The Must Have Social Media Strategies Series for 2014 – Part 1
Must-Have Social Media Strategy #1: Be Yourself
Do you know what makes or breaks a TV sitcom? It doesn’t matter if it takes place in a sunny LA loft or an apartment in NYC, if the story revolves around a coffee shop or a doctor’s office, if the two central members of the cast are married to each other or are set to fall in love through a series of almosts and plot twists. No, the biggest key to reaching sitcom gold? The quirkiness of the characters.
This piece of TV wisdom works to your advantage in real life. How? We’re glad you asked. Because we believe the difference between a good brand with a moderate number of followers and a premium brand with a tribe of raving fans, in this digital age, is personality. Take Marie Forleo for example. You could call her a business coach, a public figure, a bestselling author, a web TV hostess, or even a hip-hop dance instructor. Clearly, she is one multitalented lady, but would thousands of people from 191 countries around the globe subscribe to her weekly MarieTV webisodes and shell out nearly $2,000 for her scrumptious B School each year if she didn’t come at you with such…Marie-ness? She is hard to resist, with her readily available kookiness, her silly jokes, her occasional swear words, and her not-so-occasional dance numbers. Your shields are down because hers are. Simply put, she is who she is. And people love her for it.
Or consider the example of Maneesh Sethi, travel hacker and blogger, who used Craigslist to hire a girl to slap him across the face whenever he spent too much time on Facebook, which, if the video serves as any proof, he very frequently did. And guess how people reacted to Mr. Sethi and his slapper? They loved it. A lot. He earned spots on major TV news networks. What allowed for this kind of success? Maneesh. He had the sort of bold personality that made hiring a stranger to smack you almost seem normal.
When social media first started, there was a flicker of fear, “Oh, God, I have to curate my social media pages if I want to be taken seriously in my career. There must be a separate work me and a separate play me.” Convinced The Company was keeping watch on our Facebooks and Twitters (and often they were), we were living in an era of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hydes, every person with two distinct sides: one buttoned up and one with its hair down. Like an army, we were all waiting for our commander to yell “at ease” so we could finally post that vacation photo of us drinking a daiquiri on the beach—a daiquiri we paid for and are legally allowed to drink as an adult, but one that somehow brought us shame when our friend dared to take a picture of us drinking it, leading us to imagine the debate we would find ourselves having if the HR department ever got their hands on the evidence that, yes, we do in fact carry on as normal people when we’re not in our cubicles.
But somewhere along the way entrepreneurs and major brands started to shift the gears of these expectations on social media. They realized that it was precisely these things that we do in our personal life, these opinions that we have and jokes that we make and if P interest has anything to say about it, yes, even the daiquiris we drink, these things—these human things—that are much more endearing to customers (who are also humans, let us remind you) than any 140-word post about the thing you’re selling.
So be yourself on your social media pages. Embrace your you-ness. Remember that nobody does what you do in quite the way you do it, so be undeniably, apologetically you. People love personality. Let yours out to play.
Must-Have Social Media Strategy #2: Respond to Everyone
Even though there’s a screen between you and your customers, social media actually brings you closer to them than ever. Think of the more traditional forms of advertising: TV commercials, radio spots, print ads. With these mediums, you’re getting your message in front of the eyes of potentially millions of people. Good, right? Maybe. What’s even better? An actual relationship with them.
Traditional forms of media don’t allow for a customer to contact you directly. Sure, you probably list a website, where they can go and fill out a contact form. Or a phone number that they can call and set up an appointment to talk to someone. But how much different do these two things sound? In the first scenario, your customer sends a contact form, and a customer service representative answers them via email. “Okay, cool, I talked to a customer service representative today,” is what your customer would say, if they even think to mention it at all. In the second scenario, your customer tweets at a major brand, and the major brand answers him or her directly. Your customer gets to say, “Burger King tweeted me back today.” See the difference? In both scenarios, the customer is actually only speaking to one person who works for the company. In fact, in the second scenario, they are probably actually speaking to a bearded dude named Dan who works in Manhattan at the PR agency Burger King hired to run their social media, but you can be almost certain that the second scenario got Burger King a customer—or potentially a brand ambassador who bragged to their friends all about their social media interaction.
This is why we recommend responding to everyone. Yes, everyone. On Twitter, on Facebook, wherever you have fans and followers that take the time to write to you. We bet it won’t take as long as you think it will, and it has the potential to breed loyal followers in a way that traditional media just doesn’t. Everyone wants to feel heard, and you have the potential to make that happen. But if you are going to respond to everyone (and we sincerely hope you do), do your best not to make it sound automated. You want your customers to feel like they’re talking to an actual person, not a robot that runs your Twitter page. You don’t want it look like a series of “@someperson, Thanks, that’s great!” followed by “@someperson2, Thanks, awesome!” followed by “@someperson3, Thanks, that’s good!” See the problem? Make it personal. Acknowledge the person and why you’re answering them directly. This way they will know that you’re actually paying attention to what they have to say, not just trying to meet some best practice social media post quota.
Not only do your customers hope you’ll respond to them on Twitter; some of them are downright expecting it—especially if they’re complaining about something. In 2013 a British TV program called The One Show did an experiment to see how quickly companies would respond to criticism on Twitter. The winner? It took only 3 minutes to get a response, while the slowest response time was one hour and ten minutes (compared to 24 hours when a complaint was lodged via email). That’s powerful proof that companies are taking their social media very, very seriously.
You might even find your next employee by engaging with your community via social media. For example, National Public Radio regularly uses Twitter to recruit fresh talent that it thinks are in-line with the company’s visions and goals, utilizing a hashtag campaign with its current employees to give a personal representation of what it’s like to work in the company.
But Twitter is not the only game in town for responding to your followers, we’d like to point out. There are also plenty of opportunities to do this on Facebook, and 47% of people say that Facebook has the biggest impact on their purchasing. You may even wish to directly ask your Facebook fans for their opinions on things. Jeweler Tatty Devine used Facebook to solicit wishes from their customers, which they then posted on wish trees in their brick and mortar stores. Guess what? Facebook is their number one source for driving online traffic.
A way to connect to your customers, increase brand loyalty, solve customer complaints, find fresh new faces, and increase your sales? Why wouldn’t you respond to everyone?
Must-Have Social Media Strategy #3: Dial Down the Corporate Speak
Value proposition. Synergy. Mission statement. It’s the business jargon we’ve all come to know (but probably don’t love). This used to be the way we talked about our businesses, in conference rooms, on whiteboards and yes, even on our websites. Not anymore. Now, people want you to use real words when you’re talking about your business, words that convey meaning, not confuse it. They want to go to your website, your Facebook, your YouTube, your Twitter page, your anywhere page and be able to tell in an instant who you are and what you do. They don’t want to get lost in this business jargon of yesteryear. They don’t want to do guess work. They don’t want to have to interpret what you’re saying, or worse, ask you. Because if they have to ask you, they’re not going to. Instead, they will leave, and they will buy from the other guy. So don’t post your mission statement, your value proposition, your grand corporate vision, or your manifesto (unless it’s as clear and cheerful as Lululemon’s, in which case, by all means, post away—another way you can convey your kookiness. See Strategy 1. And as long as we’re talking about it, make it pretty. Pretty is shareable. Shareable is what you’re after.).
Your social media pages are not places to be stuffy. Consider the tone you would have in an interview versus the tone you would have in a conversation, and apply the second one to your social media. There, let the walls come down a bit, stretch and spread out, take off your shoes. If your virtual space is confined and uptight, your customers will feel restricted and on edge. If your virtual space is comfortable and inviting, though, your customers will feel both comforted and invited.
Do consider your branding when you’re updating your social media pages though. One of the best suggestions we’ve heard is to pinpoint the few keywords you want your customers to consider your company as being (inspirational? Cheeky? Intellectual?), and apply those words to every message you share. Is your post in-line with those keywords? Great. Share away. Does that post contradict one of them? Reconsider before posting.
Let’s use Sharpie as an example. Who comes to mind when you contemplate the ideal Sharpie customer? A business person, perhaps? Someone running meetings, maybe? But if you think that means that Sharpie is using their Instagram and Twitter pages to talk about using Sharpies in a business capacity, you’d be quite wrong. Instead, they’re posting photos of hand-drawn bowties and wild neon lip prints. They’re going bold. Vibrant. Much like the Sharpie itself. And we’d bet they’re getting a lot more retweets doing it this way than if they were posting stale statistics or boring business jargon.
Or Red Bull. Their Google+ page features videos of extreme athletes jumping and snowboarding and otherwise participating in fringe athletics, and it receives at least 50 comments per post.
Ultimately, when it comes to what you post, you want to be repeatable, because that’s where the social media power is—in being repeated. Is anyone going to repeat your mission statement? Would they even remember it after they read it? Heck, can you remember it (no peeking!)? If not, save it for the boardroom and for meetings with your venture capitalists. In your digital space, take a walk on the wild side. Meow.