While designated positions such as “Community Manager” or “Social Media Coordinator” do exist and have become important roles in many companies, it can sometimes seem like all of today’s professionals are expected to be social media experts, able to take over management of a company’s social media profile at any time if needed.
For those in need of some light in the darkness, I’ve created a short introduction to using social media. Consider this your very own social media management crash course if you wish. By the time you are finished, you will understand the important basics of how to analyze, contribute to, and manage social media!
Why Social Media Matters
Social media has fundamentally changed the way companies communicate with their customers. What used to be a one-way dialogue has become a two-way conversation, a great channel that allows a company to receive both positive and negative feedback they can use to improve their products and services.
Back in the day, companies used to reach customers via different media formats: newspaper, radio, TV, and billboards. All of these remain popular advertising channels; however, none make it possible to track their ROI. How many customers ended up buying a product because of a specific marketing campaign? How many buyers first learned about a product on the radio? How many of them saw a specific newspaper ad? It’s a guessing game at best.
When the Internet came around, and results were measurable by tracking website visits and click-through rates, metrics started to become more accurate. But there was still no way to communicate with the customer — it was all about getting them to your website and hoping they would find what they were looking for. The reason why a visitor left a website after only four seconds could only be speculated.
With the advent of social media, marketing now has a totally different reach and return. Social media allows for a true connection between the company and the customer, where both can communicate with one another. It is one of the best examples for a true win-win situation: the customer can raise his opinion and get a response, while the company gets to dive deep into customer care and assess their overall performance.
Being Remarkable Is Key
The best part is that social media allows a company to receive feedback on any campaign, even those not run online. If a marketing or advertising campaign is remarkable in any way (good or bad), the company will hear about it, as the average customer today is very likely to share his or her experiences or opinions with their trusted circle on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.
Before getting into any analysis, it is important to differentiate between quantity and quality. Not every customer of yours is the ideal customer, and not every customer statement has the same value. Before you assess your brand image and reputation, you must narrow down your target audience. Who are your customers? Which social networks do they use?
Once defined, you can better target your ideal customer and know where to find their important thoughts and comments about your business.
How to Discover What People Are Saying About You
Once you determine your target audience, you are ready to find, track, and analyze that audience’s statements on social media. This is such valuable information that it still surprises me when I encounter a company that ignores this data.
Hashtags are invaluable for finding content on social media channels. Twitter first popularized the use of the hashtag, and this method of tracking has become so popular that it was taken up by most other social networks; nowadays Instagram, Vine, and Facebook are unimaginable without the hashtag. A hashtag is a way of making content discoverable simply by setting a # sign in front of a short phrase, tagline, or single word. If, for example, you are looking to find posts about Nike, you should start by seeking out hashtags such as #nike and #justdoit, but you can also consider more generic ones such as #sports, #fitness, #hitthegym, and so on.
By finding and analyzing these posts, a company can learn a lot about the general mood around the brand and use the same tool to create positive traction.
Some ways hashtags can be useful:
- Brand value. Follow and monitor #yourcompany on the social media channels you manage.
- Campaign performance. Add a specific hashtag to your marketing campaign to help you track its reach.
- Important events. Follow event-specific hashtags when attending conferences or conventions to follow all pertinent coverage in real time.
- Competitors. Follow competitor hashtags to analyze market share and performance.
- Trend setters. Use hashtags to find those people who can influence their followers and help you strengthen your image and reach.
After you conduct some research, you should have a better overview of your company’s reputation in the marketplace. Whether you are generally managing your social media presence or planning to run a specific marketing campaign, here is what you must do next:
Choose Only the Social Media Channels That Fit Your Company
Less is more. When you manage social media, do not assume that you have to keep every social network on the planet updated about your company. Instead, find those networks that can provide most value to your company.
As social media has exploded, many different social networks have been created, and each serves a unique audience. Effective social media management means knowing where your target group is to be found, knowing what they want to see, and knowing how to engage them. Don’t assume everyone out there is interested in your product or service. Find your niche and focus your energy on the audience or audiences that makes the most sense for your business.
What to Post on Social Media
Here I’d like to share another very important principle with you: Do not handle your professional social media accounts the same way you do your personal ones. Rather than posting things that YOU care about, you need to rethink your messaging and share things that the USER will care about. Find content that is meaningful to your target audience — be it funny, informative, cutesy, technical, what have you. See yourself as a source of important or appealing information for users, a place for them to find things to like, to comment on, and — best of all — to share with others in their own networks.
Getting the tone and format of your posts right can take some time as you must feel your way into your user’s mind. Once you start to understand what approach (including frequency!) is working best, you can tailor your updates to that ideal audience and you will soon see great results.
Add a Hashtag to Your Social Activity
More about how to put hashtags to work for you. Hashtags can either be created by average users or by companies themselves to support their specific campaigns. Some people have created hashtags and set new trends by accident. But companies with a large following should develop their own specific hashtags as a way to create traction around their brand.
Managing a hashtag is not just about putting it out there and adding it to all your future posts. Think of it the other way — search for it and see who is using it (back to analytics!) and do not hesitate to engage in a thread created by someone else. You will be surprised how grateful the average customer will be when their post is liked and commented on by the company they mention. Or how impressed they will be by a prompt and helpful response from your customer service department to their posted complaint. These are the kinds of things that get people talking about your company online, and that can result in great PR for you if handled properly.
Useful Tools for Social Media Management
Doing everything manually and switching between websites and apps can be time consuming and confusing. Here are some useful web tools to help you manage your different social media accounts:
Hootsuite is a great tool to monitor pretty much all your social media accounts on one dashboard. You’ll be able to watch all the developments from one place and follow up easily wherever needed.
Buffer is a great addition to any social media campaign! Not only does it link all the accounts you wish to manage, but it has one special feature I love: You can add as many future posts to your queue as you like and Buffer will post them to your networks at the optimum time.
IFTTT is your new automation hero. It allows you to automate social media queries and tasks you’d normally have to do manually, using a basic “IF This Then That” formula (where the company takes it name from). So, for example, you can tell it “IF someone mentions my company on Facebook, THEN send me an email.” Tell IFTTT what you need done, and it is set until you say no more.
Do you have other social media tools that you have found useful? I’d love to hear about what they are and how you’re using them. Please share with us in the comments!