Wednesday, 2 November 2016

What You Need to Know Before Launching Social Media for Business

Written by Robyn T. Braley

I know you’ve heard it. "Forget Social Media. It’s just a passing fad!" 


The next time someone at your company says that, ask them to take an Aspirin, Tylenol or Advil. Then, ask them to lay down and rest until the feeling passes!

Is it finally time for your business to launch a social media program? Think about it this way.


A revolution in communication!
Social Media (SM) has brought about the greatest revolution in gathering and disseminating human knowledge, opinions, observations, visual images and plain old information since the invention of Gutenberg Press.

So, let me ask you again. Is it time to launch a company social media program? The answer is a resounding YES!

But, social media for business is not the same as for personal use. The rules are different.

Careful thought, execution and control are the operative words for a business program. Thinking through the basics will pay huge dividends as you build your audience.


The Basics

However, and you knew there would be one, you must approach social media in the same way as any other company venture. You must have a plan. To sketch out a plan, you need a basic understanding of the medium.

Let’s keep it simple. I’ve identified 10 “Ps” for social media success.

Purpose 
Policy 
People
Platform 
Profile
Planning 
Photography
Protocol 
Production
Perspective

You may fall into one of these categories;
  • Ø  A bootstrapper doing SM all by yourself
  • Ø  The owner of a small company about to assign an employee to do SM
  • Ø  The owner of a small company about to outsource SM services
  • Ø  The leader of a large organization that has a communications team responsible for SM

A Cautionary Tale

Social media has a ravenous appetite for content. Content includes blog posts, tweets, Facebook messages, photos, white papers, webinars, infographics, podcasts, videos, advertisements and anything else that may engage your audience.




By now you should be sensing that your SM program is not a casual activity to be added to the to-do list of your personal assistant. Successful programs require knowledge, patience and time in order to develop a company voice that will engage an audience.

Some companies assign the youngest employee with their social media responsibilities. Why? Because they are the youngest employee. Too often the assumption is made that being young makes you an authority on SM. 

That may be true! However, just because someone is active on personal social media does not mean they understand the nuances of social media for business.

Respect the Risks

While there is a huge upside to social media, there are also risks. As the adage says, think before you Tweet it, Facebook it, Instagram it, Pin it or YouTube it. 

Whenever I speak at business or not-for-profit conferences about communications, I can always depend on a fresh examples of what not to do on social media. Invariably an athlete, celebrity, politician, or business leader will have done or said something that underlines why the following rule is so important.

To pound it home,


  • If you don’t want to see it…
  • If you don’t want to read it…
  • If your don’t want to hear it…

Don’t say it, write it, do it, show it, refer to it, or upload a picture or video.


Discovering your voice

It Takes a Plan

Your SM program must be integrated within your overall marketing/communications program.  It all starts with identifying your goals. 

SM has hundreds of platforms that provide different functions. To state the obvious, Twitter is much different than Facebook.

Building an online community requires being relevant to existing and potential customers. You must provide content that they value and soon learn to trust.  

You can’t build trust unless you come across as an authentic voice worth listening to. Your audience must think of you as the real deal. In social media, this is often called it transparency. 

Goals May Include

o   Developing a SM profile in online communities where your customers are
o   Connecting, friending, following and otherwise engaging with a variety of existing and potential customers, suppliers, influencers and employees
o   Sharing ideas what have the potential for wide distribution generating awareness
o   Promoting company sales, special initiatives and other relevant information
o   Marketing through linking with other online resources of your company

The 10 P's for Social Media Success

Purpose

Doing social media just because it seems to be the thing to do is not good enough. Identify your purpose. Define the goals you want to achieve.

Planning

There are excellent ways to bring order to your program.
  • Google a social media editorial calendar will help plan your content scheduling and distribution
  • Curate content. Be aggressive in gathering new story ideas. Repurpose copy from company reports or brochures that can be easily become relevant content.
  • Identify key employees or others who can contribute quality content on a regular basis. Share with them what you need.
  • Identify leadership, family, education, community or other content that would be relevant to your audience.
  • Think creatively. An interview recorded as a podcast may have greater impact than if it was transcribed in a news letter.    


Policy

This is a big one. A policy will bring accountability to your program.

fMany businesses fail to develop a formal policy. Don't go overboard, but set some parameters that you can modify as the program grows. 
  • Who will be the social media manager?
  • What will your company voice be?  
  • What will be the overall focus of your content?
  • What will the tone of your messaging be?
  • What will be the process for submitting club content?
  • What content will be absolutely forbidden?


People

Here is a typical social media job description.
  1. A creative - someone who is good at telling stories with text and photos
  2. Disciplined - someone who will to stick with it over the long haul. Discipline is the real secret of social media success. 
  3. Organized - a person who can put pieces together to make a whole; in other words, plan an editorial calendar around market cycles, sales, company celebrations, new product information etc.
  4. Content curator - in mainstream media, we call this person an editor; one who develops ideas for stories that will be relevant.
  5. Assignment editor - As the number of platforms increase, the lead person may need to give writing assignments for platforms like blogs to various other colleagues like engineers, managers or a sales people. 
  6. Learner - the learning never stops. It's the nature of the beast! 

Platform

What platforms – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pintrest, Blogsite, Flickr, Slideshare, Soundcloud – or hundreds of others will you choose? Unless you have a team that can be co-ordinated, I recommend starting with one and mastering it. 

Profile

Believe it or not, Profile was the last “P” to be added. I assumed companies will develop the best image possible. Remember, its all about first impressions. These are musts.
o   A strong key image for the header that represents what the company does or pictures of identifiable landmarks or geography associated with where you operate.
o   The logo as your avatar
o   Geographic location of your head office
o   A well crafted bio
o   Attractive background design

Photography

This is a big one with me. Fifteen grinning company officials lined up shoulder to shoulder in front of a high rise they have just built says little about the uniqueness of the company or building.

Photographs don’t have to lack imagination and story. With a creative approach, a photo taken with a phone can tell a great story. Photos are the currency of social media.

Protocol

Each platform has protocols that need to be adhered to in order to be accepted in that community. Know what they are.

Hint! Don't ask a grammar freak to do twitter. Having to shorten words like 'you are' to ''UR' or 'great' to 'gr8' in order to stay under 140 characters will cause them to crumble and coil into a whimpering ball. 

Production

Develop an archive of quality content – text, photos, graphics and stories. Organize it in a way that is easily retrievable.

As the number of platforms increase, using a management system like HooteSuite, Buffer, Sprout or various others will help you to schedule and broadcast your content over a number of weeks.  Not only do they save mountains of time, but they force you to think through what and when you want to publish or broadcast.

Perspective

Remember, social media operates worldwide 24/7.
ü  What story can you tell that resonates around the world?
ü  What new market might be introduced to your product? What would engage them?
ü  What highly trained and specialized employee may be introduced to your company through SM engagement?
ü  What mentoring impact might a leadership or inspirational message make in someone's life that would inspire them to try one more time or to think differently?


What do you think? Do you have an amazing social media for small business story? Do you have a nightmare story? Share your ideas. Please comment. I'll answer. 


Robyn T. Braley is a writer, speaker and occasional media guest. He is the President of UniMark Creative which does website design, video production, media services (editorial and advertising), and graphic design. He speaks at business conferences and also blogs about branding. 

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