While a skillfully executed social media program can bring big gains to corporate marketing, these channels have to be handled with care. One false move and OMG, things can head south fast.
The best advice? Create a strategy, execute a well-oiled plan, and avoid the most common social media blunders. Do this and social media will be your ‘friend’ for life.
Blunder #1: Taking an Old Approach to New Media
You’re a marketing-savvy company that’s been around for a while. In the past, you’ve gotten above-average results from print ads, radio spots, television and maybe the occasional billboard. So, you decide to leverage that same messaging to your social channels – only to wonder why your only followers are a few suppliers and the CEO’s mom.
According to Sy Truong, co-founder and president of Meta-Xceed, if you have your Facebook post or your Tweet coming from your company, instead of a human within your company, you’re missing the mark.
“People connect with social media because it is far more intimate than traditional or ‘old’ media, so the audience expects a more personal interaction,” Truong explained. “So, instead of a post coming from a computer company, you’re going to get greater response if the poster is that company’s iconic owner – without the corporate speak. People want to connect directly with a real human.”
Blunder # 2: Ignoring the Criticality of Quality Content
Commit this fact to memory: in the world of social media, it’s all about quality content. Something that’s compelling enough to keep people coming back for more.
“I believe social media is a higher form of brand awareness, so content creation involves real strategy,” explained Jason Bartlett, Xerox’s vice president of global social marketing. “You have to spend time creating content that shares a unique point of view or real thought leadership – and it has to be cohesive. You are using the media to tell chapters of a story and start a conversation, not to hop from book to book.”
According to Bartlett, producing meaningful content requires corporate buy-in from the top down.
“You have to have access to executives, internal subject matter experts and researchers so you can continually offer something of value,” Bartlett said. “You can’t repurpose press releases and expect a response.”
Blunder #3: Believing All Social Media Works the Same Way
Although all things digital often get lumped under the moniker of ‘social media,’ the various mediums are not designed in exactly the same way.
“It’s critical that companies understand the different strengths and nuances of a social channel before they use that medium,” Truong of Meta-Xceed said.
Take, for example, the Twitter hashtag, the # symbol is used before relevant keywords in Tweets to connect the reader with other Tweets marked with that same word.
“Using hashtags in Twitter improves your interaction. However, if you use hashtags in other social media, you look like you’re not very savvy,” Truong said. “Facebook posts should have pictures, YouTube should have video – effectively using the social ‘tools’ within the specific medium can be as important as the post itself.”
Blunder #4: Assuming All Social Media Channels are Followed by Like-Minded People
Let’s say that you’re a smaller company with limited resources, so you create content and use one of those handy-dandy automated tools to deliver the same content across every imaginable social channel with the press of a button.
You might as well be throwing it in the trashcan.
“If you’re repeating the same information over and over, in the same way, across your channels, you’re missing the whole point of social media,” explained Ed Niu founder and CEO of ILN Enterprises. “You’re better off putting something meaningful on one or two channels than replicating the same data on many.”
It’s a simple fact: your audience will probably look significantly different from channel to channel.
To be successful, make the time to understand what kinds of individuals are using each medium, and distribute your content accordingly.
“You have to understand who you’re talking to and recognize the fact that the same people probably won’t be using all of our channels,” Bartlett of Xerox said. “For example, we discovered that Xerox’s Facebook page is primarily followed by employees, former employees, and their friends and families. So, we started gearing our content toward this audience – sharing more about our community involvement, events or human interest-type topics. Other channels attract people from large corporations, looking for insight and trends, who have probably never visited our Facebook page.”
Blunder #5: Managing Social Media in a Vacuum
If you look inside some companies, social media resides in the IT department, not in the marketing department. Others hire a young, fresh-out-of-college social marketer, and leave him or her to blog and post and Tweet away.
Our experts agree, this “cowboy marketing” won’t help your company ride high in the saddle.
“Social media has to be a part of your overall marketing strategy, with goals, benchmarks and focus. You’re going to approach social media differently than offline channels, but you ultimately have to stay true to your brand,” Niu said.
Niu also recommends having someone on the team who understands the privacy policies and terms for each channel you use – and warns that these change frequently.
Blunder #6: Keeping Things Passive
While it is true that celebrities, sports stars and the occasional reality show misfit’s ramblings about where they’re going or what they had for lunch gets social media traction, companies have to take a more interactive approach.
“You have to give your followers and readers something that is actionable – clicking on a link or embedding a nugget of content they can ‘like’,” Truong explained. “You want to get them involved.”
It’s your party and you have to get the conversation going.
“If you’re going to post a question, make sure it’s something that will only generate a positive response,” Truong said. “For example, if you use social media to launch a new product, don’t ask,
‘what do you think of this?'”
Instead, Truong recommends picking out a benefit –something your market research shows everyone would love — and use that for your question. For example, ‘Wouldn’t you like to have more hours in the day, see your virtual world more clearly, have more money in your pocket’ – whatever maps to your product and also is a universal “want.”
Blunder # 7: Assuming What Happens in Your Post Stays on Your Post
Someone responds quickly or posts a blog without fact checking. Thank goodness it’s not in print, you think. We’ll pull the content and it will be as if it never existed at all.
“Although it’s true that social media is fast, make sure what you post is accurate and really what you want to say, because your delete button is not the social media ecosystem’s delete button,” ILN Enterprises’ Niu explained. “Just as fast as you post something, particularly if it is something you’d rather delete, it can be replicated in multiple sites before you know it.”
While you can delete your post, there’s nothing you can do about who-knows-how-many other sites that have picked you up. Translation: If you say something that’s the corporate equivalent of a wardrobe malfunction, that is the thing that will replicate, go viral and follow you around for a very long time.
Blunder #8: Publicly Managing an Individual’s Negative Experience
Your social media team spots a negative customer Tweet or blog post on an issue he or she is having with service. You immediately respond, and take a world full of followers on your journey of mitigating the problem.
According to Truong, not so much.
“Social media is a better vehicle for positive messages. Anything that can be construed as negative will typically not work in your favor,” he said. “If someone Tweets a complaint to the world, respond that you’re concerned and will contact that person directly to resolve it. Then, work with that individual privately.”
In other words, the entire social community doesn’t need to experience how the sausage is made.
If you’re not sure of what’s an appropriate social interaction, Truong recommends taking your cue from a good personnel manager.
“Let’s say you have an employee who is having issues. A good manager pulls him or her aside to resolve those issues. It’s not something that’s handled in front of the whole team,” he said. “However, if an employee has a great success, a good manager recognizes that accomplishment very visibly, in front of other employees. Social media works in much the same way. Broadcast the good and underplay the negative.”
Blunder #9: Being Afraid to Try Anything New
Social media is a noisy space. So, how do you cut through the clutter?
“If you’re going to be successful with social media, you can’t be afraid of failure. You have to step a little outside of your comfort zone while still staying true to your brand. You have to try something a little unexpected,” Bartlett said.
This is not to say that a financial services giant should launch a dancing squirrel video on YouTube. But, giving your audience a different view into your brand – humanizing the company behind the product or service – could generate a lot of positive chatter.
Blunder #10: Ignoring the Analytics
One of the greatest benefits of social media is the fact that you can get instant, daily feedback into how your efforts are going. Nearly every channel offers some form of analytics. Spend time digging in and dissecting what is working and what is not.
“Measure, track, test and tweak as you go,” Niu advises. “Study which content was viewed, and which links were followed – as well as what’s not getting any traction at all. Don’t just look at your “likes” but at commentary. Are you engaging your audience? Are they interacting? Because that’s what these channels are all about.”
Our experts have weighed in. Now, what do you think? Which social media blunders would you add to the list?