We’ve been using social media in our work for over 10-years now and have learned plenty along the way. But requests for new accounts are still a regular feature, and sometimes it’s not the right solution.
by Gillian Neild
Us comms folk are often deluged by requests from colleagues to set up new profiles on social media accounts because they think it’s the right place to be to get their message heard. I think it's also our job to offer constructive ideas and support and to ultimately ask the difficult question: Do you really need that social media channel?
Many people who don’t truly understand social media believe they need to be on it “just because everyone else is”. Social media can have an undeniably important role in reaching and engaging with key audiences; but we need to consider how big that role is.
Myspace and Friends Reunited taught us that a social network may not be around forever. Comms people need to stay on top of trends - both emerging and declining. This means we can make sure the brands we work with operate an up to date approach to message delivery.
Here are some key discussion points to use to help you through that conversation to work out if creating another social media channel is really the right focus for those messages.
1. How often can you update or post content on your profile?
The cardinal sin in social media is establishing a presence and not updating it regularly. For many customers or potential customers, this looks worse than not having a presence at all. On Twitter, for example, you need to have good content and post at least 6 times each day in addition to having time to interact.
Not staying current online shows customers that you may not be current in other things, like your customer service skills or keeping within regulatory frameworks, for example. After all, if you can’t update a Facebook page or Twitter profile, why should your customers believe that you’re on top of your game anywhere else?
2. How much time do you have to respond?
A great social media presence doesn’t end with just pushing out content. You need to make sure you are responding to comments, questions, and posts from your user base that is hopefully trying to interact with you.
Just as not posting at all has a negative connotation, so does not responding to users trying to talk to you - and in a timely way. Make it a priority to check for comments and questions at least once a day. (Do this more often if your audience is larger and more active).
3. How can we really make it worth our while?
Social media is there for you to build and interact with your target audience — take advantage of it! Ask your community for their opinions on company products, policies, and services, and you'll more than likely get great feedback - and really fast.
Many companies regularly get better feedback through social media than they ever could through a focus group, which is often more time-consuming and expensive. But make sure you listen to what they have to say.
4. How do you know you're using the right channel?
There's lots of stats around who's using which channel so make sure you know who your key audience is and get on the channel they are most likely to use.
Overall Facebook is seeing a marked decline in use; whilst there is an increase in use in YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat plus WhatsApp and Pinterest, particularly amongst millenials.
There's some useful information here that compares all adults with a social media profile.
- 16-24s are more likely to have a profile on five of the ten social media sites or apps: Instagram (47%), WhatsApp (39%), Twitter (38%), Snapchat (37%) and YouTube (36%). This age group are less likely to have a profile on LinkedIn (8% vs. 14%)
- Adults aged 25-34 are also more likely to have a profile on WhatsApp (39%) or Instagram (29%)
- 26% of Facebook users in the 25-34 age demographic
- 90% of UK Instagram users are under 35, with a high amount of these female likely living in urban areas.
Source: Warren Knight
5. Do we know we can get the content and tone right?
Social media connects people with people, not people with brands. As an example, Facebook works best when it does what it was designed to do—connect people with people. Get the content right and you get great shares and brilliant interaction. Having people run your channels in the target demographic will help to get the tone right, especially when you're replying to comments and reactions. Get it wrong and your audience will desert you - or even ridicule you.
6. Do we know that's how our audience wants to engage with us?
If you have a communication challenge it's always worth asking your target audience if social media is the right place to engage with them. Getting a few focus groups together means you can explain what you'd like to share, test whether that's right and find out the best place to share that content. Through asking open questions and really listening, you might even get an answer you didn't expect that brings results you never anticipated.
For any organisation or business without the resources to actively monitor their social media tools, it may be best to not enter the fray in the first place. In some cases, the potential negative impact combined with a relatively low return on investment may make some social media avenues not worth travelling. It's our jobs as comms professionals to tease out those business objectives and work out where our key audiences are. Then we can join them with the right messages and engaging content.
Gillian Neild is head of communications at the University of Leeds
image via the State Library of Queensland