Marketing

Common Social Media Practices for Beginners

Social media isn’t just about friending your ex on Facebook to “check up on them” anymore. Social media is the newest form of marketing, and it can be both good and bad for your business. But it can be difficult to tell if the practice is helpful to your company, or if it’s hurting it. It’s a game changer; it is changing how companies interact with their customers.  It’s become essential to have, even if you never wanted to get mixed up in it. You have to be able to respond to customers/guests/fans/etc. If you don’t respond it looks like you don’t care and that you’re not listening.

Social media also should be a part of your company, and not a stand-alone practice. The person who runs the different platforms needs to be knowledgeable about the company.  If they aren’t they won’t be properly prepared to handle compliments or criticisms through the various mediums.

Companies use several tactics and practices within the different social media outlets. As I’ve mentioned several times in the past, the Groundswell is about communication! But, you have to remember that you don’t need to speak as the company just because you’re tweeting from the company twitter handle. Speak as a person. I often tweet different companies about their products, employees, etc. Only once have I ever received a message that was obviously not a person speaking to me.

Unfortunately for all companies, there is no magic wand that you wave to suddenly have a great social media presence. But, there are a few practices that you should apply. Keep in mind it is something you work hard for. Professor Brey has told us several times that it takes 6-9 months before you can really see a result from your social media marketing.

First, you need a strategy or plan. What do you want to achieve from your presence in social media? Don’t base your goal on X amount of followers or likes. Your interactions are what are measured, not your fan base. While having high numbers might look nice to some, it doesn’t mean you have a strong presence. Just because there are 30 different kinds of websites out there, doesn’t mean you need to belong to all of them. Believe me, I’ve signed up for probably all of them and several of them just sit there. Pick a few, and be interactive on those. The end product should be a social media community.

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When you hop on to the social media bandwagon, have the manpower to run your social media sites. As wonderful as it is to have a manager or CEO who wants to be involved with the Twitter/Facebook/blog/etc. for the company, it’s not very practical. While you may not need someone full-time dedicated to running your platforms, you will need someone who can commit the time and understand how to use them to the company’s advantage.

Learn to relinquish control of your brand. I can hear all of you now, “DO WHAT WITH MY BRAND!?” Yes, relinquish control, but continue to monitor your brand. It can be terrifying, but if you have to let people talk about your company in their own way. Again, I have to mention that it’s about communication. And the communication happening through social media marketing will not always include you. If someone says they had a great time at your hotel because you always had hot coffee made, that may not be what you want to be remembered for but you have to keep in mind, you just want to be remembered for something good. If the best thing about their stay was the coffee, let them talk about it without trying to take over the conversation and steer it towards the soft pillows, the comfortable beds, or the amenities of the hotel.

There are other things you can do to help utilize social media for your brand, but if you keep these three things at the front of your mind, you’ll be off to a good start.

For some examples of social media return on investment, check out this website article and the three links listed at the bottom of the article:
http://barnraisersllc.com/2011/07/34-case-studies-prove-social-commerce-roi/

What do you think is an important tactic to use social media within a company?

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Handling Consumer Complaints Using Social Media

Let’s pretend it’s 10 years ago. How likely would you be to write a letter to Subway or Target complaining of the poor customer service you might have received? You probably wouldn’t bother, right? Now a days, it’s definitely a lot easier to “shout” about your bad experiences with certain companies.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post To Tweet or not to Tweet, “in today’s fast paced society, instant gratification is becoming a norm causing the ability to achieve immediate responses a necessity.” Companies now need to be able to promptly respond to complaints because it can become viral.

One great example of this is FedEx. We’ve all seen the video, days before Christmas a FedEx employee threw a customer’s  computer monitor over the fence. If you haven’t seen the video, it can be found HERE on YouTube. FedEx knew this wasn’t something that could be ignored, so they responded quickly and accepted it. They didn’t ignore it and they didn’t try to pass fault. Their response can be found HERE on YouTube.

It’s important to note here that they responded via the same channel that the complaint was registered. This is important for a couple of reasons. One reason it’s important to respond on the same channel is that it shows you’re monitoring your brand. If you get a Tweet complaining about your service and you send them a message on Facebook, it makes it seem that you found out through a 3rd party, possibly the newspaper or a random Facebook status, instead of on Twitter. Another reason is that the public will see it. Someone Tweets a complaint and you Tweet them back, the people seeing the complaint will see your response when they click on your name.

But, not every company handles complaints well. I want to take this moment to direct you to Priceline’s Twitter Page. When you pull it up, this is what you’ll see:
Priceline’s problem is that they don’t have a live person in charge of their Twitter, it’s a robot. A robot that is scanning Twitter for uses of Priceline’s name and automatically sends the exact same message to each of them. I know this because a little over a month ago I tweeted about them and how they seemed to have killed off William Shatner in their commercials. Their response was the exact one they constantly retweet. Their response made no sense and didn’t fit the conversation.

Just keep in mind not every single complaint needs to be addressed. In a perfect world we would be able to, but it’s just not practical. Otherwise you end up with a twitter account like Priceline’s. And no one should want customers to Google their company just to find complaints being answered with an automatic reply.

Using Social Technology to your Advantage

Using technology to your advantage isn’t difficult. Start by buying a domain, building a website, and selling your products online. But, social technology isn’t quite as simple. It takes on a life of its own because it’s 90% social and 10% technology. And it’s not just bloggers you have to think about, you also have to think of people who use Twitter, Facebook, comment on blogs, forums, etc.

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That’s not to say that this is a bad thing. It’s quite the opposite. Offering a place where customers can talk about your products and help each other with problems can be beneficial in several ways. Two of them being from a marketing and financial standpoint.

When you try out a new restaurant and the food is great, what’s the first thing you’d expect people to do? I would expect that person to write a Facebook post about it. It would probably be along the lines of “Went to dinner at *restaurant* and the food was awesome!” That’s free marketing. You had awesome food… so they told their friends. And now it’s in the back of their friends minds. So, the next time their friend wants to go out to dinner and they’re debating on where they want to go… they’ll remember “OH! *person* said *restaurant* had awesome food… let’s check it out!”

This also works with forums. If you search “AT&T Forums” the first thing to pop up is AT&T Community Support. Here consumers can post questions about their products and other users and even employees can help! I looked around their boards and there were plenty of AT&T employees who were willing to share their knowledge while not on the clock, as well as other customers who were able to help and AT&T even has people dedicated to monitoring the forums to answer questions. This is a fast and easy way to knock out questions without having to put someone on hold several times during a phone call to transfer them to whomever they need to speak with. The fewer people involved in a question, the fewer resources you need to use per problem. This also energizes the community. AT&T has different levels for people who help out on the forums. They have titles from “senior warrior” to “senior ninja”. And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to be known as a warrior or ninja online?

So, how do you use social technology to your advantage? You energize your customers and potential customers, you listen to what they’re saying, and you respond in helpful ways and prove you’re listening. Because what good is going online for answers if there’s no one there with answers?

What would you do to use social technology to your advantage?