To many of us, social media is a handy tool that we use to communicate with friends and family quickly and easily regardless of location – and that’s wonderful. But for those of us who believe ‘hashtag’ is the 27th letter of the Latin alphabet, social media represents the largest shift in the ‘ability to influence’ since the printing press was invented in the 14th Century.
Power and responsibility
If you’ve ever opened the box of a brand new gadget, you may recall seeing a small instruction booklet with words adorned upon it: READ BEFORE USING, in a large, bold typeface as so to be 100% certain that you would take no notice of it and then go ahead and destroy the packaging anyway. The same warning label comes with social media (albeit in forums and blogs), and some business leaders pay just as much attention to it as they do the warning on the front of the gadget instructions.
“Social media is great for business”, “social media will triple revenue”, “social media will make Monday mornings feel beautiful” are all things businesses are hearing now and the knee jerk response is quite understandably, a fresh, branded Twitter account followed by Sam from marketing being assigned new Twitter duties…
Communications – a live medium
Once your Twitter account goes live, it’s an extension of your brand, a ‘touchpoint’ and a means by which both new and existing customers can begin creating a relationship with your business. It can’t be treated as secondary, or just used as a broadcast medium as and when it suits. Opening a new social media profile is akin to creating a new email address and displaying it on your website – you can’t be surprised when people begin to email you.
If you open a new social media account – it needs monitoring regularly, much like your inbound emails.
What does your last post say about you?
What the last post on Twitter says about a business can influence people’s’ opinions of you, but not the content of the post, rather the date it was posted. Despite the account being reflective of your company as a whole, it’s staggering to see how many company profiles lay dormant, sporting a few retweets from industry partners and a sentence of wisdom from the MD. When a business Twitter account does this, the company will probably fit into one of the following categories:
- No longer trading
- Trading, but not bothering with Twitter anymore
Which of the above would you like your customers to think about your business? Neither are particularly pleasant as a first impression.
A social media account that lies dormant is harmful to your brand, it can reflect badly amongst both potential and existing customers, and does absolutely nothing to show that your business is taking advantage of new technologies to further its relationships with customers. If a business can’t be bothered to update their social media, what else can’t they be bothered with? Now is the time to start again or take the profile down.
What social media should look like
Although it sounds counterintuitive, business leaders need to understand that it’s ok if a business doesn’t have a complete social media presence.
No, this doesn’t mean you can ignore social media entirely. No, you can’t dismiss social media as something that “other people” do. It’s about making a decision about which social media platforms are going to work for you and making a business case for using it.
By observing the following principles, social media can begin to work for you:
- Does this platform suit our business, why use Twitter when your target audience is on Facebook?
- Can I update this account consistently? One post a week is vastly more valuable than 5 posts followed by months of silence
- Social media doesn’t have to generate a return on investment, it can enhance the brand and contribute to success in the same way your logo does
- Social media isn’t for selling, it’s for engaging your target audience so that they become customers in due course
To wrap up, social media isn’t “something you should just have” because it’s the ‘done’ thing. It’s a business tool that’s available to those who will use it effectively and regularly to further the company aims and growth.