So, apparently this whole social media thing is getting to be kind of a big deal. But what does it mean for businesses. If you’re a business and you’re just getting into the social media game, it’s time to listen up so that you don’t start sounding like that old guy who doesn’t know what the “kids these days” are talking about
The way that people communicate with businesses as well as with each other is changing rapidly. Word of mouth is becoming a viral experience that needs to be paid attention to, or else you risk being left behind. You can bet that if you aren’t engaging with your audience in an online platform, then they are going to start building relationships with your competitors that are.
This isn’t even an age thing anymore. People of all ages are participating in social media currently. Obviously the relevancy increases the younger you are, however the sheer number of participants means that if you want to reach your customers and be able to engage with them effectively, you need to get started on building your social platforms.
For example, if you’re company is thinking about expanding into other countries, and you don’t yet have a social media presence, try opening a Facebook account. There are currently 728 million daily Facebook users that you can connect with for considerably less money and effort than a traditional marketing campaign. That’s over twice the size of the United States.
Now, we know that these staggering numbers are something that cannot be ignored, however, what are the actual advantages to using social media?
Building, Managing, and Saving Relationships
Any well-intentioned, successful business will tell you that one of the keys to strengthening a brand is building strong and lasting relationships with customers. Fostering communication and understanding between the customer and company is the cornerstone of a business relationship and the stronger that relationship is, the more likely a customer will be to become a repeat customer.
Now let’s get things straight however, social media isn’t just about capturing revenue from those people that have already decided to be customers of yours. Social media is a way of turning those customers into advocates for your brand; and what could be a more powerful and less expensive way of generating positive influence for your brand than that. These people are not being paid to tell their friends about you, which means less advertising budget for you, as well as giving more authority to the message. A strong group of delighted customers who talk about you on their social media will bring you more ROI and more brand strength than any traditional marketing efforts might bring you.
Now, I’m not telling you to drop your traditional advertising budget and replace it with inbound marketing and social media efforts, however, a coherent us of all aspects of the marketing mix with integration communication of the content across all platforms will sure as hell be more effective than just plugging advertisements one after another.
Another important point, what happens if you start receiving bad press on the internet, and you don’t have the right social channels to remedy the issue properly? At this point you’re essentially a defendant who chooses not to speak on your own behalf, and instead leave it up to the plaintiff to distribute the facts and opinions of the case. Social media, if used CORRECTLY can seriously save your ass.
Keep in mind though, that the internet and the people using it are not perfect. Every once in a while something goes wrong, and after the bomb has been dropped, your team will have to deal with the fallout.
A notable example showed up in the news today about a U.S. Airways customer who was commenting about a negative experience on their Twitter page. U.S. Airways attempted to reach out to the disgruntled customer in order to remedy the situation; however through some turn of events, the Social Media Manager accidentally linked the customer to a graphic photo of hardcore pornography. The social media team responded in a timely manner with the statement “We apologize for an inappropriate image recently shared as a link in one of our responses. We’ve removed the tweet and are investigating.”
Really, what more can you do in a situation like this? I personally don’t have the answer, however you best be sure, there is going to be a whole lot of negative publicity for U.S. Airways in the coming weeks. The scandal has already made it to Facebook.
It has also been picked up by dozens of online media providers and other social media sites. Needless to say, if you plan on engaging in social media, practice safe posting. Protect yourself from PR nightmares such as this by checking and re-checking content before anything is posted. Also, monitor often so that if something bad does happen, you can be the first to address it and fix the problem.
Another nightmare of Public Relations created serious problems for Applebee’s restaurants recently. After a seemingly minor customer/employee tiff was posted on the internet, and the employee lost her job, the social scene went berserk.
What the initial issue came down to in my mind was the social media manager not knowing when to stop. This started as a difficult situation, because there are issues in the areas of worker’s frustration, religious involvement, as well as customer privacy, and therefore there are a lot more people to offend. So, this should have been handled delicately.
I would have started by posting on the social platforms “There was an issue with an employee and a customer that occurred in one of the franchises. It involved a negative invasion of customer’s privacy and it is being investigated currently.”
This would probably have alleviated much of the negative feedback associated with it, and people might have lost interest quite quickly. What this also would have done is to buy time for Applebee’s to come up with a more appropriate response that might please more parties. Who knows, I could see this as possibly becoming a non-issue in a short period of time. Social media users are flooded with scandal after scandal in their news feeds, which can result in a relatively short attention span. So, why at the tempest of distain, would you want to give the sharks something to feed on?
The social media manager went on to make mistake after mistake when communicating with audience, including; arguing with people, deleting comments, copy and pasting comments. They continued digging themselves deeper and deeper into a hole with no end in sight.
Managing Cross-Platform Content With Hootsuite
Hootsuite (www.hootsuite.com) is a social media tracking, planning, and implementation tool that allows you to manage all of your social media profiles in one convenient location. Gone are the days of switching back and forth between profiles, copy and pasting, and all the other time consuming and tedious issues that come along with social media management. Hootsuite even allows you to create a backlog of profile updates that will launch at set times chosen by you, or you can default time sets to Hootsuite in order to allow for optimal release times to gain you the most exposure ad engagement.
Understanding Social Media Algorithms
One of the algorithms that Facebook in particular has used in the past is one called Edgerank, which calculates a posts position on a new feed based on the three variables: Affinity, Weight, and Time Decay. At this point however the other factors coming into play add up to around 100,000 different weighting mechanisms. The idea is broken down into categories of most importance to the user. For example, The more you engage with a person or business on Facebook, the more their posts will show up on your newsfeed. Skeptics of these algorithms such as Mark Cuban believe that because Facebook is a timewaster, we have no interest in having our news feed optimized by the impressions that other people have about posts. I however disagree with this idea, because I believe that the people that I choose to interact with are more in sync with the ideas that I have in my head than a random post might have with me. I think that our engagement especially with the frequency of posts these days should be optimized to show us the most important stuff first.
So, what is the takeaway from this article? Social media can be used to effectively engage your audience, build liking and preference, and alleviate issues with customer experience. However, it must be done correctly, and within strict guidelines in order to avoid PR nightmares. There are also tools that have been created to help us in businesses to manage content so that the task doesn’t seem so daunting. Also, keep in mind the algorithms when you are posting. Are you posting the most engaging, interesting content you can in order to engage your customers? If not, it might be time to rethink your content providers.
Anyways, feel free to comment and offer any opinions you might have on the matter. I’d love to discuss them.