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“If you really want to know about business, you should refer to Scott Steinberg.” -Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group

Social Media for Business: How to Manage Online Campaigns

It’s free to join services like Facebook, Twitter and Medium, and not only is this tempting to those who want to feature their latest products – it’s also tempting for those who want to share their expertise, authority and viewpoints. However, as noted in our bestselling book, The Business Etiquette Bible, before you dive into the world of social media as an organization, it’s important to allocate some up-front resources to research and planning.

Just as your grandparents may have once said, there’s always a price tag involved, even if the initial purchase doesn’t require the spending of cash. For corporations, this can mean added expenditure in terms of time and training for personnel, as well as other, more direct expenditures in terms of content creation, or channel maintenance and upkeep. While joining social networking apps and services is free, achieve a high-quality presence on social media sites requires extensive time, commitment and skill. Here are several things to bear in mind that can help you better manage your company’s social media participation:

  • Understand the Resources and Commitments Involved.
    • Effective social media management is often a full-time job: Customers will expect dialogue not only to flow both ways, but also be timely and frequent – allocate resources, time and manpower accordingly. Some businesses may only be able to participate part-time for professional or financial reasons, however: In this case, note that if you have an employee or employees tweeting or posting updates to Facebook, it’s time that they’re unable to devote to other tasks – be sure to schedule accordingly. Ultimately, maintaining consistent, running conversation is key, as is regularly making note of and responding to incoming dialogue.
    • As alluded above, properly utilizing social media necessitates consistent and frequent commentary, and the use of postings which reinforce your expertise and professional image. Figure out what level of response (and response time) works best for your business and commit to it, allocating time and resources accordingly. Customers may be understandably perplexed if you disappear for any length of time or stop responding to posts.
    • Corporate posts do not have to be made by the same individual every time, or an officer of the organization – however, all should maintain a consistent personality, tone and level of value creation. Always be thinking of how you can contribute positively to public dialogue, and add information or insights of worth to readers. In every case, be sure that all representatives of your organization who do post be courteous, respectful and customer-focused, as well as cognizant of brand and style guidelines.
  • Don’t Spread Yourself or Employees Too Thin
    • An effective social media manager takes time every day to update a business’ presence on all of the social media platforms in which it participates: Have you checked in with your fans, friends or followers today? Creating community and running dialogue requires a running commitment – understand the responsibilities you’re taking on before diving into a platform and making a halfhearted stab at user engagement.
    • Before launching any social media campaign or presence, make a detailed study of the sites, platforms and services where your desired audience can be found, and that best align with your business’ long-term goals and objectives. Focusing attention and presence on these sites will help you maximize outreach efforts and user engagement (and use time and resources most wisely), rather than causing you to be spread thin and participate less effectively across a wider range of vehicles. Frequency and reach are basic marketing principles, as is audience targeting: Concentrating your aim makes it easier to hit your target than employing a shotgun strategy.
    • Make sure you or your employees have allocated and scheduled enough workday time to respond and engage within various social media communities. If you can’t post content or respond to incoming queries in a timely manner, your fans or customers may come to believe that you aren’t listening to them. Not responding to a tweet or a Facebook post can be seen by some as the equivalent of not returning a phone call or email – and while you can’t always address all, you can at least make efforts to speak to larger trending topics in public forums, helping assuage the broader user community’s concerns.
  • Don’t Cut and Paste Efforts Across Different Platforms
    • Each social network has its own features, personality and community: Study the outlets you participate in, and understand the different nuances so that your message is not simply carbon-copied across each forum in the exact same way. Audiences differ, as do consumption models across social media vehicles: A one-size approach won’t work here.
    • While social vehicles may vary, make sure your message and brand are consistent and cross-promoted across channels: Establishing a style guide and dedicated social team or member can be tremendously helpful to helping maintain consistency of tone, image and overall user impression and takeaway.
    • Figure out who your target audience is, where they exist online and how to best reach them, then target your messages, content and posting frequency accordingly.
  • Providing Engaging Info and Adds Value to Conversations
    • The more compelling and meaningful your content, the more your customers will engage with it. The key question to ask yourself at every turn: “What’s in it for them?”
    • Encourage people to communicate, comment and interact with you: One example might include placing a call to action (i.e. a request for viewers’ thoughts and feedback) at the bottom of every post. Incentivization is key here – think about the action steps you want readers or viewers to take, and what would drive users to take them.
    • Create a two-way conversation that encourages your customers to want to help you promote your message. Simply blasting information out to them is less effective than soliciting their commentary and input.
  • Realize that Social Media Means More Than Sharing Ads or Press Releases
    • While you can promote your brand and your products on social media services, overtly doing so is often ill-received: Consider finding ways to create benefit for end-users when doing so (“What’s your business etiquette IQ – find out in our new online survey!”), and adopt a tone that’s less self-promotional.
    • People look to social media channels to enjoy a more personalized and social experience. Look for ways to provide such content. Note that many corporations have found success by providing original news, updates on exclusive steals and deals, access to crowdsourced initiatives (submit your best designs –winners will appear in our new national ad campaign!) and behind-the-scenes looks at new products and promotions.
    • Expect customers to respond to any and all outreach – and that you’ll be expected to engage with them in order to show respect and further the conversation. There’s a reason they call it “social” media, after all.
  • Be Helpful to Your Audience and Strive to Better Their Condition.
    • Listen to your audience to discover its likes, needs and interests, then provide insights and information to match. The more you help customers, the more they’ll become advocates.
    • Loyal and passionate customers should be responded to and engaged with – finding ways to reward and spotlight your community is vitally important. The more you extend the hand of friendship to end-users, and acknowledge their efforts, the bigger fans they’ll become, and more goodwill you have the opportunity to generate. The key: To always be up-front and genuine with your audience, and afford them the same respect and standing that they afford your business and brand.
    • Be a good resource. Make sure your content is useful and informative, and give visitors tips, links to helpful articles and sites, and other pertinent information. Likewise, don’t be afraid to shout out or partner with outside organizations, individuals and influencers who share common philosophies and interests – win-win is always the way to go.
    • Always make sure your content and outreach initiatives are relevant to, and create worth for, your customers – this necessitates looking at promotional efforts from new angles, so that the focus is on them, not you.
  • Measure Reactions and Respond in Kind
    • If you aren’t measuring audience response, it’s hard to know whether content is resonating, or who’s listening – as a courtesy to your audience, take the time to understand them and build or adapt content strategy to match.
    • If social media campaigns or individual aspects of them aren’t working, don’t be afraid to change and tweak them – the best outreach efforts are constantly being updated, refined and optimized in real-time.
    • Understand who your industry influencers – those capable of prompting others’ actions and provoking change – are, and how to best engage with them. All operate via different platforms and channels, speak to different audiences, and have differing objectives and goals. Look at how these individuals are interpreting and responding to your messaging, and speak with them to adapt to better serve both they and their audiences’ needs.

For more, be sure to grab your copy of The Business Etiquette Bible today!

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