Let’s take a moment to dispel a few myths.
Social media is free. Social media is for everybody. A company might as well have social media, after all it can’t do any harm.
These are risky misconceptions when entering into the world of social media as part of a company’s marketing activity - yet they’re surprisingly common, even in marketing circles.
‘Social media’ has become a buzzword in marketing circles as clients become more interested in what the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Four Square can do for their business. Because social media has almost zero barriers to entry in terms of cost, deadlines and commitment, it is often considered an easy way to get the word out there.
By committing to social media, however, a business opens itself to consumers more than ever before. While the company may create the brand message, social media hands the control of that message back over to the consumer. These people enjoy a public forum along with relative anonymity to express their honest opinions on your brand.
It’s time to let go of those myths. As resources are required to make best use of it, effective social media is neither free nor necessarily easy at times. It is certainly not for everybody either. It works best in specific industries, with certain audiences and with companies that take the right approach.
So is it worth your while? Here’s a quick guide to see if you could be tweeting, pinning and posting by week’s end:
Social media first base, Facebook tends to be the very first stop for most companies on the track towards two way customer communication, and with over 800 million users worldwide, it should be.
The great thing about Facebook is that it does everything – images, videos, custom applications, opinion polls, advertising. In this sense, it is perfectly suited for ‘product-based’ applications. For most companies, this may not be just the first stop, but also the last stop in their social media needs.
Facebook, however, is not made for the occasional update once a month. Facebook organises all posts users see on their newsfeed in a process called EdgeRank. It’s a complex algorithm, but boiled right down, the more fans that engage with your posts (comment on them, click on them, like them), the more visibility your posts receive. Low engagement leads to a low EdgeRank, which may mean your posts are never seen.
Facebook Dos and Don’ts:
- DO research your audience and make sure Facebook is where they go to learn about your brand or industry.
- DON’T start a Facebook page through a feeling of obligation or a sense that "we have to be there” – particularly if maintaining content and ongoing two way communication could become an issue.
- DO vary your content between brand/product promotion and lighter "entertainment” posts
- DON’T treat Facebook like a website. Talk with your community, encourage them to participate and let them help you shape the environment.
- DO ask questions to get people commenting on your posts
- DON’T spam Facebook. Two to three posts a week is sufficient.
- DO have a dedicated resource. A staff member with time to dedicate to Facebook should be charged with populating the page, creating forward-looking content schedules, ensuring the posts are aligned with all other marketing, and managing the community feedback.
Twitter gives users 140 characters to say something ground-breaking. That’s not a lot of space, but there are a number of tricks to get the most out of your little blurb.
While Twitter pickup in New Zealand has tended towards early adopters, its popularity is rapidly growing as organisations begin to push business, brand and product messages.
Twitter users, for the most part, also expect to receive some product information from the brands they follow, which gives businesses a little more open reign on straight product promotion. Finding that balance between conversation and product is still important, however.
Due to the format of Twitter, all tweets are seen by all people who opt in or ‘follow’ a feed – there is not the same need to be constantly engaging to keep a high profile with fans as with Facebook.
This does make Twitter a great place to publicise your new offering, so if you feel Twitter is right for you here are a few tips.
Twitter Dos and Don’ts:
- DO strike a balance between conversation posts and product posts
- DON’T be afraid to tweet multiple times in a day
- DO tweet promotions and brand relevant information – this is the right forum
- DON’T write messages over multiple tweets, find a way to make it fit
- DO use links through to your website or to third party endorsements
- DON’T use long or overly formal language. Twitter is the land of text speak and people forgive, even expect abbreviation
- DO follow your target audience, it’s a good way to get them to follow you back
- DO learn how hashtags work
- DO shorten links using bit.ly or tinyurl.com – they offer analytics tools that show click through
Pinterest has become the biggest thing to hit the internet since LOLCats and, for many, ‘pinning’ borderlines on obsession.
For the uninitiated, Pinterest is essentially an online image pinboard, a place for you to scrapbook pictures that inspire you, make you laugh or link through to useful web pages.
People follow user boards and re-pin images to their own. Initially a very female heavy community, it is now starting to branch out with new categories that prove appealing to men also. It’s a great concept, simple and the very essence of virality through community shared content.
And the good news – it’s great for creative businesses. An attractive or aspirational product shot can spread in just minutes and, with the right information attributed to the photo, can lead purchasers back to your website or e-commerce hub.
Pinterest Dos and Don’ts:
- DO pin your products
- DO link back to your website
- DO place prices on your products – there is a built in option you can use to do this
- DON’T pin personal interests; this is about your brand
- DO pin images related to but not specific to your brand
- DO follow boards for companies in your field – they may follow and pin your images in reply, opening you up to a whole new market
- DON’T pin everything to one board, create multiple boards for multiple uses
- DO comment on pins you like, it’s all good visibility
- DON’T pin a million things at once. A few a day will spread your content evenly over your followers’ news feeds
This is a beginner’s guide to social media, not a list of hard and fast rules. Companies considering social media should weigh up its relevance to the organisation on a case by case basis.
There are tons of other social media sites that can be used effectively as business tools and, particularly as these networks become increasingly mobile through the use of faster smartphones and tablets, the business applications will continue to grow.
If you are fortunate enough to be in an industry where social media can work for you, I encourage you to be excited and get involved.
Nicole Crump is director of Tactix Marketing Plans