Is social media bad for business?
What’s your social network of choice?
To state the obvious: social media is huge. It’s estimated that by 2020, 2.95 billion people will use at least one social networking site – that’s a third of the world’s population.
Of course, wherever customers go, businesses are quick to follow. From Twitter to Facebook, Pinterest to Instagram, Google+ to Snapchat, there are so many ways to reach out and spread your message to your target audience.
Not having a presence on this worldwide platform could be detrimental to your business. You risk losing current and potential customers, undermining a brand you have spent a long time building, fading into irrelevance, and languishing behind the competition.
To us, a strong social media presence is a no-brainer for businesses that want to keep up with their competitors – and their customers. However, we’ve also heard from companies concerned that social media might be bad for business.
Could that ever be true? And where do these fears come from? Let’s take a look…
A voice, an opinion, a tweet
We all have one – an opinion, that is. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we like to share it. Social media is brilliant for allowing businesses to share their opinions with their customers.
However, we know this can seem like an overwhelmingly scary task for some businesses. It’s important to find the right tone of voice, and getting it wrong can be somewhat serious. Come across too formal and staged, and you will have followers falling asleep. Butcher your grammar and try too hard to be entertaining, and you will see the eye rolls for miles.
However, if you always remember your target audience and strike a balance between entertainment and being informative, social media success could be yours.
Remember that your “voice” is going to need to reflect the platform you are using. Putting the same old, boring content everywhere can hamper your marketing efforts.
Every Facebook post or tweet is a chance to tell your story. Tell it the right way and you will engage potential customers far and wide.
It’s good… except when it isn’t
While we’re big advocates for the professional use of social media, we do acknowledge that handling it poorly can do some serious damage to your brand.
Even if you never log on, damage can still be done to your brand by customers using social media to complain. It can be difficult to hear – no likes being the wrong end of a complaint – but shying away from it won’t help.
What they say can be damaging but not responding can be even more damaging.
Obviously, you want to avoid getting into a public online war. Instead, look at it as a way to help you understand where your business fell short and clear up any misunderstandings.
Also, watch out for misusing hashtags. Hijacking trending hashtags and trying to make them fit your brand is a terrible idea if it’s just not appropriate. Just look at the example of US pizza brand who did not check the context of the domestic abuse #WhyIStayed hashtag before posting a flippant remark – landing the company in some hot water
This has happened the other way round too. When McDonald’s launched the rather vague hashtag #McDStories, people took to Twitter in droves to trash the company. It is safe to say the promotion backfired!
This may sound a little scary, but a little careful planning can make sure social media remains a positive tool for your business.
Plan and analyse
The core of every business activity is to plan and analyse, and social media is no different. Creating a content plan is essential to make sure you are managing every platform correctly, and stop you become stale.
Remember to measure what matters for your business, not just likes or followers. Monitor engagement and learn from what has worked, as well as what hasn’t. Identify KPIs that are specific to you and check in regularly.
Of note, remember to be flexible too! Things happen in the world and you need to respond to them – and adapt your content accordingly. Sometimes timing is everything.
Proper planning also minimises the risk of a damaging social media cockup. According to research from Cisco, just one in seven businesses has a process in place for customer-facing social networking, including social media. That’s a scary stat!
Call in the professionals
As the saying goes, the best things in life are free. However, social media isn’t one of them. Yes, they are free to set up, but many companies don’t take into account the cost of the time it takes to run them.
One of the biggest underestimations made by many is the time it takes to run. A lack of change and variety of content will have customers turning away in droves. Even worse is leaving a social media channel to fester.
Instead of doing one or two channels brilliantly, many businesses make the mistake of trying to have their fingers in too many pies. Even worse, they put a valuable marketing asset in the hands of the unqualified.
While a 15-year old intern gave Southern Rail the best media attention it had received in months, there are more stories about interns making serious mistakes and destroying a brand by just one tweet.
If you want things done the right way, you need to call in the professionals. Social media is an investment. As with most things in life, you get out what you put in.
Businesses can count their followers, celebrate their likes, and high-five their retweets, but don’t keep up to date, and offer engaging content, and those same businesses will lose the impact.
The moral of the story
Social media isn’t bad for business. Bad social media management is.
To get started, check out our top five social media tips for supporting tech PR.
Still not sure where to start? Give us a call – we’d be happy to chat!