I probably spend more time talking with clients about social media than any other type of outbound communication. Their question is always a variation of “how can I use social media effectively?” It’s unfortunately not an easy question to answer and, in truth, probably no different than asking: “how can I communicate effectively?” The list of do’s and don’ts could go on and on and on…
I write and speak frequently about social media issues, work with clients on their social media efforts and experiment with my own social media accounts and tools to try to get an indication of what works and what doesn’t. I’m happy to share the results of my mostly anecdotal data:
- Clearly identify your desired target market and ensure that those you connect to through social media represent that market. It doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of time and effort building followers that are outside of your target niche, but many companies do this. For instance, their followers often comprise staff, employees, friends and even competitors, rather than individuals/organizations that either represent potential prospects/customers/clients or connections that will boost their own credibility as a thought leader/well connected social media user.
- Incorporate social media into other existing communication methods to ensure that they are aligned and that you are leveraging the power of these tools in combination. For most organizations, the ultimate goal will be to drive traffic to the web site. Social media activities should be planned and designed to accomplish this by: including opportunities for social media engagement prominently on web site (e.g. through icons, links from blog postings, etc.), and including links back to the web site from social media pages/postings.
- Provide information and engage in conversations to provide something of value to your social media audience. While this may sometimes be references to your own products/services/expertise much of what you post should simply represent useful information/value to your audience – that’s what keeps them coming back to you, recommending you, retweeting you, etc.
- Monitor and analyze activity to determine your effectiveness. Do your followers represent your target audience? To what extent? What types of audiences are you losing and when? What types of posts/tweets tend to generate interest through comments, retweeting, likes, etc.? How are people ultimately getting to your web site – through which social media tools? based on which posts?
- Stay on top of things. Make sure you’re being responsive to people who are posting messages, responding to your messages, etc. Assign someone responsibility for this task and use a combination of proactive (e.g. pre-scheduled tweets) and reactive (daily updates/news items of interest to your audience) to keep the conversation flowing. Don’t avoid responding to negative or critical posts (although, in some cases, you should attempt to direct these conversations offline).