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Harnessing Social Media: Best Practices and Pitfalls

Posted on June 07, 2017 | Filed in Articles

and where to start?

The purpose of this article is not to bore you with the very [already] famous being-social-means-that-you-exist type of phrase. It is partially true, but let’s not get overwhelmed. This second-life life has its ups and downs and noticing only one side of the moon won’t lead us too far.

Just take a quick ride on Google and you’ll see many studies regarding the high number of people that use Social Networks these days. It’s mind-blowing. And not because there are so many with internet access, no, but because there are so many who prefer to stay connected to the world with a simple click. We can remember [of, course – from books only] that during Shakespeare’s age, people used to built friendships based on human-chemistry and shared opinions whilst drinking the worst lager. Oh, and do not forget about face-to-face interaction. Nowadays, friends are clicking each other’s profiles and updates and companies know that. And it’s very natural to take advantage.

It would be harsh to say that a company [small or big] will use the personal choices of people to attack them with its products or services. But when you [as a manager, maybe] see that people decide to remain in their rooms and “navigate” the planet virtually, then you must enter that room. You fought [you did, right?] to reach out for your audience in all the conventional ways and are probably looking for new ways to engage customers and to get new ones.

Social media has been singing at your door steps for quite a while now. And it’s very unlikely for it to run away. You may say you don’t need it or that your sale figures won’t [considerably] be affected. It’s not a given that you’ll become the second Donald Trump, but you will – no arguing there – get closer to your target.

“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media,
the question is how well we do it?”
ERIK QUALMAN, American author

Now, enough of this chit-chat.
There are times when social media is the one and only. But you must give your best. So:

Stop thinking about ways to be different.
Getting signed in on any social route may seem ordinary, but Facebook, LinkedIN, Twitter, Google+, you name it, have hundreds of tools to help you do something extraordinary. Use them for your benefit, not against.

Engage in only those avenues where you can actively manage your social image
For example if you make a Facebook company page or create a business listing on Yelp and you find that people are leaving comments and reviews, make sure you dedicate time to respond to negative feedback and address issues actively. Respond to positive feedback to show customers that you care.

The point here is that if you to engage socially then treat it like a serious business activity. It’s best to find the most suitable online social venues for your business and focus on them exclusively.

A lot of companies simply hire a great social marketing specialist.

Stay smart when others stay calm.
It’s fine to relax and three shots of tequila won’t harm anybody. But [in the meantime] make sure that your content is splendid. No ambiguity, mistakes or false statements should gloom the information. For example no bait-and-switch deals should be made. This kind of stuff goes negatively-viral real fast.

Communicate using simple language.
Creating and sharing a message is of no use if the language is wrong. Your audience is not a paragraph in your research folder, let alone a big ball of robots. No. As Czesław Miłosz, the Polish 1980 Nobel laureate, said “language is the only homeland”. Keep your eyes open and write like you’d write for people. Human beings. Creatures like us. People should understand you easily.

Go out, make some friends.
Social media creates the perfect friendly atmosphere for you to become a friend with your customer. Those who buy/use your products/services become your followers.

Your followers become your friends. And your friends will recommend your company to other friends. It’s like having a circular cable in your home, but filled with electricity. Be careful, though because when you give a method for your customers to engage with you in a public conversation, you need to make sure that you are seen as trying to make your customers happy. Or at the very least, you appear to be a fair enterprise in your dealings.

If not personal, then what?
Social networks are a perfect place to stop using fancy dialogues and rigid tales.

Give someone else the microphone every now and then.
As mentioned earlier, you have to treat your audience like an individual with many masks. Constantly, you’ll have to smile and let them feel important. Because they are. Once you understand you’re nothing without them, you’ll be everything [in your market, of course/a leader perhaps]. So, why not let them speak their mind? Let them talk about their desires and ideas. Let them complain and raise questions. Allow the audience to be free in a perfectly normal uncensored social environment.

And join in.
Be active and respond to all inquires in time. You’re in a social land now, you’ll have to be a communicative fellow.

Turn the spotlights towards your consumers.
Always remember what your customers need according to their choices and beliefs. Don’t let the big waves of the internet fool you: your consumer lives in a specific world where some things matter to them and some don’t. Be aware of whom you’re talking to.

Just like Mark Zuckerberg said “a squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa”.

Share not only ways to purchase your products/services, but ideas that can influence the world in a positive way. Support ideas and interchange them with those who care. Any good feedback will take you closer to an impeccable brand image.

Stick to the agenda, Brenda.
Plan a detailed strategy in order to check all your desired results. Set a bucket of strong and feasible objectives and start marking your territory: WHEN and WHAT will be your guidelines. WHY is going to be your engine. And the stars will begin to align, no doubt.

“There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant”
RALPH WALDO EMERSON, American essayist, lecturer, and poet

NOW, let’s not get carried away.

Social networks can definitely contribute towards improving your bottom-line, but heaven is still far from here. If your “brick and mortar” business is not functioning right, postpone your social-media initiatives till you get your business working right.

Not so fancy audience, after all.
The Sensei Marketing partner and chief customer Experience Designer, Jeff Wilson, alleged in a controversial article [Social Media is Creating Bad Customers1] that social media “builds a guilt-free, relatively anonymous environment with no accountability”. It is much easier to assault a brand if you can choose not to divulge your identity. So be prepared for all sorts of assaults.

Where there’s no party, it’s no fun.
Yes, you have to sell your products. You have to keep the business rolling on a wheel. But here, in this second-life zone, you must find some clever techniques to entertain your nation. Special offers, contests and providing mechanisms for users to contribute content socially are a few examples of methods to engage and entertain your audience.

What can you do with a gimped pigeon?
You get bad reviews and answers from your fans or your cash sales are still at a standstill? Be patient, you’re dealing with poker-faced buyers who are [pretending to be] hard-to-please. They will ease up. Eventually.

Put the ruler back in your pocket.
The social activity of a person can’t provide a decisive statement about that person. Social media gets you closer to people, yes, but it won’t give you the correct data regarding their feelings or habits. Knowing their names is simply not enough.

Not all of your audience is online.
According to a 2012 Associated Press-CNBC poll2, the users that are most interested in Facebook and its growth are the under-35 generation. “They’ve grown up immersed in the social network. They were the first users, logging in from their college dorm rooms.”

The Mayan predictions didn’t come true for our planet, but it might – for social networking.
As you recall, Hi5, Myspace, AOL went backstage and nobody thought it was possible. So, don’t you hold on too strongly to Facebook, Twitter or any of those social online bootlaces. Take the best of that world, but don’t sleep on it.

Keep your powder dry.
Customers will talk about your brand all day long. Your selling methods and decisions shouldn’t be based on simple unsubstantiated comments. Learn to identify behavioral patterns that can be supported by data.

Wider the lake, smaller the chances to catch a fish.
Any social network gives you the false impression that if you’re online/signed in you must communicate. Constantly. True, you have to do it, but go back to a regular basis program: rumbling about everything non-stop is going to ruin your conversation instead of improving it. Speak only when you have something to say.

Social Media is a good friend, but it’s not a life partner.
You might have unresolved issues with your target and even if this might severely affect your relationship with the costumers, you are walking on thin ice in case you’re planning to use social networks only to boost your sales, brand awareness or self confidence.

Old traditional ways of communicating with people will never die. Your target is still out there. The clicks’ sound may be disturbing, but real individuals live in the real world.

Superstars have migraines too!
You want to [or you are already] active on several social media empires and you plan to be nice with your target. You are gentle and delicate. But, as we know – perfection is an illusion – and a tiny negative post/tweet/remark can blow-up a whole well-intended relationship.

Don’t ignore what Jure Klepic [journalist at Huffington Post] said “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas; what happens on Twitter stays on Google forever”. So, act like you’re dancing on a minefield!

“Ultimately, brands need to have a role in society.
The best way to have a role in society is to understand
how people are talking about things in real time.”
JEAN-PHILIPPE MAHEU, chief digital officer, ogilvy

and start shaking the universe.

The online world is filled with arguments – valid or not – why we should or shouldn’t abuse social media. You’ll read hundreds of articles that want to convince you to remain connected. Others will claim how uncertain a social network is. But, after all, it’s more to “being social” than just being social. Even in the day-by-day life, you live in a system with its own rules, principles and exceptions. You join different groups and [you are bound to] change your approach depending on the receivers. The way we express ourselves – generally speaking – modifies whenever a new foreign addressee joins in. You have to blend and mix great techniques of mastering the dialogue.

Once you’ve created the atmosphere, you’re welcome to take a seat and play your role in the act. The same thing happens when we refer to social media. A brand gains more “personal individuality” [if we may call it this way] because it comes in and joins the club also – along with its consumers. There are only small boundaries between these two parts and an almost invisible line that separates them.

Do not rely on the idea that being amiable will guarantee a success amidst social users. You are, at the end of the day, a brand, a business and a company that speaks to its target. You are not an individual therefore, you mustn’t forget staying a hundred percent professional.

At the end, let us follow [Convince and Convert’s president] Jay Baer’s advice: “Focus on how to be social, not on how to do social.”