Using social media
Social media is a powerful tool. Used correctly, it can help you reach the right audience quickly, build strong relationships, gain valuable customer feedback and much more. So how do you know what social media platforms are right for your business?
In this module, you’ll learn exactly what social media is and how to choose the right method for your audience, what to think about before you build a social media strategy, how to talk with your customers online and create a loyal following, as well as the benefits – and pitfalls – of using social media.
Part 1: What is social media and why is it important?
Social media is a collective term for any online services that let you interact with others, create your own content and share it through online communities.
Now, more than ever, businesses engage with customers via social media for customer service, sales and technical support, recruitment, and many more activities.
Popular social media platforms:
Businesses create Facebook pages and Groups to attract their customers and influencers and to reach staff. People create a personal profile and share photos, news, information and data with their friends and followers. More than one billion people use Facebook. Facebook also offers advertising so that organisations can reach more people with their information.
YouTube & Vimeo
YouTube & Vimeo are video-sharing sites that allows users to upload, view, and share videos.
A tweet is a quick, 140 character message. In 2015, Twitter was one of the 10 most visited sites globally, with more than 500 million tweets every day. On twitter individuals and organisations have a timeline that is full of tweets from the people and organisations they follow. The most recent tweet is at the top of the timeline. Twitter offers advertising.
Instagram is a mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service that enables its users to take pictures and videos, and share them on Instagram and beyond to sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Google+ is similar to Twitter and Facebook and is promoted as an ‘interest-based’ social network. Users establish ‘circles’ (groups of people or lists) then share information into specific circles and also receive updates from those in their Circles.
A blog displays “blogposts” which can be commentary on a particular subject. A typical blog combines text, images, videos (technically called “vlogs”), and links to websites, and other related media. The ability of readers to leave comments provides an interactive format. Oftentimes found via “News” or “Blog” in a website menu. Blog examples are Tumblr and WordPress.
Snapchat is a messaging application for sharing moments using a photo or a video, adding a caption or doodle, and sending it to a specific person or adding it to your Story to share widely. Snaps can be viewed for up to 10 seconds and then disappear.
Linkedin is a professional networking tool where individuals can showcase their experience (alike an online resume or CV), connect with business contacts, and share updates. Organisations can create a company page to post information. There are also groups for discussions on relevant professional topics. Linkedin offers advertising.
Pinterest is a visual discovery tool that you can use to display your products, business trends, and so much more.
Social media provides another valued online channel to connect with people who have a direct interest in your business, and what you can offer.
Social media establishes and reinforces your business’ credentials by the quality, relevance and timeliness of your online comments. In a public space, it’s much more than a two-way conversation with just one customer.
Social media benefits:
Part 2: Things to consider
Social Media Plan
As you go beyond one site or an hour a week on Social Media, consider creating a social media plan to share with your team, including:
- intentions, goals, expectations
- a plan of who your audiences are, what topics you wish to converse on, the style you are intending for each social media site (Facebook, Linkedin etc) – include example content – and frequency of posting. This may also include online advertising (mentioned below)
- what information you wish to gain from social media for your business – e.g. Google alerts that return daily, weekly, monthly on your business or competitors or your industry
- yearly content plan that outlines main topics to be published across the year
- Roles – who will do which social media activities. As relevant, include activities / metrics / goals in individuals’ position descriptions
- metrics to track (mentioned below)
- how you will create a sustainable system in the longer-term
For smaller businesses and smaller amounts of social media business activity, create a 1 page plan to retain focus.
When setting intentions, consider:
- What are the themes you’re passionate about that you would want to ‘get out there’ to raise the profile of your company? If you had a global audience, what would you want to say to them, what would you share?! What does each member of your team stand for and what would they want to communicate about? What current events/initiatives/products/information do you want to publicise?
- What are you aiming for – e.g.
> Increase Brand Awareness, personalise your brand, high profile for individuals
> Collaborate with customers, gain insight, co-create products and services, innovate
> Decrease cost of customer service
> Optimise site, better search results, more traffic
> Establish key people in the business as thought leaders, educate customers
> Increase sales, more clients, client leads
In defining who you wish to reach online, consider:
- Who are they – who do you want to attract?
- What do they do?
- Where do they hang out online?
- What technology do they use?
- What style do they engage with (style of words, style of content – video, happy images, etc)?
- Are there times of the day when they’re online? What sites are they on? What technology are they using – a tablet while watching television after dinner?
The brand awareness and sales metrics used for other business activities can be applied though it may take setting up systems to be able to measure them. For example, sales leads can be tracked via setting up website pages unique for each social media site so that someone from Facebook comes through to a specific website page to buy or contact your organisation. In this way you can see increases in leads. In Social Media, common metrics are: reach (the number of people you’re reaching) and engagement (how many likes, shares, replies, comments you gain from information shared online).
Choosing the right platform
Every social media tool has a different approach, audience reach and set of usage guidelines. Some focus more on personal use. Others, however, are built purely for professional use. It’s important to match your business – and your objectives – with the social media platform that’s right for your audience, you have the resources to maintain and update, and preferably someone who will enjoy making updates on your company’s behalf and engaging with customers.
As a basic rule, companies wishing to engage businesspeople via social media will use Linkedin. Those wishing to engage a younger demographic for example may use Facebook and/or Instagram as well as new and emerging social media.
Also consider how you wish to integrate social media with your online newsletter. Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor are a couple of highly regarded online newsletter creation sites.
You also need to think about who posts and manages content – is it from the company or an individual? Posting as an individual has the benefit of being personalised. You can humanise posts, give it a more friendly, approachable tone of voice and connect better with users on social media. It might pay to have a guide for posting online to mitigate any issues when personnel changes occur.
Content schedules can also be helpful – map out the year on a wall and use PostIt notes to note important dates and ideas for information you’d like to share. Involve relevant staff to help add to the year or month or week’s calendar. Then create a content plan spreadsheet to populate with ideas and posts. This may then be signed off by relevant parties.
Scheduling tools such as Buffer and Hootsuite can save time by for example tweeting a drafted tweet at predetermined times. Keep up to date with the latest thinking as sometimes sites (such as Facebook) do not like third-party scheduling tools.
Other tools are available to track your social media performance and to help organise your content.
Being up to date with such tools and clever ways to share content can create the need to employ a Social Media Manager or Community Manager in your business.
Each social media site has nuances, opportunities and risks. Make sure people representing your company using social media are well trained so they can use these tools well. If staff have a great background of using Social Media personally have them trained so they know the way to use it professionally in business.
Alike any other business process, staff guidelines for using Social Media personally and professionally is helpful. A frequently referred to Social Media policy is from online shoe retailer Zappos: “”Be real and use your best judgment”. There are plenty of examples online – search for “social media policies”.
Teleworking or working remotely is a massive part of our business. It allows us to engage with the clients. And it allows us to be really available to our clients not just when we are sitting at a fixed location. You never have to say to a client, when I get back to my desk I
will answer that question because you are always available.
Part 3: Social media opportunities
Social media provides great marketing opportunities for businesses of all sizes. It levels the playing field, allowing small and medium professional service firms to compete equally with larger organisations that have greater resources.
You can use social media to:
- promote your brand and business;
- tell customers what you can offer;
- discover what customers think about your business;
- attract new customers; and
- build stronger relationships.
Visit digitalbusiness.gov.au for tips on how to use social media to market your business and communicate with customers.
Here are some tips to start you off.
1. Be human
People relate to people, not brands or businesses. So come out from behind your brand and use social media to mingle with other people.
Think about how you want people to feel when they use your product or service, and try to build your social media interactions accordingly.
2. Add value
Create content that is of value to your audience. Something that helps, inspires or motivates. It builds trust and rapport and is one of the easiest ways to get into the hearts and minds of your audience.
For example, share articles you’ve written, content from other sources relevant to your customers, or advice you know will help them gain a small win. People will be more likely to engage with your content, and read more. Your business will be top of mind, and they’re more likely to use your services in future.
You can also add comments and advice to other posts, and become a useful contributor to other social media communities.
3. Share the love
It’s not always just about you. There are three things you need to be aware of.
- Recognise others by sharing wins from your clients (with their permission).
- Showcase other businesses or events you think are worthwhile.
- Engage with other people’s social media pages.
Don’t jump on social media just to sell. Instead, listen and get to know your audience – and let them know you. Do this right, and customers will be much more receptive to your business and what you have to offer.
4. Involve staff
People naturally use social media personally. Many professionals have Linkedin profiles, tweet, watch YouTube videos, use Facebook and enjoy Instagram.
When establishing social media for your organisation, consider:
- Doing a search on Linkedin for your company name and seeing who appears. Does everyone’s profile reflect well and accurately for your company?
- Asking staff who uses and enjoys each of the social media sites you wish to use for your company and engaging them to create content and/or administer sites. Include social media activities in personal plans and people’s goals so that it is incorporated in regular business tracking systems and so that people are aware of the resourcing required to do social media.
- An ongoing engagement plan to have staff involved and helping with providing relevant content and sharing the company’s posts with their networks.
- Training staff so they can start to use social media for your company – for example posting on Linkedin about industry news and their area of expertise as another way to profile your organisation.
5. Be consistent
Keep company branding, background color, logo all consistent so individuals seeing you in different online locations know it’s you!
Part 4: Social media challenges
There are three big issues with social media.
1. Social Media can take up a lot of resources
Plan it well and focus your expectations.
Keeping your profile up to date, creating and planning new content, posting, maintaining sites, and managing feedback takes a significant amount of time. If you’re time-poor and don’t have the resources to do social media for your organisation, consider hiring social media staff, working with a digital agency and/or direct resources to other forms of marketing.
2. Information spreads fast
The wrong kind of information can spread rapidly and be damaging to your business. Unlike most other forms of marketing, social media is a two-way conversation that you can’t always control. Be prepared for negative reviews or misinformation posted by others. See information as a constructive insight to your business. Respond respectfully. Engage social media community managers and/or your Public Relations experts where appropriate to be on call to manage PR risks or issues.
3. Information lasts forever
As soon as you upload content, it’s immediately broadcasted to your customers. Post the wrong message, if it is already seen before you can delete and update, it may be difficult to retract. What’s more, customers may not always think before they post, leading to negative comments you can’t just get rid of. If this happens, you need a strategy in place to manage issues professionally. This is where online experts such as Social Media Community Managers can help – even to check your approach to potential risks when you are setting up Social Media.
Managing negative feedback
When should you respond to an issue publicly, and when should you talk directly to the customer involved?
- If the feedback contains personal information, it’s generally a good idea to contact the customer privately. Provide an email address and ask them to get in touch to discuss the matter further.
- If the feedback is more general, and is visible on platforms like Facebook, it might pay to respond publicly by posting your own comment. Acknowledge any concerns and address the issue in a positive way. This helps customers to see you care, you’re not hiding anything, and you’re willing to be open and honest.
If your website gives customers the ability to share comments or reviews, or if you have an open forum for online conversations, it’s a good idea to:
- manage expectations about how content will be reviewed and published; and
- set clear guidelines around what conduct is suitable and appropriate for the forum.
A moderation policy is a public statement on your site that explains which comments an organisation will allow to be published and which comments an organisation will remove from an interactive forum that it controls.
You might like to consider setting a moderation policy, and then managing your forum according to these rules.
Part 5: Social Media Advertising
Once you have established social media sites, now’s the time to let people know you’re there!
List your social media sites on your website – perhaps as icons on each page of your website and in your contact page.
Consider allocating marketing budget to attract new customers through online advertising – this can include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram and other sites’ advertising.
It can be helpful to engage experts in each site, such as a Facebook Advertising expert, who can show experience in increasing customers. Always check experts have experience in growing a relevant audience – no sense in gaining Facebook page likes of people you’re not targeting – for a example, gaining page likes of people from a different geographic area to what you require in your business.
Part 6: Get started!
- Start small and iterate…
- People congregate around relevance and value. What is in it for your audience?
- Community first! Listen first, be respectful, human, considerate and use criticism as a way to gain improvements
- Encourage personalities. Easy self expression can be more sustainable long-term.
- Track useful metrics
- Celebrate your successes!
If you want to build an effective and engaging social media strategy, these resources may help. All information was current at the time of writing. When you go to any of the links below, you will be leaving the DBK site.
Great blogs to follow to keep up to date –
Blog.bufferapp.com/social-media-marketing-plan – how to create a social media marketing plan.
Blog.bufferapp.com/social-media-templates – Social media plan template, metrics tracking and loads of tips here. Search around this Buffer blog too for rich Social Media insights.
Econsultancy.com/blog – Fascinating digital news, case studies, statistics and tips.
Convinceandconvert.com/blog – Learn how to create engaging content for your social media sites.
Slideshare.net/wearesocialsg – Social Media global statistics each month, showing the number of users per social media site.
Mashable.com/?geo=AU – Australia social media news.
Socialmediaexaminer.com – rich site full of social media tips and updates.
Sites User guides –
Hubspot.net – search for the site of your choice, it’s a great resource.
Facebook.com/help – get started on Facebook – start up an account, share photos, news, information, start or join a group and create a company page.
Socialmediaexaminer.com/facebook-page-for-business – how to set up a Facebook Page for your business.
Sproutsocial.com/insights/facebook-advertising-guide – Get started on Facebook advertising to reach more people. It’s always worth engaging a Facebook Ads specialist as the Facebook algorithm (and how often you’re being shown to your market) can change regularly.
Mashable.com/2015/04/16/facebook-ad-campaign-14-tips – Facebook Ads tips.
Support.google.com/youtube – Learn how to upload, view, and share videos on YouTube.
Youtube.com/user/GoogleBusiness – YouTube tips for businesses.
Vimeo.com/help/basics – Vimeo basics
Vimeo.com/business – Vimeo for business
Business.twitter.com/basics – Twitter for your business.
Blog.twitter.com/advertising – Twitter advertising insights.
Fastcompany.com/3030462/work-smart/twitter-101-how-to-get-more-clicks-retweets-and-reach – How to gain more engagement on Twitter
Support.skype.com/en/skype – Skype basics
Help.instagram.com – Instagram basics.
Business.instagram.com – great case studies and insight to using Instagram in your business.
Support.google.com/plus and Mashable.com/2013/10/27/google-plus-beginners-guide – Learn how to use Google+.
Mashable.com/2012/06/03/the-beginners-guide-to-tumblr – How to use Tumblr.
Learn.wordpress.com/get-started – Get started on WordPress.
Help.linkedin.com/app/home – Learn how to use LinkedIn, develop your personal profile, add your IP/presentations,connect with business contacts, share updates and join relevant groups.
Business.linkedin.com – get the most out of your Company page, see best practice case studies, how to best do personal and company updates to engage your market and how to do Linkedin Advertising.
Blog.bufferapp.com/linkedin-company-pages – tips for great LinkedIn company pages and what to share.
Help.pinterest.com/en/guide/all-about-pinterest – Pinterest basics.
Business.pinterest.com – Learn how to display useful information for your market.
Oaic.gov.au/privacy/privacy-resources/all/ Online privacy fact sheets to protect your customers and your business.
Digitalbusiness.gov.au – A general guide on some of the legal issues that may arise, like spam and copyright, when your business is operating online.