There are a lot of guides out there about best practices for social media. Each platform is different, the needs of every individual or business vary - in short, the landscape is just as diverse and chaotic as the modern world. However, there are some guiding principles that should be applied across the board. Borrowing from Christian liturgy, and the movie Se7en, here is Verge Pipe Media's version of the Seven Deadly Sins.
Envy, the green-eyed monster. The Capital Vice has been known to rear its ugly head in many a setting: junior high cliques, sibling rivalries, neighborhoods concerned with the Jones’s... and now the online realm.
It seems everyone has a Facebook page, a Twitter following, a group of devout Pinners; for the novice social media user, there is a lot to take in.
So where does envy come into play? If you are a micro-brewery just starting out online: don't expect to beat Budweiser or come even close to that level of activity right out of the gates. If you are a brand new cosmetics business with e-commerce capabilities: don't go chasing Sephora's 3 million plus followers. If you just launched this really cool mobile app for golfers: be patient with your Nike Golf social clout aspirations.
The lesson here: you are building your own community, your own band of loyal followers and eventual customers. Establishing that trust, creating content that your users crave... that work takes time.
Use your envy to motivate - as opposed to dictate - your strategy. "Unreasonable" goals are something that you can work towards (you never know!). Unreasonable expectations are a distraction and poor business strategy. Focus on getting your business right, before you start focusing on others.
We are all guilty of wanting to friend and follow everyone. We judge. An impressive number of friends or followers seems to indicate power and influence.
"New" and "more" are tantalizing prospects.
But as much as the numbers game is fun & easy to play, wouldn't you much rather have followers and patrons that actually care about what you have to say, not just your stats?! We're talking about people that will stick with your business for the long haul, as opposed to hiding your feed or dropping you all together within a few weeks.
So take a cue from the dating world: keep the conversation flowing, be attentive to your followers' wants / needs and surprise them from time-to-time. Communicate and make it personal; let your followers know that you care and it's not about putting another notch on your social media belt.
Twitter and Facebook can be interesting sources of information - or a boring feed chock full of self praise, empty content and meaningless drivel. We know you are hard-pressed for resources but being greedy with your knowledge and intel won't get you anywhere.
We skim our feeds for unique or clever tweets and posts that catch our eyes. Use your expertise and unique position to advantage.
Don't worry about giving your competitors insight into your business. Unless you work for LifeLock or you are the vanguard for KFC's super-secret blend of seasoning, you'll come off as impersonal online. Share and be generous with what you know, move fast and be more responsive than your competition - you'll beat 'em.
If you are going social, it is time to stop hoarding the good stuff and share it with your friends. The process takes time, but producing unique content will make a huge difference with your followers. They are doing free word-of-mouth marketing for you, so make sure the content they have at their fingertips is something worth sharing!
My momma always said: “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.”
The sad truth is that many social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Google have morphed into trash talking locker rooms where the audience is bigger than your traditional football team.
Having a business is hard but, in 2012, your social media presence can make or break your business like never before. So sorry mom, but the "don't say anything at all" approach won't serve you well if your company is on the receiving end of complaints. Don't believe us? That's fine, just check with Eurostar before you decide to go radio-silent.
Brands and businesses should stand up to unruly customers with deft (but polite) responses, and be equally swift and genuine with an apology when an error occurs.
So how can you safe-guard yourself?
- To start, don't throw stones unless you know inside-and-out what you are doing. You are just inviting trouble to your doorstep.
- Setup Google alerts, social mentions, etc. so you can stay on top of what is being said about your business.
- Be quick, fair and human with your response. Ditch the PR-speak. Get real.
- When necessary, take the conversation offline. Provide an e-mail or phone number if a situation requires nuanced attention.
- Have a plan. We call it an "emergency response matrix" here at VPM.
The next wave of consumers hail from the iGeneration - a group that is absolutely inundated with information and choice.
Social media gluttons are taking the “content is king” notion overboard. We become addicted to the attention and, to make up for less-than-desired engagement, we churn out more and more and more, causing an overload.
Consistent content production is necessary for brands to maintain attention, but there is no reason to hover over your dashboard retweeting everyone and anyone in hopes of extra attention. Auto-tweeting is annoying. Stop the bots! And, even the best writers can’t pound out 5 (quality) blog posts in a day.
Social media is not a numbers game. Sure, you could build up a massive (uninterested) following and machine gun content at them. Inevitably, you’ll hit a lead or two. But, that is glorified mass marketing 2.0. No relationships are being formed because no one can love a robot.
You might as well skip the party because you’re not taking anyone home tonight.
Social media makes it easy to seem as though the world revolves around us. “Look what I did today! I’m so great, look what this person posted about me.”
ME, ME, ME.
But Social media is just that: social. Even if you have reached success on Facebook or Twitter in terms of your Likes or followers, your job is far from done. It’s just as easy for someone to Unlike your Facebook page as it is for them to Like it. Why are company pages like Chick-Fil-A and Coca Cola so successful? Because they constantly post, interact, share and incorporate their followers into everything they do.
Stop posting, interacting and sharing and there will be no sign of you on anyone’s news feed. Then soon enough, hot stuff, you will be forgotten. So don’t get too comfortable with your social media strategy because that chip on shoulder from your current success can be knocked off in a skinny minute.
“I’m too busy.”
“I’ll get to it later.”
“Do I really need to respond to everything?”
We’ve all got a million things occupying our time. We have orders to fill, taxes to file and financial projections to execute against… with everything going on it’s easy to let a social media strategy slip through the cracks.
Let your page lie fallow and the lack of engagement will leave your consumer-base uninterested, leaving them to seek the love an adoration of other businesses who seem to care just a little bit more. You'll never regret taking the extra time to keep your pages updated with current information, to respond to followers in a timely manner and give your customers something to talk about.
But with so many social outlets, responding to every single little post can consume extraordinary amounts of time. It's a Catch-22.
So just treat social media as you would any other part of your marketing engine. What do you do when you find a critical initiative under-staffed or lacking resources? You find a way to make it work.
Bring on a P/T employee, consider outsourcing and/or get creative with your current resources because let's get real: under-performance has nothing to do with the platform (social media marketing works, time-and-time again) and everything to do with resource allocation and strategy... in essence, it's on you.
If you've erred in the past, just repent, reform and move on down the road. We live in a mad, mad world but social media "success" is attainable. Keep your nose clean and steer clear of these cardinal social media sins.
Contributions by: Verge Pipe Media's Spring 2012 Imagineers
Verge Pipe Media still has a long way to go but, as iOS and Android mobile application developers and social media marketers, we're constantly growing, pushing and evolving our strategies as we move towards a (wholly unattainable) state of enlightened and perfectly balanced B2B / B2C nirvana.