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These days, there’s no getting away from social media. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest…
There’s certainly no shortage of ways to interact online. But how can we be sure we’re doing it right? How can we make sure we’re using these channels effectively, to talk to the right people at the right time?
Last week, we went to the UKTI Social Media event in Brussels, to hear all about the latest social media trends—we thought we’d share the best bits here, with you.
Firstly, there’s the following quote, which should make every us all sit up and listen:
“Companies that engage socially are 4 times as likely to meet their business objectives.” Economic Intelligence Unit
Now, that’s a hell of a statement, isn’t it? Anything that quadruples your chances of reaching your goals and hitting your targets has to be worth the investment of a little time, right?
So, with that in mind, here’s the Synergy Guide to Getting The Best From Social Media:
In order to create content tailored to your audience, you need insight into the market. Who are your customers, what do they like, and where do they hang out? Who are your competitors, and what are they up to? Knowing your market, and the issues affecting it, will enable you to find topics that address your customers’ interests and concerns.
In order to attract and retain a following, you need to put out useful and interesting content. Depending on the type of business you’re in, you might want to consider some, or all, of the following:
- Product hints and tips – ways for customers to get the most from your products or services.
- Online learning – post links to online resources, such as instructional videos and electronic instruction manuals, to help customers get to grips with your products
- Case studies – it can be incredibly useful for customers to see how other organisations have used and benefitted from your expertise. Create short, engaging stories in a variety of media, and post links on Twitter or Facebook.
- Looking ahead – forecasts and predictions for the way the marketplace is going. What will customers be faced with in 5 years time? What are the major issues they’ll be facing? Maybe you could even include sneak peaks at upcoming products.
- Ask questions – find out what your customers think. Stimulate discussion, and get them talking – to you, and each other! Remember, the whole point of social media is that it’s social. So start conversations, and get as many people involved as possible.
On a similar note, use the immediacy of the Internet to comment on breaking news stories or emerging trends. If your brand has something to say, you don’t have to wait for tomorrow’s newspapers, you can say it right away, and position yourself on the leading edge. For example, Carling released a digital video to celebrate the birth of the royal baby, and it went viral.
There are plenty of tools out there to help you automate your social media presence, and new ones arriving all the time. Good ones to be aware of include:
- Buddy media
Vine lets you post short, six second videos, which can be ideal for sharing on Twitter or Facebook. Hootsuite and Wildfire allow you to automate your social activity, by scheduling posts in advance, setting up automatic responses – such as messages welcoming new followers – allowing you to have a 24 hour online presence.
However, one world of caution: remember that sites such as Twitter are based on the idea of interaction. Simply blasting out promotional messages around the clock will get you unfollowed pretty quickly. Nobody likes to be shouted at. It’s okay to schedule some content, but make sure you build in plenty of time for personal interaction as well. A lot of savvy social media users are wary of automatic messages, but tend to respond well to genuine interaction.
With the above in mind, it’s vital that you listen to what your followers are saying, and there are many examples of occasions when a timely tweet or Facebook response has publicly resolved a customer grumble or complaint. This has worked particularly well for companies such as First Bus and BT, who have been able to resolve customers’ problems in real time, using Twitter.
In addition, there are lots of online tools available to help you capture customer opinion, from simple online surveys to services such as Photobot and Chatterbox, which allow customers to record their views and feelings. Virgin recently used Photobot to listen to thoughts on sustainability from its employees and customers; and John Deere used it to find out what the construction industry thought about its products.
It’s also possible to join relevant discussion groups on LinkedIN, to find out what professional people in your marketplace think of the latest products and developments. This can be a good way of keeping your “ear to the ground”, and also a good way of engaging with potential recruits when you have a vacancy.
However you choose to interact with your customers and audience, use the information gleaned to better understand them, and to better understand what you can do better in order to serve them.
When it comes to posting content, make sure you do it at the best time of time: the time when the majority of your audience will be online. If 90% of your sales go to America, there’s not much point in posting at 9:00am in London, as all your customers will be asleep. Experiment a little. Take note of the times when the most people comment on your posts, and try to provide content to them at that sort of time in the future. After all, you want as many people as possible to see your content, so why not do everything you can to make sure it appears in their newsfeed right when they’re most likely to see it?
Also, ask yourself what kind of relationship you want with your customers. Make sure the tone of your communications matches their perception of your brand. If they think of you as trustworthy and dependable, they may not appreciate an overly-jokey and flippant tone in your social media comments; likewise, if you’re perceived as a hip and vibrant young brand, you don’t want to come across as unnecessarily uptight or stuffy.
Think about the kind of relationship you want with your audience, and cultivate it through personal communications and the placing of smart, relevant content.
Within your organisation, responsibility for social media may fall to marketing, PR, or customer services – or even a combination of all three. Are all these departments working together to provide a seamless service? For example, people use social media tools for compliments and complaints – are you able to offer quick and effective responses, from the right people, in order to make the most of the opportunities presented?
Your individual employees are likely to be social media users too. Therefore, it’s just as essential that you build a good online relationship with them. Include them, and allow them to share their enthusiasm. Make them brand ambassadors.
Additionally, listen to your internal social networks to find out how empowered your teams feel. Are they enthusiastic and encouraged? Is their some way you can get them more engaged with your brand?