We could write a whole book on this subject, but for most businesses, it boils down to one thing: positive engagement with your audience, ultimately offering an additional route to conversion.
Yet, there are plenty of high profile examples of poor management of social media and we regularly see businesses damaging their brands through misuse or misunderstanding. With that in mind, here are our top ten tips to finding your social voice, abiding by social etiquette and creating a happy and profitable social niche.
1. Your professional and personal accounts are not the same
If you have a bad day and fancy a rant, your friends can judge this within the context of their relationship with you and their knowledge of your entire personality. Customers, who don’t know you personally, can’t. Instead, all they will see is a grumpy and ranty business owner which is a big turn off.
2. Stay on topic, stay appropriate
Remember even on Facebook you are still the official voice of your company. Remain professional, use courteous language and steer clear of inappropriate topics.
It seems so obvious and yet we regularly see small businesses expressing their personal opinions using confrontational, shouty* or negative language on their social media channels. This approach might incite comments and a superficial increase in on-page engagement – but will it increase conversion? Probably not.
[* ‘shouting’ is a term for one-sided, continuous announcement-style posts.]
3. Decide on your tone of voice and be consistent
As your social media audience grows increasingly your followers and fans will not know you personally. They will form their opinion of you, and thus your business, almost entirely from the content of your posts. So the question is, how do you want them to perceive your brand?
Decide on your tone of voice (i.e. upbeat and conversational or traditional and trustworthy) and your content strategy (i.e. business news and industry insights) and then remain consistent.
4. Set the ground rules and start planning
You’ve decided on your tone of voice and content strategy – but how will you deliver it in practice? For instance how will you react to negative customer feedback? Or introduce a new product or sales push?
Set some ground rules, put these in writing and develop a content plan. This will be particularly helpful if there are multiple staff members curating your social media channels.
5. Don’t spread yourself too thinly
According to a recent study the average person can only maintain two social accounts at one time – so choose wisely and don’t take on too much. Far better to have a strong and engaged presence on one channel, than to be patchy and unfocussed across three or four.
6. See beyond the Big Two
There is more to life than Facebook and Twitter and there is nothing wrong with choosing not to use either of the Big Two.
If you’re a very visual business, with access to your own product photography, Pinterest or Flickr might be a far better place to be. Meanwhile, for B2B services, leveraging Linkedin could be more appropriate.
7. Quality, not quantity
Quite possibly one of the aims of your business’ social media strategy is to increase sales? In which case it is not the quantity of fans and followers you have that matters, but the quality. Better 10 truly engaged followers who are likely to make purchases, than 1000 who won’t.
Blatant attempts to increase your number of followers is likely to turn people off. “Ten more likes and we’ll get to a hundred. Please share” is boring and smacks of desperation. Don’t do it! Instead think in terms of engagement, conversion and the viral effect of useful content.
8. Do not SPAM your followers and fans
On Facebook we would advise not posting more than a couple of times a week. More than that and you risk taking over your fans’ news feeds.
The ‘rules’ are different on Twitter and high-volume is far more acceptable, if not the norm – however make sure you spread out your tweets. There is nothing more annoying than a company that says nothing for days and then pushes out 20 tweets within the space of an hour.
9. Don’t be lazy – or a robot
There are services available that let you send a single post to multiple channels, or automate your posting. You may save a little time – but be wary. Your language should always be appropriate to the medium where it is appearing. There is no call for posting a #uselesshashtag to Facebook, and followers may spot a robotic post. [Edited: This post was written before Facebook introduced hashtag functionality to posts.]
10. Brand your social niche
You are careful and consistent with your visual identity when it comes to your website and printed materials, so why not your social space? A professionally designed avatar graphic, Twitter background or Facebook cover image will reinforce your brand and give your social media channels a more polished look.
..and last but not least, have fun! It’s a great way to find out new topics, trends and to keep you in touch with your valuable customers. Listen as much as you speak and you’ll undoubtedly join the millions of users who find social media a valuable resource.