Pulling your hair out

How many times has someone said but why aren’t you on twitter?  Can I find you on facebook? How many Pinterest boards do you have?

Keeping up with social media is a full time job and for many marketers it isn’t one they have the time to do, so what is the answer?  A lot of people say pick 2 and do them well….good advice and it will work for a lot of people. It is certainly a good starting point. But what to pick and how to use it?  Another piece of advice is to outsource the management – but if someone is posting because they have to, could you get a quantity rather than quality issue which may damage your reputation with the wrong company? What about an automated system such as Hootsuite? again these are great to keep track of what’s happening and schedule posts but you still are tracking multiple systems. So what is the answer? In truth it depends on a number of factors.

Firstly, you need to understand that social media can absolutely help you build a relationship with your customers but it can also damage your reputation. It can be excellent for engaging your audience, having online conversations, improving brand awareness and providing SEO benefits…if done properly. It can also leave people feeling neglected, harm relationships and have a detrimental effect on your brand when done badly.

It depends on what you want to achieve, how much time/resource you want to commit and how good you are at communicating electronically.  Social media is addictive, I know many people (including myself) who have got caught up in the never ending stream of commenting, posting, reading, replying. It is actually quite liberating to take a break from it and not have the pressure to update, respond and promote and that’s just personally! Business wise, it needs to work for you and your business. Having looked at rather a lot of social media sites for ‘research’ I can honestly say most of them will not be worth the effort you put in to them!

So before you launch yourself on to every social site out there ask yourself the following?

Where are  your audience and what are they doing there?

If your clients are potential clients are not on a social platform or are not using it in a frame of mind that they will want to further their relationship with you then don’t bother. For some businesses Facebook is great – consumers looking for recommendations, to join groups relevant to their lifestyle and form an informal relationship with brands they find interesting.  Google+ is an excellent way of engaging with customers, especially for B2B businesses and for entering in to topical conversations and it also has a great photo feature but are your audience there? You may need to find a niche social site or indeed just target the right community or group.   Also, when things go wrong online it can be embarrassing…last year Benadryl created an interactive pollen count map that allowed followers to pinpoint pollen hotspots.  Sounds fab until people realised that the pins could be used to spell out swear words, or draw rude pictures!

How much time do you have?

If you don’t have much time to give to social media, then think carefully about which social networks you are going to use and how. For some if you want a lot of interaction, you will also need to dedicate a lot of time (following up tweets for example).  consider what you can do to minimise your work load? A holiday villa using Pinterest as a visual guestbook can get guests to share their photos which means that they can moderate rather than post. There is the added benefit that the posts will appear on guests feeds as well. On a similar note, MAC Cosmetics last year invited fans to join their “interactive image experience” by uploading pictures to their ‘fantasy of flowers’ gallery.  Maybe focus on 1 or 2 networks that gel well with your brand. Look at your followers as well, you can duplicate content across networks but only if you have different followers. If you are already familiar with a platform because you use it personally this can be a good place to start as well since you won’t have such a steep learning curve – but keep your personal profile and business page separate.

Can you deliver content in the right format?

Facebook tends to work well for consumer focused businesses and pictures work well. Quotes are a firm favourite too. Obviously for Pinterest and Instagram pictures work well but what kind of photos are right for your audience?  Create an absorbing story that allows your followers something more than other channels by giving them the inside track on your brand and products. You can’t and shouldn’t expect to plan everything – one of Blackberrys most popular posts was of Leonardo DiCaprio holding the Q10 at the Oscars. The picture did the work for them.

So pause, take a breath. All that glitters is not gold. Yes there are lots of shiny social media sites out there but before you go on them, post anything or spend huge amounts of time…ask yourself the important question “How will this make me money?” You’re probably not missing as much as you think!

Another great idea worth trying is ‘The telephone challenge‘ – calling people instead of emailing or using social media to contact them in April.  It works for years and could save you a lot of time in emails going back and forth!


Written by Julie Joseph