Few businesses would argue against having a presence on social media. Unfortunately, far too many organizations — even in high-tech or cleantech industries — treat social media as a marketing afterthought. How do we know? In new business meetings over the past five years, Sterling Communications has seen dozens of prospective clients that have delegated community management duties to interns.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with interns. We’ve hired some of the best ourselves. But how can someone truly understand the nuances of your corporate value proposition, your most lucrative target markets, or your industry’s conversational challenges when he or she is just getting started in business? What does it say about your brand when the staff member who won’t be around in three or six months is responsible for sharing the best of what you have to offer?
Your company may have a high-level marketing strategy or well thought out tactical plans, but an intern in this case is not only learning on the job but also learning out loud. The message to your online audience is clear: We don’t care enough to give you our best.
But it gets worse. Social media itself is often treated as an internship by many tech companies. Businesses in a hurry often register accounts, try out a few services, and expect everything to fall into place by the next quarter. When they don’t, accounts get abandoned or shuffled off to the person with the least amount of mission-critical responsibilities. We haven’t seen that approach work yet. The ROI is rarely worth mentioning in three months. Why? Marketing is all about building relationships. Few lasting, worthwhile relationships are built in three months. And almost none are built when all you want is a transaction along the lines of, “Hey, click this link to our press release” or “Please won’t someone read our blog post.”
Effective social media takes time. It takes talent. And it takes empathy. You have to put yourself — your real self — out there, listen, share, and interact with people as if you were building a friendship. As Gary Vaynerchuk says, “Business is all about who you know, how you know them and how to connect with them.”
So, if throwing an intern at your social networking responsibilities isn’t the answer, and if even heartfelt efforts aren’t going to get an immediate return on your investment, then what are the rules of engagement that build and strengthen brand relationships online?
- Be interested and be interesting. You can’t bore people into action. You can be genuinely curious about others in your industry, and share informative or useful information with them.
- Don’t be afraid of failure. Better to try something new and fail than to get lost in the crowd.
- Perform regular audits. Proper social media management takes times. Limit your waste by focusing only on the most successful tactics.
- Find your customers. There’s no point in managing platforms where you have no audience. To maximize efficiency, focus only on those platforms with the most user engagement.
- Don’t automate. As the NRA and CelebBoutique learned the hard way, it’s important to take stock of what’s going on before posting anything, especially if you are in a more controversial industry such as firearms. Also, it’s inauthentic.
- Be authentic. Show your audience your brand is a living, breathing entity with personality and emotion. Don’t respond the same way to everything. Don’t pretend to be something or someone you’re not. But don’t take my word for it, just look at Chick-fil-A.
- Provide value to your audience. Don’t spam your followers or they will leave you. Instead, carefully select and post content you think is most relevant to your consumers.