Ten years ago, I was tasked to set up and manage the Facebook account of a microbrewery. When this hot potato landed on my lap, I broke out in cold sweat. Gosh, how do I get followers? What will I say? What should I do?
I was pretty clueless. The only social media stripes I had was from managing my own online presence which was plain boring. Like it or not, this heralded my first tumble into corporate social media.
Oh boy, did I have to grope my way through the dark alley. It took trial and error, plus hard knocks along the way to pick up tools of the trade. I’m not an expert but I’ve learnt from experience.
So what’s the big deal about social media? Today, Social Media is a formidable communication tool. According to Statista, there are close to 3 billion using social networks across the globe.
The number is set to grow, therefore we can ill afford to take advantage of social media. Doing so will mean we are missing out on a fast, inexpensive, and effective way to reach almost half the world’s population.
So, here are five pointers for newbies managing corporate social media sites. Hopefully, this saves you from making the same boo boos I did.
#1: Actively find your customers and supporters
I naively thought that our fan base would grow organically. It is only this easy if you are a celebrity. After a few months of maintaining a Facebook account with a handful of followers, it was awfully lonely speaking into a vacuum. Only then did I realize that I needed a plan, going organic without a plan didn’t work.
The plan was to run a campaign to communicate that we are now on social media and actively recruited followers.
Finding your followers requires effort. Embark on an offline recruitment drive to link up with your customers and supporters online. To make it work, you need to induce customers with instant gratification such as freebies, discount and return vouchers so they will click on the “follow” button. In our case, to motivate customers, we took 10% off the bill for those who were game enough to follow our Facebook page on the spot. Customers who were already followers were also given $10 vouchers for their next visit.
Yes, it may cost a little but it is a worthy investment. Social media is social, you need to first find your followers to become social.
#2: Plan and strategize
Planning and strategizing are crucial, I was told. So, I drew up a calendar, made it a point to post every Wednesday and aligned the content of the posts to my regular marcom plan. Examples of posts included special occasion offerings such as festive brews; Valentine’s Day specials; Halloween menu etc. Other posts were more random, depending on what was trending and happening at the microbrewery.
Unfortunately, there was little traction and my attempts were hardly attracting any attention. Bugger, I was still stuck at the starting line.
No doubt your social media plan needs to be aligned with your overall marcom plan but it is an animal on its own. The plan requires a lot of thought and work! It should involve analyzing messaging objectives, curating posts that are attention grabbing and ideally elicit responses. It could be by way of polls, calls for suggestions and discussions. The devil is in the details.
#3: Focus on socializing, not selling
Do not just post promotions and advertisements. Lo and behold, I did that and we languished in our pathetic existence on social media for weeks. No one except my arm twisted coworkers and friends ‘liked” my posts. Expecting re-posts? It took more than arm-twisting.
Socializing can only happen when the content is interesting and it can be interesting only if it is relevant to your target audience.
So, talk to your sales folks, your front line colleagues and anyone else who can help shed light on why your customers are patronizing the business. What are the unique selling point of the business? Encourage your front line colleagues to ask your customers these very same questions too while they help to drive traffic to your social media sites. Only then can you figure out what content appeals to your customers. In my case, we figured out that our customers were keen to interact with the brew master and be involved in creating the next new brew.
It is not just about making that sale. Your priority on social media is to create conversations and socialize with your followers. There are no shortcuts, it boils down to being customer-centric at all times.
#4: Set objectives and measurable targets
Admittedly, I was eager to just get the account up and get as many followers as possible. When it was time for management review, I had to battle questions on ROI and how my social media initiatives contributed to sales.
As you may have expected, it didn’t go very well.
To save myself and management from heartache for the next quarter, we set realistic expectations and measurable targets. Quantitative targets such as “follower growth”, “number of likes and interactions” and “number of mentions” as well as qualitative targets such as tone of discussion and mentions were used instead.
Luckily, I got to keep my job and was able to convince management why social media did not increase sales immediately. So, it is imperative that you obtain management buy-in on what you wish to achieve and know how to measure your progress.
#5: Always respond humbly to criticism and accept responsibility
Crowds love to assemble on platforms like Facebook and Twitter and tear your brand down in real-time. Social media gives them a voice and assemble a movement. Once a negative feedback is posted, it attracts others like bees to honey. Before you know it, it is you against the entire garrison.
At one point, I was handling comments on how our waiting staff favored regulars and within 3 days, more similar comments were posted. I tried to explain online that it was a misunderstanding. Our staff knew the regulars well and inevitably spent more time chatting with them.
It went back and forth and it was not a tug of war that we could afford to drag. I could not take chances, I had to kick into service recovery mode to accept feedback and promise to do better.
If you do not wish for your business to be the center of a hate campaign, always respond to criticism with a dose of humility. That is, unless you are a celebrity like Nicki Minaj, then go ahead and attack your critics. Since most of us do not have a fan base who will defend us, do not start an argument online as it is far too draining.
The faster complains and negative feedback are resolved, the better. Screen grabs bestow eternity to everything we post online. You never know when they can come back and haunt you right? Isn’t it better to play it safe?
What do you think?