I said for years that small businesses had an advantage over large companies in the social media space since they could connect one-on-one with their community and form personal relationships with those they serve more effectively than a large company. But I have since changed my tune. When it comes to managing social media for a brand, it’s not a matter of how big or small your company is; it’s how much time you are willing or able to devote to engaging your community authentically, that will set you apart and give you the advantage on this stage.
Larger companies have no more advantage or disadvantage as far as tools or ability to reach their community so the playing field is equal and open to those willing and able to do the work. (Aside from the fact that many large companies have the resources to hire someone whose full-time job is to listen and respond to the community chatting it up on social channels such as Twitter and Facebook, and the smaller business owner is pulling double and triple duty.)
Here are 3 traps to avoid regardless of the size of your organization:
Not having (or creating) a personality
Yes, this is a hard one. I would much rather connect and follow Kirk Schreck on Twitter over General Electric (and not just because he is my husband). I mean what kind of conversations would I possibly have with a large brand name? Your brand, whether large or small, has to connect with people. Posting coupons and flat information about your products and services makes you MEDIA without the SOCIAL–just a brochure–and I can find that on your website.
When you assign a real person to engage the community they can ask questions about how people use certain products or services. They can provide tips that make using your products and services easier. They can tell jokes, give out virtual cheers for someone who just got a promotion and mentioned it on Twitter. Your community manager needs to have a personality for people to connect with. One of the first things we do when we manage a company’s social channels is match the personality of our community managers with the account. It’s more difficult if you have a financial or legal minded person posting for a hiking and canoeing company. What is the personality of your organization? Do you need to create one? Make sure that comes across to your virtual community.
Not listening and responding to what the community is talking about
This is a trap most people on social media sites are guilty of falling into. We get excited about how great our latest webinar is, or how fantastic our products are. We are so fascinating that we just want to talk about it all day long. Well, guess what? Your community is filled with fascinating people, doing amazing things and they are more likely to listen to you and engage with what you have to say if you, at least occasionally, listen and reply to what they have to say.
Most large organizations post their content and listen to see if anyone is saying anything about them, and that is the extent of the listening. Checking Google Alerts, or your “Mentions” column on Hootsuite is not REALLY listening to the community. What if you read that someone you are connected with just got engaged or lost their dog? If your organization sent a message wishing them well or sent condolences, this would be a BIG WOW! Take the time to engage and reply to people’s comments–not just when it’s about you!
Not being “ON” frequently enough
I see so many business accounts that have one or two posts per month, and again, it is just a promotional offer or link to purchase their products or services. When you post infrequently, people forget you are there. Not everyone will be sitting waiting for you to say something, so by posting frequently (at least daily on your Facebook Page and several times a day on Twitter for example), you’re letting people know you are there and open for business. It also shows that you are taking this platform seriously and it’s not just a side task thrown on someone’s desk to make sure they get something up on the sites once in a while (Oooo–hitting close to home for some people right now!)
If you are taking questions and providing customer service help on your social channels, you definitely need to assign someone to monitor comments coming in throughout the day. You may also want to post your “open” hours, so people can adjust their expectations of your response time, as well as who is on duty so people know who they are speaking with.
Of course, these are only a few of the traps that are set up in this social media jungle.
What are some of the others you have identified?
@GinaSchreck is the CEO of SocialKNX, a digital marketing and social media management company. She also heads up DIY.social and encourages small biz owners to join the free DIY social group for tips and resources to help you avoid the traps.
After writing about HOW TO PARTICIPATE in a Tweet Chat Event, I got several people asking, “What if I want to start my own? How do I do that?” It’s quite simple AND it’s a lot of work. (How’s that for brutal honesty?) The benefit of starting your own is it can be good for branding and helping you establish your expertise within your community. While there are loads of Tweet Chat events already running daily, there is always room in Twitter Town for more. Here are 7 steps to get you started:
Step one is to determine what you want to call your event. It may be the Alpaca Sweater Knitters tweet chat or the Social Media for ZooKeepers event. Once you have the name you need a SHORT hashtag. You are going to just make it up! In our two examples you would have #ASKchat (oooh I like that one) or #SMZKchat.
Step two is to see if that tag is available, or at least if it’s not being used to often or being used in creepy ways. Go to Search.Twitter.com and search to see if any other group is using it regularly. If it has not been used for several months, it is open! If only a few people have randomly used it, even recently, go for it!
You can register your hashtag and fill out information so folks can learn more about your chat event. Twubs is one such registration site that I like. Some even secure a separate Twitter account for the hashtag and use it as an event account. @ASKchat would have a description of your event as the bio. Once you know the day and time are set, be sure to add it to this public Tweet Chat Events document to let the world find you. There are several places that list chats that take place, but this seems to be a pretty comprehensive one.
Now that you have done the administrative work…it’s time for the REAL work to begin. Like any live event, you must promote your virtual meet up to your community (both on Twitter and off). Let folks know what day of the week and time you have chosen to hold your 1 hour event (most are 1 hour…you can choose any length you’d like). Be sure to mention time zones!
Ask your community for questions or topics they would like to discuss during the event and put together a list of 8-10 questions (you may want more in the beginning as you build your following, but the more people you get in your chat, the fewer questions you will have time to get to).
The day is here! When you are about to begin your tweet event, ask folks to introduce themselves and remind them to use the hashtag in all correspondence or their comment may get missed. Using a site like TweetChat is ideal for these events as it pulls your group into a separate area and folks do not have to add the tag to each tweet, because it does it for you.
Lastly, be consistent. If you choose Monday nights at 8pm CT, don’t move it around to fit your schedule. People are creatures of habit and you want them to be able to remember when your group meets up. If you cannot attend on a certain date, just ask one of your community members to step in as facilitator. If you can find a group of folks who would like to rotate as leader each week, that is ideal.
If you are nervous about kicking your event off without a hitch, you can always to a run through with a few friends and test everything out. The beauty of a Twitter event is they are more informal and keeping it FUN and FOCUSED will ensure people want to come back next week. Remind them at the end to spread the word and return for more Twitter fun again!
I suggest you attend a few tweet chat events before you take on one of your own. You can also find one that is already launched in your area of interest, but perhaps is looking for a co-facilitator–one who can share the burden of always being there and running the questions.
What other suggestions would you add here for starting and running your own Tweet Chat Event?
If you or your organization would like help engaging your community- give us a hollar! We offer coaching programs and fully-managed services and the team at SocialKNX LOVES alpacas! (We just can’t knit!)
Many businesses jump on the social bandwagon without considering the community they are there to serve. They are excited to tell the world the fabulous products and services they offer. The books and webinars people can purchase. It’s all about “ME!”
Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter are not like a company website or brochure. If all people see and hear is “BUY MY STUFF,” or “SIGN UP FOR MY BRILLIANT WEBINAR,” they grow tired quickly and go away. People are OPTING-IN to receive your content, but what content will keep them coming back and sharing it with their friends? Content that is helpful and interesting….to THEM not just to YOU!
Here are 7 ideas of social content that can get you started:
Books that you find interesting and helpful
If you share what you are learning from books and then ask others to share what they are reading, you just might strike up some great conversations.
Interesting photos you find or take
Be sure they are appropriate and somehow tie back to your topic or area of expertise. People using your products; People at events you attend; your team in action serving others. Fun photos that can tie into something you are posting or give your community a behind the scenes view of your brand.
Products that you find helpful
When I find great apps or gadgets, I figure if I love them, so will others in my community. What products or services are complementary to yours, that your community members may find useful?
Relevant news stories that you can comment on from your company’s perspective
How does your business solve similar problems or provide solutions that are different to those in the story?
Behind the scenes tips
Everyone wants to peek behind the curtain and see how you operate. A hotel can share housekeeping tips. A restaurant can share recipes or table setting information. A fitness studio can share home fitness tips or healthy recipes. Let people come a little closer and see something that only fans of your business can see.
Service projects you and your team are involved with
Let others know the organizations you support and why. Are you doing a charity walk or 5K? Perhaps there is a food-drive you are involved with. Who knows, they might want to jump in with you and serve side-by-side.
Customer generated content
This can be tricky as you may want to post a disclaimer that content must be appropriate and that spamming the community will get the post removed. Some have designated a specific day of the week as FAN SHARING DAY. Ask fans to share their favorite blog or photo or something else that ties into your business and yet encourages the community to share what is on their mind!
What are some other ideas you have seen done well on social media channels? I’d love to hear your creative ideas. If you are looking for regular tips and resources, be sure to join our DIYsocial group on Facebook!
Gina is a speaker, author, CEO at SocialKNX, and coach at DIY.social