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Social Media Guidance From the Trenches

Women on SwitchboardOn any given day, I post 3-4 times on 6-8 different Facebook pages, send out 50-60 tweets under 6-8 accounts, participate in an hour-long tweet chat, upload a YouYube video, publish a blog, respond to 20-30 emails all while monitoring and responding to questions or mentions for all of these accounts. That was a mouth full, but this is what it’s like as a social media manager. That means I am on the frontline for many different kinds of businesses online—I see what works and what doesn’t work on a daily basis.

There are a plethora of posts about social media out there, and I thought I’d pitch in my two cents from someone who is in the social media trenches.

 

Follow a Strategy

In an effort to keep up with the competition, or most often because everyone is talking about it, many business owners feel the immediate need to dive into social media. A social media strategy is most important to develop before you embark on a social media journey because it will help you choose the most efficient tools, identify how you will measure your ROI (return on investment), and act as a road map to help guide you each step of the way. Even the smallest mom and pop business would benefit from having the strategy conversation.

A social media strategy should also seamlessly integrate into your overall marketing plan. How do you currently measure the success of your business in general? If you’re not currently measuring, then a social media strategy will at least define how you can measure social media success. Are you looking for more visibility, more awareness? Are you looking to increase sales of a particular product? Are you launching a startup and need help gaining brand advocates? These are all valid reasons to use social media, and a strategy will help you pinpoint exactly why you are doing what you are doing and save you from wasting your time and money.

 

Be Social

The term “social media” is a buzzword that is almost outdated. Social media is so 2010, the term for 2012 is social business. Mari Smith, a popular Facebook guru (and a trusted source for all truths social media), explains social business as the new culture of business that is social. Social business is every aspect of your business being social, not just your marketing efforts. Marketing is just one tiny piece of what makes up your business, and the public wants to be a part of it.

That said, don’t be a marketing drone. People are no longer interested in your latest deal or coupon (although that should still be a small part of what you post), they want to know the juicy details of who the business is—and the only way to demonstrate that is to be social. Start and have conversations!

My rule of thumb is 20% of your social media activity should be marketing “check out my new product”, and 80% of your activity should be engagement—aka conversation. That’s right, 80% of your time on Facebook should be spent in your HOME tab—talking to people, liking their content, sharing their content, commenting on their posts. How else will people know you’re home if you’re not showing up at theirs?

Everything you post needs to be engaging, relevant, and most important, social. Ask an interesting question that evokes a response. Share a funny or viral video that made you laugh. Post a photo of you and your co-workers acting silly at lunch. People are now engaging with your brand through your content, and the content that is most engaging will always rise above its’ competition.

 

Listen

Listening is an art. Listening takes practice, and great monitoring tools! But listening is not only about what tools you use (I’ll share some of my favorites later), but it’s about what to listen for. It’s a given that you need to listen for any mention of your brand, your personal name, and any variation thereof.

Listening also includes listening to your competition. That means if you are a small ice cream parlor in Kailua, you need to be listening to (monitoring) all of the big boy competition like Baskin Robbins, Bubby’s and ColdStone. You can learn a lot from those with mammoth marketing budgets. What large-scale social campaigns are they doing that you can adopt in a smaller scale? How are they connecting with their customers?

And then there’s your influencers and like-businesses. Your community should include other small ice cream shops including any shave ice, frozen yogurt or dessert-type shops in the whole state of Hawaii. Although they may seem like competition you should keep a watch on and at arms distance, you will actually lift each other’s brand if you knock down the “competitor barrier”. By taking the bold leadership step of embracing and conversing with your competition, you will be amazed at the brand loyalty and community goodwill.

 

Respond

Say you’ve been in business for 10 years in Hawaii. You probably have a phone and an email address that your customers can contact you, and you would respond to an email in a timely manner, and pick up the phone right away during business hours. Well if someone tweeted you, shouldn’t you respond in a timely way?

The biggest mistake I see businesses make on social media is not responding to their audience! If no one is home people will eventually stop knocking and move on to the next door, and you will have missed an opportunity. How fast would you respond to a voice mail? An hour? 24 hours? Meeting your socially savvy customer’s expectation, you have one hour to respond.

But what if I don’t operate on the weekends? Am I expected to respond then? Well that depends what kind of business you are. If you are a B2C (business to customer)—for instance, you sell bikinis directly to the public—then you may want to consider being available on the weekends. The majority of your customers most likely work during the week, and many of them take the weekend to catch up with their Facebook, tweet their friends, and are generally more active on social media. If you’re available on the weekends, then you’re opening up more opportunities to close a sale.

A lot of businesses will often include “social media” business hours on their profiles so their customers know when they will be available online. Setting expectations can often save you the trouble of apologizing later for “getting back to you so late”. If you’re a B2B (business to business) and offer a service to another business, then most likely your clientele does not conduct business on the weekends and you won’t need to be available. My advice is to try to be accessible as much as you can.


Be Fearless

One of the biggest reasons that businesses do not do social media is fear. Not knowing where to start may be a barrier, or cost or lack of resources may be another. What if someone says something bad about me or my business? What if my competition leaves a bad review on Yelp? What if I misspell something? What if I don’t look good on camera? And for the larger businesses, what if my employee says something inappropriate?

All of these fears are perfectly valid, but what a lot of people don’t see is that in today’s world of social business, people are a lot more forgiving and human than you think. If you show your human side, then no matter what the outcome people will most likely treat you as such.

Say a disgruntled customer leaves a bad review or complaint. You can always delete a post or a tweet—take the customer service conversation offline—but that is truly a missed opportunity to heal a situation and create a fan. Deleting posts that are not favorable is an old school way of doing business, and the antithesis of social business.

My advice is to take a complaint on in full view of the public, with respect, true intention to solve that person’s problem, and kindness. If you can resolve a customer complaint on your social profile, then you are creating two amazing outcomes for your business:   

  1. Most likely the person who complained will be converted to a brand advocate and you’ll have a customer for life. Even if it was a valid complaint, often acknowledgement and a simple “sorry” goes a long way.
  2. The public will see how well you handled the complaint and be even more apt to use your service, buy your product, and come back to your page. You have built trust.

 

The exception to keeping customer service complaints online would be if a situation is escalating to the point of a lawsuit. Barring that extreme, keep online and keep it real. Always try for the win/win and remember that your community will often chime in to shush the complainers.

Here’s a local example of being fearless. If JPAC (Joint POW Accounting Command), which “conducts global search, recovery, and laboratory operations to identify unaccounted-for Americans from past conflicts in order to support the Department of Defense’s personnel accounting efforts” can do it, then so can you. They’ve not only gotten over the fear of being a military agency in a public space, but they’ve built a vibrant and thriving community of advocates and supporters. They even recently made their first episode of JPACtv, check it out here: http://youtu.be/rqihZqHf1cY

 

In conclusion, no one glove fits all hands. Social media success of one business is not the same for the next. My tips are just that, tips. You need to do what works best for your business, and there are many social media professionals in Hawaii who can help guide you along your way.

One place to look (here’s a little self-plug): Social Media Club Hawaii Professional Members of which I am one. You can tweet any professional member from the list in sidebar to the right on Social Media Club Hawaii’s website.

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And now as promised earlier, here are a number of cool tools I like to use:

SproutSocial: it has more than just reports, but I use SproutSocial to print out monthly status and growth reports for Facebook and Twitter. They’ve also got a handy competition comparison tool.

Twilert: Get email alerts every day or weekly on any keyword or hashtags. Very handy to track brand or name mentions.

Google Alerts: I use this to find news or blog posts from certain keywords. This is most handy in finding related content to post to social profiles.

Hootsuite daily reports: If you’re shrinking your links in Hootsuite, you can send yourself a free, easy-to-read daily report on how many clicks that link got.

TweetReports.com: If you participate in Tweet Chats, this is a very handy tool to not only get a transcript, but find the most influential people who participated. This is also a great tool to track people tweeting under a trending topic or hashtag.

Time.ly: Find out when your followers or fans are most active. This is a great indicator of when YOU should be posting.

ShortStack.com: A really easy to use, and feature packed FREE Facebook tab builder. The free version puts their logo on the bottom, and you can’t customize the tab icon, but it’s great to use if you want a temporary landing tab for an event or promotion.

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The final tip: Join us at Social Media Club. It’s free so come and mingle with others who are all interested in social media. I’m sure you’ve gotten the picture by now but we are human, so come be human with us. Share what you know, we’ll share what we know, and all will benefit from the experience.

The next public Social Media Club Hawaii meeting, Social Media Policies—What, How, When? is on February 21 at 6pm.
Register for Social Media Policies - What, How, When?  in Honolulu, HI  on Eventbrite

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Here are some great people to follow who were mentioned in this article:

 

 

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About Gwen Woltz

Gwen Woltz is co-founder of Wahine Media, a local social media agency specializing in strategically building thriving and engaged online communities for businesses. Gwen is past President of Social Media Club Hawaii, was a finalist for Pacific Edge Magazine's Young Professional of the Year, and is an instructor of social media at Pacific New Media Outreach College at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
  • Great post, Gwen! Very comprehensive. As a strategist, I have to field all these questions every day. I’m going to refer my clients to this post from now on. Well done!

    •  Thanks so much Peter! I appreciate the support : )

  • Sadie Green

    Mahalo, Gwen! I was at the seminar at ING, and really enjoyed your presentation and your post!