(Originally Posted Feb 4 2012)
Social Media is a tough environment to navigate. Like trying to write ad copy it is very easy to attempt but very difficult to do properly. Small businesses feel that they need to jump into social media (and that can definitely be a good idea) but they often aren’t prepared for the degree of care and work involved.
At the very basic, there are four steps that any small business can take under advisory before trying to use social media. This won’t give them most effective strategy, as social media management is a complex field, but it can help them avoid common pitfalls.
Most businesses forget that social media is supposed to be social. It isn’t that hard to remember either… it’s right there in the title.
Nevertheless many Brands mistakenly think that having social media means you can send out promotional messages every hour and that thousands of people will follow/like you. I’m a fan of the 80-20 metric that most social media evangelists will swear by. Your content should be 80% community interaction and 20% brand messaging. If Bob’s Burger Shack only tweets about how I should come to Bob’s Burger Shack, then I’m going to unfollow or block them. However if Bob’s Burger Shack reposts community news, shares a funny video, and generally makes me feel like I’m chatting with Bob, then I’m going to be more inclined to interact.
2. Quality not Quantity
This should be another simple one but it isn’t. You can have the best content in the world but if its non-stop then I’m following someone else. If your businesses is clogging up my social media timelines then I’m not going to want to see it anymore. I use social media to keep up with many people, not just your businesses. So instead of hitting me up with 20 retweets and brand promotions at 10:00AM on a Monday, share two or three relevant posts throughout the day. I’ll love your business a lot more for it.
3. Does your post pass the mom test?
You can substitute this for the front page test, the friend test, the Jesus test, whatever you want; but the point is to ask yourself “Would I make this comment or post this content if I knew my mother was reading it?” Obviously if your brand is edgy and caters to a more rough around the edges audience this can be less applicable but some of us have a rough around the edges mother, so the metaphor still works. The point is that you need to think long and hard before you post something under your brand’s name, because the last thing you want is to alienate or upset customers. Always remember that because this content is social it can be seen by all your customers, even if you directed it to only one of them.
In the end of 2011, Avenger Controller came under heavy fire because they employed a brash, angry individual who was handling their customer service including their social media. Paul Christoforo, the renegade employee, ended up causing a PR nightmare that Avenger had to recover from. If Mr. Chrisoforo had stuck with the mom test, he may have been able to avoid this bad press by behaving in a much more respectful manner.
4. You are your brand
The final piece of advice for small business owners jumping on the social media bandwagon is that no matter what you do, your brand’s social media account is now a walking talking advertisement. Everything you do, say, and every way you behave will now represent your brand. This means that if you use profanity, your brand is now associated with it. Would you have used that word in an ad in a newspaper? If not, why was it in your social media post? Are your imagery and colour schemes consistent with your brand? If not you will build confusion. And most importantly: how you respond to your public (especially complaints) is how people will see your brand’s attitude towards them. If you delete an unflattering comment on your facebook wall, customers will assume you don’t stand by your product. If you respond publicly to a complaint by being defensive rather than apologetic, that is how we the public will view you. The most important take away from this is that there is no separation in how you behave in a televised interview and in your social media account. You are representing your business to the public and you need to reflect how you want to be seen.
You can’t adequately explain social media theory in four quick paragraphs. It isn’t the end all be all of marketing but it is an important and relevant aspect of it. Because of this, you need to use care just as you would when spending money on more traditional advertising. These four items will give you a bit of groundwork in managing your social media accounts but it is still a relatively new field, so beware of stepping on landmines.