So your business has a social media platform? Wonderful, but are you spending the necessary time and resources to help it grow your business? As I’ve stated before, social media alone is not a communications strategy. Sending out tweets or updating your business’ Facebook page ‘when you get to it’ is a sure way to lose credibility and interest among your fans and followers. The purpose of course is to engage these folks through creative, original, and conversation generating content. I often come across businesses that set up social media accounts, say they’re active yet the content leaves much to be desired. How do we bridge the gap from uninspired use to business leads and growth?
Social media needs to be taken seriously by not only the public relations rep, but the company from top to bottom. A company social media policy is absolutely necessary no matter the size of your organization. Who is allowed to post from the company account, how employees are to represent themselves on their personal accounts, what type of content is appropriate from the company account, and who is responding to customer inquiries and concerns are a sample of the types of considerations that must be made by your organization in establishing social media protocol. The purpose: to ensure consistent communication internally and externally. Your social media accounts are an extension of your business and its reputation. Can you leave your reputation to chance through confusing or unclear protocols having to do with social media?
Of course there isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish all that we want to in growing our businesses. However, when it comes to how you represent yourself to the public it is absolutely essential that you commit to devising a social media strategy that should be reviewed weekly. Ask yourself; what are we doing this week, month, or year that the public should know about. A product launch, fundraising effort, employee accomplishment, industry breakthrough are all examples of social media triggers that you should be ready for to engage your audience in a timely and relevant conversation.
Gone are the days where you can wait for a 24 hours news cycle to begin or join a conversation that matters to your organization. Social media users expect content to be delivered consistently and in a relatable way. Monitor your accounts, plan for the expected, and spend twice as much time planning for the unexpected. If your organization is dealing with a crisis, how will social media be used to relay messages to your customers, business partners and employees? As I’ve told many before writing this blog, if you are going to use it, then use it. If your accounts are inactive and void of interesting and relatable content that brings users to your page for engaging discussion, then it’s best to shut it down and hit reset.
Chances are good that in 2011 you are using social media in one form or another, either personally or for your business. I’d like to focus our conversation on how you are using it for your business. I often hear from folks, “we need to get on Facebook.” A worthwhile and necessary endeavor indeed, but without careful planning and a coherent social media strategy, it can quickly devolve into a hindrance for your business rather than a benefit.
Two key questions every organization must ask itself before launching a social media plan are why and how. Why? We want to reach a larger audience for our services, establish ourselves as thought leaders and subject matter experts, or we want to bridge the communication gap between management and our customers. Any one of these responses is a valid initiator toward launching a social media strategy. Notice I did not suggest ‘because everyone seems to be doing it’ as justification.
Where matters begin to get tricky is the how. How do we achieve our communications objectives through the social media? If we understand that its purpose to generate conversation at the personal level then you can begin to shape your content in a way that will produce questions, ideas, comments and ultimately new followers. The conversation, as in “real life,” should never be one sided. The intent is to steer your followers towards creating their own content and interacting with your page. In other words, with social media you’re aim isn’t to pitch, it’s to strike up conversation about your company to create goodwill, find influencers, and expand your network.
Social media alone is not a comprehensive communications strategy. It serves as one weapon in your organization’s communications arsenal. It’s used to support your mission, enhance visibility with consumers, connect with business partners, and find new clients. Further it is a support mechanism to the other ways you are trying to reach your audience through the press, trade publications, or blogs. Before you launch a social media program, consider the why and how your plan will be executed. If you are already engaged, is there ever a bad time to step back and give your organization an honest evaluation of your social media plan?
Joe Quijano is the founder of Quijano Public Relations. Follow Joe on twitter @JoeQuijano and at quijanopr.com.