Laura Barnett

Steering clear of social media pitfalls

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Social media blunders can be scary – mishaps can whip up a frenzy of comments, tweets and posts within seconds, leaving reputations hanging in the balance.  The spotlight quickly turns when negative social conversation escalates, as we’ve seen recently when disgruntled HMV employees took control of the company’s Twitter feed, voicing their anger at losing their jobs to the world.

So with all this in mind, how you can avoid the many social media pitfalls and engage positively with your audience?

1. Be ready to engage in conversation

Our first top tip is to be realistic about the nature of the social sphere – be ready to engage in conversation. All social media platforms are highly interactive, so be prepared to respond rapidly and professionally to negative comments. There’s always room for turning a negative into a positive, so engage with your followers, customers and on-lookers, and cultivate good relationships with them – gradually transform them into a community of advocates. You won’t be able to please everyone, but learning how to deal with negativity when it arises is worth its weight in gold.

2. Commit time and a dedicated team

Getting started on social media is just the first step. Keeping it going is where the hard work begins. There’s no point in running a social media account if you don’t keep it active. And nothing looks worse than an abandoned Twitter feed. So, decide in advance who’ll be responsible for running your social media and make sure they dedicate enough time to it. Again, be realistic – if you don’t have lots of time, start with one or two social media channels and spend time honing your content and engaging positively with followers, rather than spreading yourself too thin.

3. Agree a ‘social’ brand identity

Decide how you’re going to position your brand in social terms – how will you communicate your brand identity and values? What tone of voice will you use, and what kind of language? Spend time developing a social ‘personality’ that reflects the character of the company. We recommend striking the right balance between sharing a ‘human’ side and maintaining a professional front. This way you avoid becoming overly informal or alienating people by acting like their friends – we’re still in the business world no matter how social it’s become!

4. Share striking content and images

Ensure your content is relevant and resonates well with your target audience. Everything you share should help you to achieve your communications goals – whether it’s building thought leadership, highlighting the breadth of services you offer or simply reinforcing your expertise. Try to keep it 80% interesting content and 20% about you. No-one wants to hear a constant flow of sales speak, but if you integrate your promotions, successes and company news subtly within the flow of topical, striking articles, images and ideas, they won’t hold it against you. Social media is increasingly visually led these days, so take time to find images that help to enhance your story.

5. Develop a good social media policy

Your dedicated team should stick to approved topics, respect your chosen style and know how to respond in the event of disaster. Setting all these things in stone means developing a social media policy. It doesn’t need to be long and complicated, just a document that sets out what the rules are – keep it updated and make sure everyone knows where to find it. Knowing how to respond in a crisis may just save your bacon!

Good luck! Just give us a shout with any social media queries. We can give you some pointers, develop a social media strategy or enhance your SEO, whatever it takes to start a positive conversation with your audience.

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