Representing yourself – Social media
Over the past few weeks we have been discussing the different ways in which your organisation represents itself. So far we have discussed:
• Your organisation’s brand
• Your people
• Your website
In this edition I will be discussing the way that your social media accounts represent your organisation and steps you can take to ensure that you have full control over the impression that you’re giving.
Your social media accounts will be an early port of call for anyone wanting to find out more about your organisation. With this in mind there are a number of things that you need to consider when planning your social media activity.
Social Media is a minefield of potential pitfalls and mistakes that could have a devastating impact on your reputation and public perception. Huge mistakes made by certain organisations through social media are well documented and usually involve an ill-thought-out comment or bad joke however a collection of smaller mistakes can be just as damaging.
It’s all about the look
Your social media accounts must look the part, make sure that all your accounts are branded in co-ordination with your website with clear imagery. Your social media accounts should be extensions of your website and therefore similar thought should be put into the way they look. A visually striking social media account will catch people’s attention and encourage further investigation. Those who use social media regularly can quickly tell when little thought and effort has been put into the aesthetics of an account and will immediately be put off.
When using social media it is incredibly important to ensure that you post regularly. If people find your pages and see that there hasn’t been any recent activity then they will see no value in following you. With regular posts, customers can be assured that a steady stream of information and other content will be coming their way. No one will follow an account where they know they aren’t going to receive anything back.
The regularity of your posts should vary between platforms; Twitter followers will expect more regular communication than those following on Facebook. The reported half-life of a tweet is around 30 minutes, meaning after an hour of posting your tweet, for most followers, it will have disappeared. It is extremely unlikely that your followers will actively look for your tweets on your page and so you are reliant on them seeing it on their own feeds. Due to the short life span of tweets it’s important to post more regularly however it’s also acceptable to have a certain level of repetition of content.
Spread your posts across the day and when repeating content do it at a different time on a different day for example if posting an article, you could post it the first time on a Monday at 10am and then again on Wednesday afternoon at 2pm. This serves to promote this content to a different portion of your audience who may use Twitter at different times of day.
The life span of a Facebook post is much longer, up to 2-3 hours, and so therefore posts don’t need to be as regular in order to reach the equivalent percentage of your audience.
Quality is key!
As much as regularity of posts is important, content is king! If the content of your posts isn’t relevant, interesting and engaging then not only will you not attract new followers but you will also struggle to hold on to the ones that you have already got. Whatever it may be, your social media accounts need to service a certain, need or desire of your followers. Your content should be centred around this, ensuring that all posts are relevant to your followers.
The best way to make your content relevant, interesting and engaging is to keep it varied. Use images and videos where possible, post and re-post relevant articles and ask questions. Whilst, as mentioned above, it is important to keep posting regularly, you should avoid posting just for the sake of it. Take time to put together a content plan to help you ensure that you can post quality content on a regular basis.
Engaging and varied content will give the impression of an up-to-date and interesting organisation that understands its customers’ needs. On the other hand, uninteresting content that is just text statements will give the impression that you are out of touch and will likely not attract much attention.
Keep the conversation flowing
One of the major benefits of social media is that it provides the opportunity for a two-way conversation between you and your customers. To take full advantage of this, it is essential that you respond to messages that are sent to you. Once people see that you are responsive in this way it will encourage others to contact you as well. This provides you with a unique insight into your customers, how they feel and what they think.
An aspect of this that makes some people nervous is that they feel that it opens them up to negative comments, criticism and abuse. This is unfortunately an inevitable part of using social media however you can be rest assured that it is something that everyone has to deal with and can be easily handled.
If someone is making a genuine complaint then it is important that you respond, it will create a bad impression of your organisation if you appear to dismiss customer grievances and complaints. On the other hand, appearing pro-active when dealing with communication of this kind and welcoming customer feedback will give an incredibly positive impression.
When it comes to dealing with abusive messages, it is up to you to decide on the stance that your organisation takes. There are some well-documented examples of organisation’s responding to abusive messages in a manner that has reflected positively on them. This can be incredibly tricky and should be done with extreme care. An important thing to keep in mind is that being drawn into an abusive conversation could have an incredibly detrimental impact on your reputation.
An advisable approach to abuse is a similar approach you may take to receiving abuse over the telephone. You do not have to deal with abuse of any form and therefore will end any conversation of that nature and remove abusive messages from any public forum. You will not be judged by taking this stance and remove any risk of being dragged into conversations that will have a negative effect on you as an organisation.
Whether we like it or not, social media is here to stay and more likely than not will continue to become an increasing presence in the realm of customer engagement and communication. It is therefore it is essential that you embrace it at an organisation-wide level. Conversations should be had regarding your organisation’s approach to social media, the tone you use and the results that you want to see. If approached in the right way then social media can be closely tied to your business objectives but most importantly plays a huge role in the way that your organisation are perceived and the impression you give.