Just as social networking has the awesome ability to increase awareness for your products, it can also multiply your missteps in the same way. Your business must be thoughtful, careful and deliberate in its use of social media if you want to avoid mistakes and manage your brand and reputation well.
Following these guidelines will help your business establish brand awareness and maintain a good reputation while using social networking:
1. Post new messages from a business account
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but a separate account for your business will allow you to be more professional with your potential customers. Use your personal account to be yourself with your friends.
2. If you want to sell products and services to people regardless of their political views, don’t express yours
Especially these days, politics is a volatile subject. You can alienate a lot of customers no matter which side you are on. If you want to campaign for someone, see tip #1. A lawyer friend once told me he belonged to the “party of me.” He wasn’t going to do anything to upset half of his current or potential clients.
3. Do not be crude or rude
This should be obvious, but for some reason when people get on Twitter, they seem to forget that tweets are public. Even when you post to Facebook “friends” only, what is to keep them from sharing your post with their friends or to “public?” Be polite and considerate of others. Be welcoming like you would with a customer that just walked into your business.
Be very careful with attempts at humor. What is funny to your friends could be offensive to others. Keep in mind, words in a post or tweet cannot convey inflection, body language or facial expressions. Yes, I know there are emoticons for almost everything now. But they cannot cover over rudeness and they may be taken as sarcastic.
Your reputation is in the hands of others. You can’t control that. The only thing you can control is your character.
— Wayne Dyer
4. Do not post on Facebook or Twitter too many times a day
You can post to Twitter a little more often than Facebook but, be considerate of others’ streams or your posts will only be annoying. Not to mention, the more posts there are, the less impact each will have individually. Brand awareness is important, but don’t just flash “Eat at Joe’s” in red neon all day. Shares and “likes” boost your posts views. So make every post and tweet helpful or informative.
5. If you don’t have a blog, start one
A blog post’s longer form will help you better define the value of your products or services. Blog content that is useful to your current or prospective customers can help establish you as an authority in your area of business. A specific “call to action” at the end of 700 words that provide useful information won’t seem pushy at all. This is “content marketing.”
Your blog should serve as your social media hub. Post and tweet links to your blog posts, but be careful and don’t make all your posts about your business. Your followers will appreciate helpful content from a variety of sources and will more likely see you as genuine in attempting to be helpful if all your posts are not all about you.
6. Keep posts professional and on subject
You build a following because your followers are interested in your area of expertise. Give them what they expect instead of posting about too many different subjects and they will keep following. Don’t throw too many curve balls and risk losing them.
7. Do use multiple channels of social networking
You should at least use both Facebook and Twitter. A large portion of your reach on each will be to different audiences. Don’t spread yourself too thin by trying to learn too many social media channels at once. Don’t just post the same things to every channel. Get to know your audiences and learn some of the nuances of one before you tackle the next.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and blogging each has unique individual strengths, but when used together in a well planned social media marketing campaign, they can be a powerful advertising strategy. Be careful and don’t cross business and personal lines between channels. Start and maintain each channel professionally. If your professionalism slips on any of them, it may be noticed by your customers that use the others.
8. Study how other successful businesses use social media
If a business’s social media efforts are effective, they are probably using a few different channels in a well-orchestrated strategy. You don’t want to mimic your direct competitors, but don’t be afraid to steal ideas from other similar companies.
This is where you can use your personal social media accounts for business reasons. Follow your local competitors and similar businesses from other towns, trade groups, and other local businesses. If you would like to retweet something you think would be interesting or helpful to your customers, follow them from your business account too and retweet or share from there.
9. Engage your customers
Be sure to answer questions and respond to comments. Be social! After all, that is what your customers expect on a social website. Many business experts believe the opportunity to engage with customers is the real power of social media.
Responding to negative comments is challenging, but you cannot ignore them! Try to figure out how to turn them into opportunities. An apology and a gift certificate have turned many angry customers into loyal ones. Follow competitors to see how they handle negative comments. You may even turn an unsatisfied customer of theirs into your happy customer!
Above all, be professional. Thoughtfully executed social media campaigns can provide leads, help you serve your customers, increase your brand awareness and goodwill in your community.
We would love to hear from you! Tell us about your good experiences with social media or tell us how you have handled bad ones. Join the discussion and leave a comment below.