Yesterday, I posted about why an organization should get into social media. It isn’t just businesses, either. Churches, charities, soccer teams, you name it, can use social media to their advantage.
Let’s face it: If you want to reach your audience, it is a requirement to engage them where they are. Where are they? Well, a lot of them are on Facebook, blogs, forums, Twitter, etc.
OK, but how should you use it? The problem is that each company is different and their audiences are different, so there is no one size fits all scheme that will just work out of the box for everyone. However, there are certain guidelines that can help.
1. Know your audience. Just like a marketer does research to determine where the customer is, connecting with them via social media is no different. Your audience may be internal, external or both. Where do most of them go? Blogs? Facebook? YouTube?
2. Remember, it’s “social”. One mistake that organizations, particularly businesses, can make is that you get on social media and sell, sell, sell. That’s only going to turn people off. People want information, and they want relevant information. Provide links where they can learn about a product if they desire, not an entire ad. Make the conversation relevant to the time of year, occasion or ongoing conversation. It doesn’t always have to be directly about your product or service. In fact, it doesn’t always have to be about your product at all. It’s social, get it?
3. Encourage conversation. If your product is good, then people will have good things to say about it. If no one is talking about it, ask questions.
4. Expect criticism. This is a tough one for organizations used to one-way media. Too many companies either don’t deal with complaints at all or do so poorly. This might require some transparency. This might require some tact and/or apologizing.
Oh, and one way to not deal with it is by not engaging in social media. Just because you have no blog or Facebook page, do you really think that will stop people from posting their complaints somewhere else? And, if they do, then it will be harder to respond to.
5. Moderate. Some form of moderation should be in place to guard against spam. You might want the ability to reject comments based upon language or offensiveness as well, but this can often depend upon the blog’s intended audience. Obviously, age and other factors play a role here.
However, and this is important, it should not be a response to #4! Critical comments that get removed for no other reason than they are critical will just drive the comments somewhere else. And, it is likely that you will not know about them and/or not be able to respond to them effectively.
6. It takes a plan, and it takes a strategy. To effectively pull all the above off, you have to know how to deal with those situations. However, it is also important to target who you are trying to reach, how you are trying to reach them and what the ideal result would be. This takes planning, and it takes alignment with your organization’s mission.
Keep in mind that mistakes will happen along the way, but the above can lessen the chance of them happening or at least minimize the damage.