Asking “Should I be on social media?” is the wrong starting point.
The first question is “Who and where are my customers or clients?” If they are not using social media, why would I spend time and energy there?
You could also ask: “Who and where are my potential or future customers?” If they are using social media, I need to consider my entry, engagement and strategy.
You first have to design your business/communication/marketing strategy in the following way:
- Objective – what are your business goals/objectives?
- Target audiences – whom are you speaking to?
- Key messages – what are the three or four consistent messages they need to hear repeatedly?
- Channels – what communication platforms will you use and combine? – personal, print, electronic
- Timing, frequency – when to say what and when to repeat
- Budget – news is free, commercial advertising and promotion cost money
- Success criteria – how will you know you have achieved your goal?
From this checklist you can see that social media would fall under channels and that is not your starting point. Often people choose the channel first e.g. Twitter and then try to “retro-fit” their message and objectives.
The world of communication is changing, often and fast. This does not mean one can disregard the timeless principles of good communication.
Social media is a CONVERSATION, fast moving and changing all the time. Your social media person or team has to be equipped, savvy, guided and empowered.
The following (edited) exchange with a client illustrates these points:
Should companies have a low profile on social media and have every tweet approved by the CEO? Negative responses seem to outweigh positive ones?
No, some companies will have to engage on social media. Picture this: someone has a bad flight experience, a mistake with their car rental or a bad meal at a restaurant. They are unable to speak to someone in authority who can apologise and perhaps offer some compensation. They are left frustrated and want to share their displeasure. Nothing is easier that tweeting or posting on Facebook. If you do not respond, only their dissatisfaction is known.
So the answer about low or high profile on social media starts with a focus on your customers and clients. Do they use social media? If so, then that is a relevant or preferred medium of engagement.
Social media is first social media, not business media – except LinkedIn – and should not be used for spam, hard sell or direct marketing. It should rather build a brand relationship based on credibility and offering useful information. (In Australia a social media expert berated someone offering his book for free – all because the recipient felt no relationship had been established and regarded even the free offer as spamming!)
Social media can draw the customer to either a website, which is a shop window or to call the company or to do business online.
At the speed with which social media moves, centralising everything with the CEO, except in a small business, is not practical, nor fast or responsive enough.
If people attack your product, service or actions you need a couple of pairs of trained eyes who are monitoring the social media and who can respond sensibly, in a considered way and according to shared internal guidelines – and fast. Because the longer you are silent, the more twisted and heated the discussion becomes and its spreads faster than a virus – hence “going viral”. The general mantra on social media goes like this:
“The great ADVANTAGE of social media is that gives everyone a voice.
The great DISADVANTAGE of social media is that it gives everyone a voice.”
Social media are here to stay, morph and evolve.
Our business is largely dealing with corporates so we have limited need to tweet, but we network at conferences. We could just as well have a daily blog although it is not really “social” and we do not have the time or resources for that! So we stick to a website, a blog that runs in spurts (bad I know). Should we be more active on Twitter?
Tweets are brief, almost shorthand or code for the tweeter’s followers. There is an ongoing conversation here in a particular style, albeit in sound bites.
You could use more tweets, but as alerts, notifications, information.
Ask your team to go to certain websites – either of competitors or those who offer similar services/products, or, of course, news media or magazines. If you find something there that confirms what you have told your clients, educate them on the need for your product and service or something new that is relevant to their business, alert your client-base via twitter with a link to the source or your website.
A blog is like a newspaper column – it is easy to write the first ten, but by the time you get to 163 it’s a sweat.
Whatever you start on an electronic platform should be sustainable. Rather have one blog a month than three in a week and then three weeks of silence. Something new on your website – at a pace you can sustain – makes people come back. You could also create a newsletter for your clients with links back to the website.
So is the whole focus now going to social media rather than news media?
NO – Print has an important place and will have for the foreseeable future. There will be personal interviews and interaction between a news source/business and a journalist working for television, radio, print and online platforms. There will be questions, challenges, problems and issues the interviewee will have to respond to and it will be recorded.
The ultimate communication skill would still be to handle a live interview on radio and television, with a hostile interviewer on a controversial matter or crisis. Then there is simply no room for error and no alternative for skill, experience and preparation.
Yes, media are changing rapidly, but the good publications still prosper. Look at the Economist, and well-written, well-researched newspapers and magazines for instance.
Brand building, positioning, relationships and networking will require a mix of news and social media. Educational programmes on television and radio are generally not effective without a print version or at least a supporting website with all the key information. Print has a place.
SO: Should I be on social media? Are your clients or customers there? Let your strategy determine your communication channel choice.