By Elana Scherr
Senior Account Executive, Kahn Media Inc.
It’s 2011, you’ve got the Social media covered for your company, right? Between Twitter, Facebook and Videos and… what’s that? You’re confused and concerned that it’s all so complicated and possibly not really useful to your business after all?
Have no fear. We will break down the common myths and misconceptions about using social media for business, and we will do it all without confusing overcomplicated language and techno-babble.
Myth 1 – Social media is for kids, not business.
Social media is a broad term, but it covers most of the ways people share information over the internet. If you want people to talk about your company or product, you have to make it easy for them to do it online.
The various social media outlets, including YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Forums and Blogging, all make it possible for a business owner to answer tech questions, perform market research, promote sales or new products, support dealers and distributors and even become a daily part of their customer’s lives. The result is incredible ROI – for very little cost beyond time/labor, you can communicate directly with consumers, without a filter, and increase both the bottom line and long-term brand awareness.
Each aspect of social media has interesting features and all have their own benefits and pitfalls, which leads me to our second misconception.
Myth 2 – A business needs to be equally active in all forms of social media or it isn’t worth doing anything.
The great thing about the various social media outlets is that they can be coordinated into a single cohesive campaign – or you can treat each as a separate media channel. A new video can be shared on Facebook or a blog post promoted on Twitter, but that doesn’t mean that you must do everything at once. If you only have time for one forum, or you just want to tweet once a month about clearance items, then start there. It’s still an additional audience, and it’s still one more place for search engines to find your company or product. That’s the secret of social media marketing – they key isn’t communicating with the people who follow your channel, it’s caching all that content you create for people to read and absorb in the coming days, weeks and months as search engines index what you wrote and bring it up as a search result for people seeking answers and content.
Myth 3 – Participating in forums means posting constantly, many times each day. Who has time for that?
We could (and will) do a whole article devoted to the use of forums, but basically, sponsoring a few popular forums in your market gives you the ability to search and post answers to questions, as well as share blog posts or videos about your company. Posting frequency depends on your resources and interest, but the most important people who see your post are not the forum members; they are people stumbling into the forum thread via search engine.
Think about it; when you search for something new (say, you just got a new mobile phone and are curious about features) many of the results that come up will be forum posts where someone asked a similar question. You’ll scroll through the answers, and if there’s a satisfactory one, you’ll leave with the information you needed. Therefore, it is not the frequency of your company’s forum posts, but rather the completeness and quality which will endear you to members and searchers alike.
Myth 4 – My company offers high-end products to an exclusive audience. Won’t all this tweeting, blogging and facebooking take away from our mystique?
Here’s the thing about all use of social media, both for personal and business use: nobody is forcing you to post photos of messy workshops or proprietary schematics. You control the content and the message. Social media may be friendly, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be used in a classy manner, just as a cocktail party is different from a frat party.
If you want to maintain a high-end feel, keep your posts formal. Make sure grammar and punctuation are accurate. Post high resolution photographs from your catalogs, or link to well respected publications featuring your products.
Being accessible doesn’t make you common, and more importantly, if you aren’t on the web, your fans will make unofficial profiles to represent you and then you’ll have no control of your company image.
Myth 5 – We have a blog on our website. Why would we start a Facebook page to compete with our own site?
No matter how exciting your company website is, it probably isn’t the homepage for hundreds of thousands of people across the world. When you have a Facebook fan page devoted to your company, there’s a good chance that your post will be in their newsfeed at least once a week or more and you can use it to push traffic to your blog.
Now you might be saying, “Once a week? But I post more than that, people must see my posts every day!” and that brings us to a very common mistake regarding Facebook.
Myth 6 – If you post every day on Facebook, you’ll be annoying and people won’t like your company.
We’ve heard from many companies that are afraid of over-posting and becoming like “Farmville” or “Mafia Wars” (By the way, you can block those apps while still maintaining a relationship with the person who plays them, just hover the cursor on the right side of the post, hit the “x” when it appears and click “hide …Farm Wars…”. You’re welcome.)
At this point, most regular Facebook users have more friends and interests than will fit on their screen in a single visit, and Facebook sets the newsfeed to a default called “Top News” which is actually a sort of “favorites”, meaning it’s the people or companies most clicked by that user. If you aren’t in the Top news, the Facebook user won’t see your post that day unless he or she switches over to “Most Recent” and even then, your posts will move down the viewer’s wall during the day as new posts are made by their other contacts.
This is good, because it means you can post every day without alienating your fans, (although we don’t recommend more than once a day unless you are offering live updates from an event or contest). The quick turn over of posts also means you can repeat posts, or post similar information. It will be new to much of your audience!
While daily posts aren’t annoying, daily Facebook messages are. Since Facebook messages go straight to people’s email, sending sales notices or product updates as a message is basically spamming. That’s a quick way to get your page or profile blocked.
Myth 7 – We have to post about our products every day.
So now you’ve been won over to the idea of updating blogs, forums and Facebook pages often, but with what? Daily repetition of the product line is bound to get boring, both for the reader and the company making the posts. So what do you post about?
Use your social media outlets to post detail shots, behind the scenes tours, history, employee bios, helpful tech, entertaining events, relevant trivia, and vintage videos, or to ask questions for your market research. Find out what products your fans would like to see, or encourage them to ask tech questions or post their own stories and photos.
People love to feel like they have inside information, so if you post a quick bio of your lead technician or video of an R&D session, it gives your fans a real feeling of connecting with your company. As mentioned earlier, only post what you are comfortable sharing. Maybe that’s just macro shots of fasteners or details of the fine stitching on a product. If it is something that isn’t available anywhere else, your audience will view it as worthwhile content.
It’s important to post product links occasionally, but if you make gardening tools, your posts needn’t be solely sales links to hedge trimmers. You can post links to videos about flowering vines, or articles detailing the proper winter cutting of roses. As long as the links you post don’t mention your competitors, your readers will associate the helpful or interesting information with your company.
Myth 8 – Flickr is just for people sharing wedding photos.
Going back to the main reason for using social media (increased web presence), Flickr is one of the easiest ways to use social media. Simply upload the same images you use for web catalogs and label them with product info, keywords and weblinks and you have one more place which will show up for customers when they make searches. As an added bonus, bloggers searching for images to illustrate their own stories may grab yours from Flickr. Make sure they have watermarks!
Myth 9 – We don’t make enough videos to have a YouTube Channel.
YouTube allows you to make playlists and add videos posted by other users to your channel. If you notice your company or product in customer’s videos, add them to your channel and you’ll have one more place where customers can see you and reach your company on the web.
Along with adding customer videos to your playlists, make sure you tag your own videos as you upload them. Tags are the words at the bottom of photos, blog posts and videos and they are a useful way to help search functions find your posts and videos. On YouTube, tags are especially important as they greatly affect the frequency and position of your video in search results.
The best results come from including a detailed description of the video, and including tags that you see on videos with a similar theme. Don’t be afraid of tags like “awesome”. A huge amount of people spend their free time searching general terms like “awesome video” .
Myth 10 – Once it is set up, we can just leave our profiles and fan pages alone except for when we post links.
Nothing is sadder than a Facebook fan page full of spam or a Twitter mailbox with 600 unanswered direct messages. A social media site is very much like a real party. A good host interacts with all the guests, cleans up messes and sends rowdy guests outside.
The reason social media has the word “Social” in it is because it is based off interaction. It is important to make sure that whoever is monitoring your company’s online activities will be able to answer tech questions, reply to friend requests, link to dealers and diffuse tense situations or customer squabbles.
Don’t start up a giant social media campaign and attend it half-heartedly. It’s better to participate in only one outlet and do it well, than to set up profiles everywhere and leave them neglected like digital ghost towns.
There are many great tools available to help make managing your social media easier and more effective, and if you don’t have the time or personnel to run a full social media campaign, there are several good marketing and PR firms with Social media experts who are happy to discuss and maintain your company’s social media presence.
Hopefully this has inspired you to log on and get to know your customers and fans. Social media is like a free ad in a magazine, or a booth in a world-wide trade show. It takes a little effort, coordination and manpower to get things rolling and keep it staffed and active, but it’s good for your company.