation does, who your customers, or potential customers, are and what you are aiming to achieve. I’ll walk you through a framework of questions you need to ask yourself and give you some pointers as to where to get started in a cost-effective way.

Explore

Before you start to build your strategy, it’s a good idea to explore social media channels to determine which will be the most appropriate for your organisation. The A-Z of Business Social Media mentions a number of sites you can check out as well as a few more in this post you may want to think about.

Create a personal account on a few of the most pertinent to your particular business or organisation and explore what people are saying and how they are interacting with each other. As a starting point, whatever your organisation does, I would suggest LinkedIn and Twitter as a minimum if you’re not already using them. Once you’ve spent a bit of time browsing around and becoming familiar with the social world, you’ll be better placed to start thinking about how you can use it to the best effect for your organisation.

Goals and Objectives

What are you trying to achieve from your social media activity? This is a really important question you should ask yourself before putting finger to keyboard. I’ve made a short list below, but it’s by no means exhaustive. You may answer yes to more than one:

Do you want:

Increased brand presence across social channels?

Increased positive sentiment about your brand?

Development of relationships for future partnership opportunities?

Increased traffic to your website?

Improved customer service?

Increased sales leads?

To improve your personal or organisational profile?

Build your network of contacts?

To be perceived as a ‘Thought Leader’ in a segment, market or technology?

Depending on your answers above, you will need to tailor your strategy and focus accordingly.

Social Footprint

Unless you’re a start-up business, chances are that your organisation will already have a Social Footprint. How come?

Your customers, suppliers, employees and the media may already be talking about you online.

Type your organisation’s name into Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and you’ll be surprised at who’s being saying what about you.

This is useful for a number of reasons. You’ll be able to;

  1. Determine whether you have a footprint or not and the size of it.
  2. Understand the sentiment towards your organisation – good, bad or indifferent.
  3. Discover whether your target audience is present and engaging in dialogue about you and importantly where.
  4. Find out if you have employees that are advocates or disparaging your brand.

There are a number of tools that can help you do this for free:

Twilert: A great and simple tool to consolidate and keep up with the Tweets on your brand. This tool will email you whenever there are Tweets regarding your brand name and/or other search terms you set up for your convenience.

Topsy indexes and ranks search results based upon the most influential conversations people are having every day about each specific term, topic, page or domain queried. Therefore you know whether a specific mention has been influential or not, and what type of positive or negative effect it may or may not have.

There are organisations that can carry out this work on your behalf, but would recommend you have a try yourself first.

Analyse Your Social Space

Analyse what people are talking about in your industry – about you, about your competitors, the marketplace, trends, news and reviews.

Who are the most influential brands and individuals in your space? Who are the key social influencers – are they individual thought leaders, news organisations, journalists, politicians, consultancy firms, bloggers or even customers?

You do need to know this, as networking online is as hard, time-consuming and as important as offline networking, if you feel that social media is an important part of your marketing mix.

Once you’ve done some detailed analysis, you understand what you want from Social Media, and you know where your target audience spenda their time and how they interact, you can decide on which social media platforms you invest your time and effort and in what ways.

Choose your Channels and Content

Whatever channels and tools you decide to use you will need to have some content. The richer the channels the more the content you will need. Of course you will hope to reach a stage where the conversation and interaction you achieve will form part of the content. But be under no illusions, tweeting, blogging, sharing, casting, whatever you do will take content and you need to find it. So, review your existing content, and consider where more might come from. What format will you need? Can you subcontract its generation?

It is important to recognise that in a social media context sharing and drawing on others’ material is all part of the inclusive behaviour you need to adopt. If you are tweeting be sure to re-tweet other material that is useful, and spend time responding to others’ posts. Social media is not about one-way broadcasting, it is about conversation and acknowledging and contributing to others’ work. It is part of the deal, and it helps get you noticed as well. So consider your mix of self-generated,  found  material  and  commenting  activity  you  will  use  to  create  content  and engagement.

Define metrics and benchmarks

The most important part of developing your strategy is determining how you are going to measure your success. These should be revisited regularly to ensure you’re measuring the right things, doing the right things, and having the desired effect. I’ve listed some examples below:

If your business goal is to … Then you should measure… Followed by measuring
Generate leads Number of leads generated through social media Sales
Increase customer satisfaction Positive sentiment around your company and brand Customer Satisfaction
Lower customer service costs Number of incidents resolved through social media Headcount Costs
Improve product / service quality Feedback +ve / -ve about your products / services Returns / Complaints
Improve your brand’s awareness Number of product-related issues posted. Brand Awareness

Create and publish content

Publishing content, and regularly, is crucial to any organisation wishing to grow their online brand.

Whichever social platforms you have chosen to engage your audience, it’s important that you’re visible at the right time, with current information and engage in the right way.

Think 70:20:10

70 percent of content should focus on your customers’ interests and needs. This can be accomplished through how-to tips, answers to frequently asked questions, and links to helpful resources. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes – “Would I find this content helpful?” If the answer is yes, then go for it.

20 percent of content should be other people’s content. That means a willingness on your part to allow user-generated content on social channels you manage, such as a Facebook page. This gives your customers a sense of ownership in the conversation and serves to foster trust.

10 percent of content should be promotional. If you are willing to focus 90 percent of your content on others, then, hopefully, no one will complain when 10 percent of it calls attention to your products and services.

Think about timing when you publish your content. As an example, if your target audience is the UK, US and India, 12.30 GMT is a good time to post (start of day in US, lunch in UK and evening in India). If you’re targeting a youth audience 1600-1800 during the week and at weekends is a good time. If you have a mixed audience, you may wish to tailor the message to the audience and post the same product or service at differing times with subtly different content and calls to action.

Engage in Conversations and Help Others

It’s not enough to push out content – Social media is not just another marketing channel you can use to reach your target audience.   The biggest mistake companies and brands make is to use social media as a way to just sell a product. Content should be created with a view to inspiring and participating in conversations.  Social media is about a two-way flow of conversation. People are no longer willing to be passive bystanders – they want to take an active part of the conversation. Think about the kinds of topics and interests that your audience have and engage with them on those topics too. It shouldn’t all be about you!

Followers, ‘Likes’ and traffic are good, but are people engaging with you?  93% of the Internet users active in social media say they expect a company to have a social media presence and to be able to actively engage with that company. 93%! [Forrester]

The key to success with social media is to keep your eye on where your target audience are talking, what they’re saying and more importantly what they’re saying about you. Track these things, adapt accordingly and engage positively and you’ll do better than most!

I hope you enjoyed this post and I look forward to hearing your views and comments as always. Until next time…