Forbes (@Forbes), the famous American business magazine and perennial taxonomists, recently stated: “The strength of your social media presence will directly impact your brand, products and services with respect to their position online.” Everyone can have an account, but getting it right is a different matter. Here is my take on staying clear of the pitfalls, based on my experiences.
1. Don’t ignore people, or give the wrong information. You should be able to be trustworthy and transparent.
Your customer service team, service areas and people on the ground are the real experts. Have a system for being able to contact these people and get the information in a timely manner. If it is not quicker than a phone or post query, there is no point in doing it.
2. Have a policy on when to engage.
I’m not saying you need a social media policy! Liam Barrington-Bush has written a marvellous book (see this blog) about how social media policy is based on a mistrust of adults, and if you cannot trust the employees in your organisation, they shouldn’t have been hired in the first place. However, I will say; responding to every comment is simply not viable. Sometimes a rant is just that; a rant, and people won’t expect a reply. However, if misinformation or misleading information is given, it’s probably best to link to or refer to a source of factual information.
3. Don’t just have one or two people who know how to, or have permission and training to respond with social media.
If you can’t cover holidays, sick days and lunch breaks, you are letting your audience down, and could be undoing the good work that has been done. Anyone who is willing and able to communicate on these channels should be trained and ready to step in or take over.
4. Don’t have everyone doing it, it should be coordinated and on message.
At the same time, don’t just give everyone access without the proper training. Messages should be coordinated and on message, as temping as it seems to create a genuine democracy where all voices are heard, be careful. There haver been some great examples of this working well, such as @sweden (curatorsofsweden.com) but this is not right for all organisations, and may not be right for yours.
5. Use images, video and have a sense of personality.
The most clicked on posts contain images and videos (click here). You should be doing it too, this could be a great opportunity to raise the profile of representatives of your organisation, and give a human face to an organisation. Again, there are several pitfalls to using video but with a bit of care and a decent bit of kit (tripod is essential!), it’s an excellent and cheap form of communication.
6. Let your audience know who is tweeting or posting. Again, this is personal and your audience is more likely to engage, which, after all is the main idea, is it not?
This is simple, and not everyone will agree with me here, but I think it helps create the feeling of a human face to an otherwise faceless organisation. Also, it gives your audience a chance to have an alternative contact if they cannot get a response from the corporate account.
7. Always check that a hashtag is not already used. This could end up being embarrassing, confusing, or illegal.
This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many times this has gone wrong. Also keep them short and snappy. Don’t need to have #Worldaidsday2014 when #WAD14 would do the same job. Look at this post from earlier this year on comms2point0 by Mike Underwood, communications officer at Charnwood Borough Council. Similarly, although with far less humour, we used a hashtag which was also being used by a big event in America, causing a little confusion for the public, but also playing havoc with our monitoring tools. Also, make sure you have someone with a slightly dirtier mind than you check it. We all know what happened to Susan Boyle’s album party (#susanalbumparty).