Do you really know why your business is using social media?

Social_Media_MarketingThe more meetings I have with small businesses, I am realising that social media is puzzling to a lot of people. Most people know they need to use social media, but do not have the time, knowledge or ability to use it effectively. Most businesses also still think it is too risky to use and don’t really want to open up to public comment or don’t see that people would be interested in their social media presence. I recently spoke at a conference, where an audience member stated that ‘our company is going to have a Facebook page, but we are not going to allow comments or other people to post on our page”. Although that makes it a website rather than a social media channel, they are not alone in that thinking. Who else is worried about using social media for their business?

Social media has been around for a while now and the majority of people are now on at least one social media channel – if not more. There are 13 million Australians on Facebook alone. However, businesses in Australia are laggards in social media usage with less than half of Australia’s businesses integrated users of social media. The Yellow Social Media Report. What Australia people and business are doing with social media. (May 2014) reported that “only 36% of small businesses and 48% of medium-sized businesses have a social media presence.’ Considering that social media provides direct access to your consumer, businesses are still reluctant to enter in social media or treat it differently from their other communication activities.

In today’s society, consumers especially Gen Yers want to engage with brands and organisations – yes have two-way communication. Purchase decision making has changed, consumers now use the internet and social media to discover products, find out more information and also seek advice from friends, peers or ‘experts’ before they purchase a product. Belief and trust of advertising has reduced, and with the development of the internet and virtual communities, information is at the consumers’ fingertips. What they want from businesses is credible information and communities of like-minded individuals.

Businesses need to have a social media presence, but they need to know why they are going into this space so they can truly engage.  In other words, they need to tie the social media tactics with their overarching marketing strategies so they can achieve their business’ vision. The age-old saying of ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’ is certainly true in the social media space. Social media is just another communication or media channel. Like all communication channels, there needs to be synergy with all messages and all channels need to be integrated and match the business’ planned strategic objectives and vision. To be truly successful in this space, businesses need to stop thinking that it’s too risky to enter the space or that they just need to be in the social media space or even just have a Facebook page that pushes out promotions. Consumers will just ignore them and their messages will certainly not get through the clutter and be heard by their target market. Whether we like it or not, communication now for businesses is all about engagement and community building.

Businesses need to know why they are going into this space so they can truly engage – to just have a presence is not reason enough. There is a need to find the time and staff to maintain and monitor the digital space and maybe even have a Digital Community Manager to look after this important communication channel.  This person can either be internal or through an external agency, depending on the businesses’ resources. Businesses could work with a social media advisor or consultant to get clarity with their social media, as well as advice.

In the meantime, all businesses, whether small, medium or large need to have a workable plan. Here are the key social media questions that all businesses should know:

  1. What are your objectives – business and social media?
  2. Who is your target market/audience?
  3. What social media channels does your target market/audience use?
  4. What tone or voice do you want to use in each social media channel?
  5. How often will you post?
  6. Who creates the content to post and who posts that content?
  7. How will you handle different types of social posts regarding your brand – whether they’re positive or negative?
  8. Who and how will monitor your social media?

Answer those questions and you have the start of your social media plan. Make sure it ties in with your other communication strategies and tactics and your business will have a great chance of achieving in this space.

An example of a company that did not have a plan with their social media was Qantas when they tweeted about luxury, using #qantasluxury straight after the grounding of their entire fleet. The message was wrong, especially given the timing, and was inconsistent with what the organisation was about or what they needed to be doing in the public relations space. Social media should not be treated separately to their marketing strategies and if done so, like Qantas did, then your social media will fail.

So don’t set yourself up to fail. Start planning your social media and think of ways you can engage with your target audience, not just promote your products – goods or services. Every business is on social media to engage with their consumer, not always one on one but communication can be customised. It’s all about engagement.

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