“At times like this I wish I’d listened to what my mother told me.”
“Why what did she say?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t listen…”
(Douglas Adams of course.)
The golden rule? Back your own judgement
The best bit of maternal advice I’ve ever received was on how to raise our new-born son. “Listen to all the advice and then do whatever you feel is right,” said mum. It’s a great maxim for life in general, but it’s particularly apposite when it comes to using social media for business.
Ignore anyone demanding that you use it as the ultimate brand engagement tool. Sure, if you can afford to pay for a nutter to jump out of balloon in the stratosphere then do it (oh wait… that may have been done). But what would your customers (and staff) think if you started shelling-out for sky-diving spacemen?
Is not a marketing tool; it’s a human contact device
One of the biggest mistakes small businesses make when planning their social media strategy is to introduce a sales performance element. How do you measure the performance and efficiency of the person who answers your phones or greets customers in your store? How do you judge their impact on sales and the bottom line? Nowadays those tasks are usually just parts of a bigger role, but they are the essentials to how your customers first perceive your company.
If they are greeted with a smile, engaged with good conversation, and pointed accurately to the thing that they’re looking for, then social media has done its job for your company. The gentle personal touch trumps aggressive product-led marketing. That might sound unambitious but advertising, PR and direct sales are still very effective so allow social media to just give human warmth to some otherwise cold digital exchanges.
Be yourself. People like it better that way
You know your business and you know your customers better than any agency so have confidence and talk to them on social media the way you would in person. Remember who they are; imagine that they’re all smart and funny and then talk to the highest common denominator. Be confident that if people are interacting with you on social media, you’ve already got a high level of their interest so yes, show your best side, but be always yourselves.
Choose the people to run your social media carefully, assuming that they may well not be in the marketing team, but they’ll be the people that exemplify your values and highest standards. And they’ll be garrulous and chatty and prone to fun not only because well-thought-out tomfoolery is very endearing, but also because people have a lot of affection for companies that let you see the characters behind the scenes. So allow your social media operators to be frank, honest and approachable. It’s vital that you let them be themselves and back their judgement too.
Talk to them regularly and ask why they are posting certain things, but be ready to be very pleased when they say, “because it feels right”. You have to trust your intuition to judge if they’re having a positive impact on the company’s image and performance but your customers will be quick to tell you if they don’t like something, and especially if they do.
Start with low expectations and don’t expect a massive sales spike, then soon you’ll be collecting positive anecdotes of transformed perceptions, and will start to appreciate the immense power and value of a tweet from a customer that says “ha! love it. lol.”
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