All beginnings are difficult for startups. This also applies to your social media presence. You’ll get advice from all angles on what you should or should not do. One company is doing it this way, the other in a totally different way. So what should you do? If you have a few guidelines, it’s already easier. Therefore, here are some do’s and don’ts for using social media.
Do not (ever) …
– Only send
This is, in my opinion, the most important rule of social media. And yet … it’s SO often broken. Bad practice! Companies, startups and people who only post and never respond. Only advertising thrown out without going into what their customers are looking for and want. I would say place an advertisement in a newspaper or on TV. But on social media I call it spam. Of course you may also post messages about what your company offers, but keep it limited.
– Just look at the numbers
This is the second big mistake that many companies make; they only look at the numbers. “More is better”. You can buy 10,000 followers, or put up a like&win-campaign so you’ll get lots of likes / followers. But what good is it if people are not committed to your company, but only ‘like’ or follow you when they can win something? You then have a group of people that does nothing with what you post. It is not about likes, it’s about fans that tell others about you and RAVE about your company! So post interesting content, because that’s where the real fans come from!
– You’re fixated on social media
This item has partly to do with the point above. Companies that lose themselves in all kinds of social media, who only look at the number of likes, number of followers, number of retweets. But unfortunately forget to keep their website up-to-date or almost forget customer service. Not everyone has a profile on social media, keep this in mind!
– Only look at ROI
ROI (Return On Investment) is an important factor in many businesses. How much have sales gone up after an investment of … euros? Unfortunately, social media does not measure everything. You can measure quite a lot (via Google analytics), but it is important to look beyond the numbers. Sure, you can look if the number of likes also point to higher sales. But keep in mind a like or retweet is free, and a product purchase is not. It is also not just about selling, it’s also about interaction, creating a positive image for (potential) customers.
– Do nothing with information about your followers
When was the last time you looked at who your followers actually are? What are their passions, their opinions, their occupation? Do they have a blog that you can share with your followers? It takes some time, but allows for a close relationship and real fans!
– Let an intern ‘do’ social media
I can’t tell you how many times this has happened. With some dramatic results. A trainee or intern doesn’t know the ins and outs of your business. Of course, some students are terribly good at social media, but that does not mean you should make them responsible for your communications to the outside world. Because that’s what you’re doing then.
Let them first watch a trained, experienced employee do it, and let him / her help. I repeat: do NOT let an intern be 100% responsible for the external communications. Because students do not know how a company responds normally, how it communicates. And they might go away after a few months, letting another trainee take over, or even stopping the social media presence altogether because no one in the company knows anything about it. Take it seriously!
– Ignore what’s being said online about your company
People talk about your business, whether you know it or not. Make sure you are aware! Don’t be surprised, but search for your company name regularly, so you can respond.
– Post something very infrequently
I bet you know them, those “friends” who sometimes require a lot of attention (usually when they need you) and then disappear for months. I don’t like them, you don’t either I guess.
The same applies to businesses on social media. It is best to post something on various social media channels (almost) daily, depending on the platform. That way, you will not be forgotten and therefore people trust you more and know you are there always, not only when you need help. This way, you build a loyal fan base that won’t forget you. But don’t overdo it; 10 Facebook updates might be a bit too much as an every day practice.
– Be interactive
Rule number one on social media; be social and interactive. Not only send, but also respond at what others say, engage in discussion / conversation, and respond to blogs (without mentioning your company name too much). That way you learn from your followers/fans, turning them into true fans and hopefully solving their problems. Don’t ignore negative comments but interact and see if you can do anything. Let them notice that you’ve seen their compliment or comment.
– Know what you want to accomplish
Examine what you want, how much time you can spend, and where your customers are. Then choose one or more social platforms. Don’t start without thinking about this. Because you can lose a lot of time, energy and money and that would be a shame.
– Post content about your customers, not about you
Let’s be honest here; do you follow / like a company that only talks about how fabulous they are, and doesn’t talk about your problems / questions?
– Tell people about your presence on social media
Unfortunately, you cannot assume that people will be able to find you on social media, without you ever bringing it up. So put social media buttons on your website, in your newsletter and in the signature under your email.
– Place content regularly
Although ten posts on Facebook might not really be necessary, twice a month is not enough to get noticed. Make a content calendar; think in advance what you want to post, also noticing when there are special days for business or holidays where you can post about. Try to even it out over the week, so don’t post ten tweets in one day and then nothing the following week. You want to stay in the minds of your followers, and not disappear in the background.
– Search thyself
Type in the name of your company in the search box on social platforms, on Google and other places. See what people say about you and what they share (positive or negative). Then go in there when needed and learn and interact.
– Start blogging!
A blog allows you to get in touch with your (potential) customers and fans, and shows what you know and what your vision is. In a larger company several employees can blog, all about their own things they do and know. It doesn’t take a lot of time, you have to really plan it, and you’ll get better quickly. Practice makes (more) perfect. Your rewards: more traffic to your website, a community, and it brings you into contact with other companies and people. The blogposts are also sharable on social media by the way.
– Keep your eye on the analytics
On most social media you can see some analytics. On Facebook, for example, you can see that if you have more than 30 likes on your page. Sometimes you have to pay for this but there are plenty of free tools.
– And last but not least: be personal
Post a picture of yourself, and not just your logo, on your bio (certainly get rid of the egg on Twitter!). It shows that you are a person and not a robot. People make mistakes, so do acknowledge errors, and solve them. And interact, I will repeat it again and again; you are a human being behind the computer, as are your fans and clients. Talk to them, and they will talk back, and maybe become your biggest fans!
Maaike van Dijk-Bokkers is a Dutch entrepreneur and conference organiser. She has a podcast called Build Your Business Story; blogs on www.inspire31.nl; and will be blogging at LeWeb’14!
Top photo via Shutterstock – scyther5