What does it take to rule the social media world? Here are our tips for conquering your social media presence.
Start as you mean to go on
Many freelancers and companies create Twitter accounts and Facebook pages because they feel that they should, rather than because they have a clear purpose or goal. Make sure you outline a strategy before you start so that everyone involved is on the same page and you can see how social media will add value to your business. Initial questions you might want to consider before you start include:
- Why do I need this channel and what will I use it for? (News, marketing and support are the most common)
- What are my competitors doing?
- How many people will be involved in setting up and running the channel and how will we develop a united presence?
- How will I promote the channel and gain fans and followers?
- How much time will be spent on each channel?
- How will I develop ideas for content and discussions and keep the ball rolling?
- How will I ensure the different channels work together rather than compete?
- Where does my website fit in?
Be proactive, provide direction
Give fans/followers something to respond and react to – don’t expect them to be responsible for starting discussions. You shouldn’t need to initiate every interaction, but always keep a list of ideas at the ready, or use related news stories as a springboard for discussion. Once you’ve got the conversation started, keep interaction going by asking individual users questions based on their responses.
It’s important to establish a clear purpose for your social media channels from the beginning. As people are using them in a lot of different ways, you need to give your visitors a clear sense of what your particular channel is for/about. Your responses to users are highly likely to encourage more interaction in the same vein, so if someone asks a support question and you reply, your Twitter feed will turn into a support channel before you know it. If you retweet positive comments, then other users may well join in with their views. Being clear about the purpose behind your channel from the start will help you (and your customers) get the most out of it. Make sure you have a consistent policy on where to direct customers looking for a service you don’t provide through social media channels.
Done properly, social media is worth the time investment. But it’s all too obvious when someone’s making a half-hearted attempt, and you’re likely to invoke the same feelings in your followers. Social media is a golden opportunity to get customer feedback, interact with people who appreciate your work and get recommended – so make the most of it! Don’t just ask your followers how they are or send endless automated links into their feeds: get creative with contests, giveaways, debates, your take on relevant news, valuable or interesting pictures, videos and so on.
Stay focused to strengthen your position
People are following you because they’re interested in your business or service, so stay focused. Start with your company news, relevant industry-related topics, feedback on your products and services and work from there to develop debates and discussion. People are likely to be uninterested in random retweets or stories of what your cat did last night. You’re in the position of being an authority source, so take advantage!
The lights are on, but nobody’s home…
You can create an account for every social media website in the world, but if you can’t keep up with them they’re next to useless. If you’re creating accounts with the intention of using them as an RSS feed, then make sure you clearly link to your more active social media accounts or your website’s homepage so people don’t feel lost. Close any accounts you aren’t using or leave a message for potential visitors about where they can reach you, and turn off functionality such as commenting where possible to avoid spam.
Who’s your next victim?
One social media aspect that often gets overlooked is tone, both for individual messages and across your feed as a whole. A common mistake freelancers in particular make is to link to their Twitter account from their professional website and then mainly use the account for personal comments. If you’re coming across as cold and sarcastic, or the majority of your recent tweets are whining about/to someone, then I’m not going to hire you – because I’m concerned I’ll be your next victim. Be professional.
Value your fans and followers
Find out who your fans and followers are, what they’re interested in, and talk to them on the same level. Always write/reply for a reason, show genuine interest in what they have to say and treat them like the human beings they are. Don’t be dismissive, condescending or unnecessarily cheesy. And if you’re not great with jokes, then avoid the humour angle; social media isn’t the place to practise your stand-up routine.
Take the good with the bad
One of the disadvantages of social media is that people often hit send without reviewing their comments, particularly when angry. It’s quicker to rant on Twitter than it is to contact the company with a full explanation of the problem and receive a resolution. Don’t take it personally, and don’t let yourself get dragged into the argument. The best thing to do is to take it off the channel (e.g. contact the client or customer via email or phone instead).
Review your strategy
Take some time out to review your social media campaigns on a regular basis. It’s easy get into a rut, or a ‘comfortable’ place, but don’t become predictable. Use a good mix of content types and formats, and set targets to assess progression and achievement. Don’t be afraid to ask fans and followers what they liked and what could be improved.