Social media is a powerful long-term addition to a business but, it is not a quick fix. Recently, businesses have been expressing frustration with the lack of response to their social media efforts. What they seem to be missing is that social media is just that, social. It takes time, energy, commitment and most importantly, connection through the multiple platforms before results should be expected. Each individual venue has its own strengths and weaknesses as well as its own culture. If these things are not understood and utilized properly then the user, in this case the business, will be rejected.
“Return on relationship takes time,” Social guru Ted Rubin says. “People are being sold on social as a place to generate leads, but it’s really a place to build loyalty, answer customer service questions and to build a community.” These things take time, he says, and commitment to the platform, but in his experience they have proven to be the value that does result in an increase in revenue” (Casserly).
If the business’ plan is to simply create a Facebook page or Twitter account and occasionally post notice of a sale or change in business hours there is no connection being formed. The return comes when loyalty is established and the business shares it’s voice or personality. This allows their customers to find something to identify with. Even businesses that have a relatively uninteresting product can expand their business through well planned and worded posts. Sharing something in a funny way or presenting a scare tactic can get people to notice theproduct and think of it in a way they never would have before.
One of the biggest challenges to overcome in including social media in a business’ marketing strategy is; understanding the possible legal ramifications of what is shared. The first and best way to start is to develop and adhere to a company policy. In this way the company can even be protected from within. If an employee chooses to violate policy, then the company will not be held accountable.
“You are still obligated to monitor what is being said about your organization and put policies and procedures in place to respond to negative consequences. In addition, regardless of participation, you need to have employee policies and guidelines. Most employees will want to know what they can and cannot do on social media as it relates to their employer. Employee training on policies, procedures, work use and impermissible activities needs to be done” (Hershberger 32).
“Courts have established that Facebook and social media information, even if guarded under privacy settings, is discoverable if it is shown to be material and relevant to the claims or defenses. In Loporcaro v. City of New York, the plaintiff firefighter sued the city of New York and a private contractor, claiming an injured knee left him permanently disabled and confined to bed for several months. The defendant requested the plaintiff ’s Facebook postings, claiming that public portions of his profile revealed he maintained an “active lifestyle;” therefore, private or deleted portions could lead to admissible evidence” (Silton 21-22).
There is no room for hearsay in this situation. Our words can and will be used against us no matter what our privacy setting may be. Deleting material does not change that it has been said and shared. The information, once shared, can be accessed. If an employee is making statements about the business or work environment it can be used against them. Many companies keep an eye on employee posts and it is not unheard of for these companies to let employees, who express upset, go. In the end, the best way to consider what is being said on social media is to remember that it will exist forever. Then consider if you would not say this directly to your boss, business partner, employee, it is probably best left unshared.
Using the tool of social media should be handled by someone who has the training, understanding and time to develop and execute a full strategy. The ease of access to social media, and the fact that it is free to sign up for, gives a false sense of casualness to its use. A mistake that is often made is that owners take on posting for themselves or giving the responsibility to a younger person that they know. Someone that they think is “good at” being on Facebook or “understands” Twitter. There is so much more to utilizing these tools expertly to get a response as a business than one may guess.
It is completely separate than using them for personal reasons. Understanding your customers is just as much a part of properly using social media as it is in building a traditional marketing campaign. If young, new mothers are your business’ main demographic then knowing when they are online will make all the difference in getting their attention. These women probably won’t be on between 8:00-10:00am because they are with their children.
“Research the 5 W’s: Who, What, When, Where and Why. These 5 questions will build the foundation of your social media strategy, and more importantly your brand. Know who your consumers are, what motivates their purchasing behaviors and why it motivates them. Search the web, Google, Facebook and Twitter to see what is trending in your locales, industry categories and more. Also, pay attention to what is not trending. Once you walk a day in the life of your target consumer, you can implement a social media strategy that appeals directly to them. Customized social media is nearly impossible for a large corporation” (Smith).
This knowledge gives a small business power that a large corporation simply cannot compete with. The CEO of Target won’t respond when you Tweet. That’s what makes the difference. That is what gives the personal touch that will create loyalty with a customer. Where we once focused on the personal interaction at the store on the corner, we can now also feel via social media. This happens when the businesses we love to shop with online remembers who we are and responds to us like we are longtime friends. There is an important aspect to remember when responding to customers though: You are speaking as a part of the company. Again, someone who does not know how to utilize a full social media strategy may forget to remain in character. They may forget to maintain the company voice that supports the brand. The right words, or wrong words, can attract or repulse different people. Understanding this and maintaining it through all communications is vital to the success of a business, on a long term basis. As changes in an industry happen it is important to stay current and utilize the terminology that will confirm you as an expert within the business. All of these parts have to come together every day and through every communication to be as successful as possible. Getting access to the different social media sites may be free, but budgeting for a social media manager will pay for it-self several times over.
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