Sunday, December 7, 2014

How To Use Social Media Effectively in Your Business

You’re likely quite proficient using social media in your personal life, but deploying it effectively for business purposes is an entirely different prospect. Appreciating this reality is one of the first steps when it comes to avoiding the kinds of social media mistakes that can undermine your brand.
Of course you know not to post controversial or questionable content that could offend, insult or otherwise drive people away. And you also know to keep emotions in check, responding with professionalism to any critical comments about your products or services. But when it comes to social media, there are other, less apparent, missteps that small business owners commonly make that can weaken efforts to truly connect; errors that you might unknowingly be committing.

According to social marketing strategist and author Ted Rubin, one of the most common gaffes is thinking about social media as a way to advertise, rather than as a tool for connecting with people. “Using social media to broadcast a campaign or initiative isn’t social media,” said Rubin. “Businesses need to stop tweeting so much and listen to what their followers are saying about their brands on social media. Too many businesses put emphasis on how many Facebook or Twitter followers they have or how many impressions they can get from a social media campaign. They’re skipping the most important step … connection, which leads to trust, loyalty and relationships.”

Common social media mistakes:
  • Confining social media to short-term campaigns or initiatives.
  • Making decisions without knowledge or full understanding of social media.
  • Allowing interns to set strategy.
  • Giving a public relations agency full authority to handle efforts.

Rubin maintains that businesses can’t only use social media when it’s convenient for them and expect customers to remain engaged. “A perfect example was when, during the last Olympics, Procter and Gamble had an amazing campaign about women and what inspired them. It was real and engaging. But the minute the Olympics ended, the campaign ended. It could have been ongoing.”

In order to make intelligent decisions around social media and what platforms to use, small-business owners should make a concerted effort to understand these platforms, their differences and the purposes they serve. Although it’s tempting to assign this task to just any employee, Rubin cautions against this, as well as giving interns free rein to devise the strategy. “Just because your interns understand social media platforms, it doesn’t mean they understand your marketing and brand. It’s fine to let them execute your campaigns, especially in a small business that may not be able to afford a lot of employees, but don’t let the intern build your social media strategy.”

Small-business owners should also appreciate the differences between a public relations agency and one that specializes in social media. Social media is about building connections and this involves a fair amount of thoughtful and well-planned sharing—which, according to Rubin, is in direct contrast to the mindset of most agencies. “The DNA of public relations firms is ‘less is more and control the message.’ The DNA of social media that you want to embrace is to give out as much information as possible, see where it leads, and then join in and guide the conversation.”

If there’s money in the budget for outsourced help, agencies specializing in social media are typically a better option, he added, but it’s vital to confirm that the team understands your brand and voice, and that they have sufficient personnel to handle the task. “And remember. It’s not about numbers; it’s about connections. Focus on engagement, sharing and connection metrics.”

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