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Social media is no longer shiny and new—but we’re all still learning and making mistakes. And who knows what will be the next Big Thing? “There is no social media expert on the planet. It’s too infant,” says Wesley Chapman, co-founder of LIME Marketing in Provo.
But step away from the keyboard—media professionals have some advice to share before you hit “send” on that racy but hilarious post.
Don’t assume personal accounts are, well, personal. Don’t rely on privacy settings to protect you. The truth is, once you post something on the web, you’ve lost control of it. “If you tweet it, it’s out there. You can’t get it back,” says Chapman. As an owner or executive, your personal brand blends into your business brand. Don’t post something on a social media site that you wouldn’t want your customers, board members, employees or grandmother to read.
Don’t send out a flood of tweets. The fastest way to lose followers is to inundate them with pointless messages. Instead, says Chapman, work on being engaging. Make sure you respond to questions, comments, concerns and ideas.
Social media can foster rich conversations, and the worst thing a business can do is stick to a one-sided flow of information, says Evin Catlett, social media director for Richter7. “Talk with your fans, not to them,” she says. And there’s nothing wrong with doing quick online polls to fine-tune your approach. “Social media allows us to crowdsource our audience to see what they want to hear from us.”
Don’t be cute. In other words, stay away from giveaways. “You’re not a sports stadium,” jokes Chapman. Offering prizes can be a quick way to get “likes,” but “once the trip is given away and once the frequent updates start, they’re gone,” he says.
In fact, bigger isn’t always better when it comes to the number of your followers. “Numbers don’t equate to anything in social media,” says Chapman. It’s better to have a core of engaged fans who become your enthusiastic brand ambassadors than to have a ton of “likes” from giveaways.
“What you really need to look at is how many people are commenting on your page and viewing your posts,” says Catlett, who points out that Facebook has great analytics tools that can help businesses figure out what’s working best for them.
Don’t ignore your overall marketing strategy. Your social media sites should fit in with all of your other marketing outlets: print ads, mailers, your website and even your storefront, says Catlett. Think of Apple or McDonald’s—consumers will have a similar brand experience whether they visit Apple’s Facebook page or enter its store. Make sure your customers have that same sense of recognition wherever they encounter your brand.
But don’t keep it all business. Social media has created a new openness and transparency—there seem to be fewer barriers between companies and their customers. This transparency can be intimidating, but Chapman says it presents the perfect opportunity to connect on a more personal level. “Be yourself and let the culture you’ve created for your company go out into your social media,” he says. “Be a bit spontaneous, a little bit sporadic.” Have fun with social media, find your voice and be engaging.
Don’t give up too quickly. It can take time to build a strong base of fans. For awhile, it may seem as though your posts and tweets aren’t reaching any eyes at all. But the worst thing you can do is stop posting and leave pages idle for weeks or months. If that happens, “just delete the account,” says Chapman. “It’s worse that you look idle—it makes you look incompetent.”
Catlett says the important thing is to provide compelling reasons for people to follow your brand. Figure out what you are trying to accomplish through social media—do you want brand advocates? Positive reviews? Or do you want to drum up business with coupon codes and special deals? Figuring out your goals will help you craft a winning social media game plan.
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