We already know businesses small and large are signing up for social media accounts more than ever. By July 2013, 77 percent of Fortune 500 companies were actively on Twitter and 70 percent had Facebook pages. Smaller businesses everywhere are online as well, posting everything from their daily specials to interactions with people interested in their products (and why they’re better than their competitors). Some are even telling people on Twitter… that they’re on Twitter.
If you haven’t heard, we’re on twitter! Check us out @VillaMyriamCafe — Villa Myriam (@VillaMyriamSC) November 27, 2013
Did you know? We’re on Twitter! @ThreePercenters — The Three Percenters (@ThreePercenters) November 28, 2013
So you decide to get online, as well, so you can tell people you’re online. And from the start, it all appears pretty easy. In fact, the half hour it takes to sign up for 2-3 accounts barely costs your business any time from other work – and in most cases, these accounts come with no fees attached. Wait a second, backtrack. So, it shouldn’t be that easy. And it shouldn’t take half an hour to get to your social accounts. Don’t skip the strategy.
- Examine each of the popular platforms available (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr…)
- Identify who you want to reach on social media – your current customers, potential customers, local community members?
- Consider what content you have to share, and what content you can create – will you have a lot of photos? Video? Or constant news updates?
- Based on your audience’s online habits and what you plan to share and talk about, identify which platforms are going to be most effective.
“Most people and companies can’t be amazing on every platform; that takes a huge amount of bandwidth and resources. Instead of having a sub-par representation in a lot of places, be awesome on a few of them.” – Scott Levy
We’re going to trust that you strategically approached (or will strategically approach) which social networks your company sets up branded accounts on. Moving on.. Now what? A more important question…
Who’s Running Your Social Media Accounts?
You can’t set up your social media accounts and forget about them. In our opinion, an inactive, neglected account is worse than no account at all. Especially ones filled with inbound customer questions and feedback that don’t get responses. Your business’s hours might be 9-5… Social media accounts are open for comments and questions 24/7. So… who’s in charge? Identify the person or people that might:
- Brainstorm and create content ideas. What can you post about? What can you teach or ask your fans?
- Monitor online conversations. You can’t just talk at your audience. What are your competitors, fans (and critics) saying?
@Cassaandrax Lisa sounds pretty awesome. — BurgerKing (@BurgerKing) November 25, 2013
- Respond to questions, positive feedback and complaints.
- Watch analytics to see what posts are working – and what kinds of posts you should quit.
- Oversee the process – you can’t have five people posting at once. It gets messy. Who has the final say of what goes online?
Identify those people, then…
Train Your Social Media Team
You’re thinking, “But everybody already knows how to Facebook. Twitter can’t be that hard.” Sure. But you must:
Establish your brand voice. Someone on your social media team has a sense of humor while another person is more serious. Someone likes to use a lot of exclamation marks. There might be multiple people writing posts, but they should all use one uniform voice. Is your brand serious? Clever? Business-minded or casual? How do you want to come across online (it should be the same as all of your marketing materials, including web, video and print materials)? Discuss this with your social team to make sure every time a customer communicates with your company they take away the same impression, regardless of who at your company is writing the customer back.
Understand each member’s strengths. It’s a lot of work, but it should be enjoyable, too. Find out what social channels your team members already have experience with, and what ones they’re interested in learning more about. Find out who is already interested in photography, video creation and writing, and consider how those content interests can be used in your social media program.
Create a plan.
Social media requires constant attention. Are you breaking up responsibilities (monitoring, responding, etc.) by individual tasks or on a rotating basis? Like I mentioned earlier – multiple people posting can get messy, especially if you end up flooding your fan’s newsfeeds with repetitive content. It can also cause a problem if a customer asks a question and two people in your company provide answers (and they aren’t the same answer). Creating your team’s social media plan before the campaign launches can save a lot of headaches later on.
Discuss emergency responses.You might make 99% of your customers happy, but someone is going to complain. Someone is going to write a long-winded, angry note on your Facebook page for everyone to see. It’ll probably get posted at 7 p.m. on a Friday when your social media team members are kicking off their weekends and out with friends. Have an emergency plan. You can’t leave the angry comment unaddressed until Monday morning, so don’t waste time Friday night sorting out how it should be handled.
- Who is ultimately responsible for the social accounts and team?
- If someone leaves the team (and company, on good or bad terms), what is the process for changing account passwords? Avoid this:
- How do you address questions or comments about competitors?
- You may have an “edgy” brand voice, but where do you draw the line when it comes to language and material shared? We’re not just talking vulgarity and NSFW – there’s an ick level to think about, too (we’re sorry for what comes next).
The most awkward places to experience, diarrhea? Go. — Pepto-Bismol (@Pepto) October 27, 2013
Explain the purpose. This is the most important part – if your social media team members don’t understand the value of your social presence, your program isn’t going to last. Your team must understand this program:
- drives brand loyalty with your current fans
- introduces new people to your company and service or product
- is fully supported by the management and considered a critical part of the company’s marketing efforts
That last part is critical. Make sure your employees are allocated the time necessary to monitor and interact through your social networks on a regular basis. Ask them to “fit it in” and it will never get done well enough to show any ROI.
Monitor and Evaluate Successes
As your social media efforts are kicked off, there will be plenty to analyze – both in terms of data and written conversation. Reevaluate your team’s structure. Determine what is working and what could be changed now that everyone has a better feel for social media. This analysis will benefit your company’s online appearance, but it will also help your team, who will benefit from knowing the work is being evaluated and acknowledged by your management.
What else is important for your new social media team to know from the very beginning?