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Top social media tips for businesses


By The Drum Team | Editorial

March 20, 2012 | 8 min read

Colin Kelly, a broadcaster and social media consultant with NSDesign, offers a handful of tips you can implement straight away to start getting business benefits from social media.

Top tips for social media

It’s fair to say Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the rest attract a lot of hype. Every day it seems there’s another network you just HAVE to be on, and more self appointed gurus popping up insisting they’ve got the secret to helping you understand it all!

For a business it can all seem overwhelming. “It’s nonsense, it’s risky, it’ll take up too much time”, many think. Even worse, a few leap on ready to hard sell, shouting “What a great new way to advertise!”

The truth is social media for business is a skill you can develop and learn.

1. Set simple goals

Social media for business is very different from the way you might use these networks as an individual. Business owners don’t have time for idle chat. Any social media activity you do is likely in addition to everything else. You can’t stop answering the phone because you’re on Facebook! So think about what you want to achieve, pick and choose the networks you go on and use them accordingly.

Start small and keep things easy to manage. Hotel chain Four Seasons concentrated on Twitter at the beginning and didn’t say much themselves. Instead they monitored the space to “listen in” on what people were saying about them. Then they used that “chatter” to enhance the guest experience. Setting the right goals will give your activity a focus and help you decide what to say. Achieving these goals will make it clear that the time you spend on social media is paying off.

2. Interact, don’t preach

One of our favourite quotes in our Embrace The Space social media training sessions is from the cartoonist Hugh Macleod. “If you talked to people they way advertising talked to people, they’d punch you in the face”. So many businesses just don’t get this. The customers, the PEOPLE who use Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and the rest want businesses to chat with them.

They want to feel that they matter, that these companies actually listen. If all you do is promote offers and deals you’re going to leave people cold. It has to be a conversation so join in and don’t be too controlling. Look at the way Glasgow Airport chats to TV design gurus Colin and Justin on Twitter.

3. Censoring in a crisis adds fuel to the fire

Braehead shopping centre found this out the hard way. If people are saying things that aren’t true and giving you a hard time, politely put your point across and explain why you can’t say any more at the moment. In this brave new social media world, things can blow up very quickly when the masses get hold of something, especially if they think you’ve got something to hide or are trying to control free speech.

I consider deleting negative comments to be the single most damaging thing a business can do in social media. Instead, address them head on in an open and transparent way. If you need to clean up your Facebook wall for legal reasons write a comment underneath the original message explaining why you took that step and inviting the user to post again without the strong language or personal details.

4. You’re never too big to say sorry

We’re human beings, not robots. Sometimes we mess up. We meet businesses all the time who’ve been conditioned to “never apologise”, often because the legal department has told them it leaves them open to action. If this organisation can do it, in response to this incident, I think you can too. But only say it if you mean it, and issue the apology on the same platform that the original crisis occurred.

So a row on Facebook, should be answered on Facebook. And the same for YouTube and Twitter. Don’t think a statement on your official website will suffice - that comes across as cold and controlling.

5. Don’t waste your time

Let’s say you’re on Facebook. And Twitter. And now you’re thinking you should make more use of Linkedin. And maybe get started on Pinterest and Google+. Businesses that do social media wrong log into Facebook with their user name and password. Read some stuff, say some stuff and log out. Then do the same for Twitter, trawling through hundreds of messages trying to find something of value in amongst all the noise. You could use up half the day and get no benefits at all.

Smart businesses use tools like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck. Think of these free applications as “all your social media under one roof” allowing you to log in once and manage just about everything from one place. It’s incredibly powerful and with a bit of training to get the absolute best out of them, we think every business could get a return from social media for less than 20 minutes a day.

6. Don’t understand WHY they do it, just accept hundreds of millions of them do!

Why would I want everyone to know I just had a tuna sandwich for lunch? Or post pictures of my baby son in his bouncy chair for the world to see? Or announce to anyone in the world that I’m out at the cinema and my house is empty if they’d like to break in? Many of us worry about the direction this world is going in. We complain about “the kids” having no concept of privacy and possibly damaging their future employment prospects by sharing everything. We see people who’ve heard the bad stuff, particularly about Facebook and are put off because they don’t understand why anyone would use it so irresponsibly and give away so much information about themselves. Our message is - “Don’t try to understand it”. Just accept that many of your customers go on social networks every day and lay themselves bare. (Sometimes literally!).

If you know what to look for as a business, that gives you incredibly valuable information. The trick is learning how to filter out the noise and the nonsense and find the value for your organisation.


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