Social Media (SM) has brought about the greatest revolution in sharing human knowledge, opinions, observations, visual images and plain old conversations since the invention of the Gutenberg Press.
The longer you postpone launching your company’s social media program, the further behind you will fall. But, social media for business is not the same as for personal use. The rules are different.
Launching Your Program
I am active on social media. I also speak about social media and develop and manage programs for clients. I am also a Rotarian and operate different platforms for Rotary purposes.
This is not a “how-to” article about setting up your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Blogsite or any other platforms. There are plenty of excellent tutorials all over the net that provide step-by-step guidance. Or, you can hire a consultant – ahem, ahem – to set things up, create your content and provide staff training.
Thinking through the basics will pay huge dividends as you build your communities.
It takes time to build a program! Doing it well and doing right the first time will fast-track the process while reducing stress and disappointment.
Let’s get one misconception out of the way. Launching a company program may not be as easy as assigning the youngest member of your team to the task and then wishing them good luck.
I say “may” because the youngest person may very well be the most capable. The point is that you must trust and have faith in the abilities of whichever employee or team is tasked with the job.
Managing the Danger
The common fear business leaders express for not stepping into the social media world is the fear that bad things can happen. The key is to manage the risks. That is why programs for business must start with a corporate policy and editorial guide.
Just because an employee is active on their personal social media platforms does not mean they understand the nuances of branding or reputation management.
Your brand and reputation can be damaged in an instant by an ill-advised tweet or post. But, don’t use that as an excuse for not launching your program.
Whenever I speak at business or not-for-profit conferences about public speaking, communication or branding, I can always depend on fresh examples of what not to do on social media. I'm never disappointed.
Invariably an athlete, celebrity, politician, or business leader will have posted something that underlines why the following rule is so important.
If you don’t want to see it…
If you don’t want to read it…
If you don’t want to hear it…
Protect your reputation. Don’t say it, write it, do it, show it, refer to it, or upload a picture or video.
Social Media Brand Building
The benefits far outweigh the risks. Whatever your company does, the number one reason for using social media for business is to build your brand online. Whether directly or indirectly, you want to sell things.
You build your communities through providing quality content that offers value. Your community members will share your content with their communities. In traditional marketing terms, let’s call that word-of-mouth advertising.
Raise your brand profile
Push messages to individuals or the masses
Trigger word-of-mouth advertising
Engage potential and existing customers
Manage your company reputation
Of course, you want people to say good things about your company. You will want to immediately interact with those people to further spread those positive conversations. That’s called engagement. Think of it as network marketing on speed.
You will also want to know what others, like your competition or cranky customers, are saying. We’ll call that reputation management.
If there is a crisis or a significant announcement, communicate directly with your community or the world in an instant.
All of this is possible using social media. Analytics allow you to track people who engage with your brand as well as where and when it happens. Remember, social media never sleeps. It is open and ready for conversations 24 hrs. per day.
Where to Start
There are hundreds of SM platforms and each of them provide different functions. To state the obvious, Twitter is much different than Facebook or LinkedIn just as Instagram is much different from Snapchat.
The challenge is to identify your company’s branding needs and then choose platforms that will best meet them. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are the primary platforms chosen by businesses, but they may not best meet your needs.
Identify your company’s branding needs and then choose social media platforms that will best meet them.
Photos and graphics are the currency of social media. They tell your stories and engage visitors in an instant. They grab attention. Pictures are used on most platforms or can be anchored on platforms like Flickr, Tumblr, SlideShare and others.
Video can be used across many platforms as is or be anchored for linking on YouTube or Vimeo channels. Short audio messages produced as short clips can be used across many platforms or produced in a longer form as podcasts and anchored on platforms like ITunes or SoundCloud.
Approach social media in the same way as you approach any other company venture. Think it through. Develop a plan.
Whether you are a single person business or an executive in a larger company, the process is the same. I have created the 11 ‘Ps for Social Media Success.
1. Purpose – why are you doing this?What are your goals?
2. Perspective – where does social media fit within the big picture of your brand strategies? How will it integrate with other activities?
3. Planning – how will you roll out your program?
4. Policy – how will you govern and provide editorial guidance for the program?
5. People – who will operate and manage it?
6. Platform – what platforms will best achieve your goals?
7. Protocol – how will you accommodate the different protocols for each platform and adhere to accepted social media practice?
8. Profile – what text, photos or icons will best identify your brand in 3 seconds or less?
9. Preparation – where will you find relevant content? What system will you use to organize and curate it?
10. Photography – what company photos or stock photos are available to help tell or support your stories?
11. Production – what automation service will be used to automate, organize and load content to your various platforms?
What do you think? Do you operate a company social media program? Do you have tips? Your insights are welcome. Please comment below.
Robyn T. Braley is a brand specialist, writer, speaker and a media commentator. Robyn is the President of UniMark Creative which does website design, video production, media services (editorial and advertising), and graphic design. He speaks at business and not-for-profit conferences and blogs about branding.