You’re going to give this social media thing a solid chance. You’ve heard that social media delivers leads, connects you with customers and you’re confident that you can avoid falling victim to the many social media myths. All that’s left to do is create the accounts hop in.
Wait! Not so fast.
Before you enter in the world of social media, make sure you’re presenting your best possible face. Getting things in order before you take your first public steps will help customers trust your interactions and get things start on the right foot. You wouldn’t show up to your wedding without taking some time to primp, right?
Here are 9 things to do BEFORE you enter social media.
Create a rulebook: Before you step onto that field, memorize your plays. Study the channels you plan to use, listen to the conversation, understand the behavior and create your rulebook for how your company will engage. Identify how you’ll handle common support issues, the tone you’ll take, how you’ll address negativity, how fans will be rewarded, etc. Work up fake scenarios and create a plan for how you’ll deal with them. Look at issues competitors have had in social media and map out how you’ll do it better. The more you prepare, the better off you’ll be. Negative commenters are a lot less imitating when you have a plan for how you’ll convert them to your side.
Assign responsibility: Make it known who is going to be responsible for social media BEFORE everyone stands around looking at each other. Figure out things like:
- Who will be responsible for creating the content, pushing it, talking to people, responding to questions, etc?
- Who will implement any changes/issues discovered through social media?
- How much time should this be taking from everyone’s day and is the number you just came up with realistic or did you just make it up?
Unless social media is someone’s responsibility, it’s no one’s responsibility.
Increase your customer support: When you open the social media floodgates, you’re creating a new channel for people to come and get help for issues they’re experiencing. You may need to increase your staff in order to handle that. If you’re a small business, that may mean rearranging your customer support system or, if you’re a little larger, it may mean adding actual bodies. Either way, you’re now going to have a live stream of people coming to you with questions, concerns and things they need fixed. You can’t ignore them. Put systems in place to handle the increases customer service tickets.
Fix your issues: You live in your business. You know that sometimes your service is flaky. You know the number one problem with your product. You know your most common complaints. Do your best to get these under control, or at least on the mend, before you enter social media. People aren’t going to suddenly stop noticing that you could be better just because you’re talking to them. Maybe start your social media effort by TALKING about all the things you’re looking to fix.
Shift your culture: There’s more to being a social company than simply creating a Twitter account. There needs to be an internal culture shift based on creating transparency and authenticity in what you’re doing. You need to be social from inside your organization out and that that may change how you deal with customers, how you treat your employees, and how daily job functions are performed. Make sure you address this before you suddenly have a spotlight on you.
Create content around common complaints: While you’re busy fixing your issues, you also want to create content on your site dedicated to solving, resolving and addressing your most common complaints or anything that may haunt you. By putting the information out there yourself, you give yourself somewhere to link to when issues arise and you also increase the transparency of your company . If you know that sometimes you get negative mentions over a business decision you made, create a page on your site that explains it. The more you can invite people into your company, the better. Answer your customers concerns before they even have them.
Commit to responding: You’re entering social media with the best intentions. You want to engage, to connect and to create real relationships with your customers. And that lasts for about, oh, two minutes after you come across your first online complaint. Don’t run away! Commit yourself (and your company) to responding to complaints and staying in the game. These mentions are why you’re here and addressing them is how you can provide the biggest value to your company. Don’t get scared away now.
Be ready to act: So, when people come to you with complaints or things they need fixed – you actually have to act on them. You can’t serve them platitudes on Facebook and then go back to business as usual offline. If you’re entering social media and inviting people into your organization, make sure you’re doing them justice by not only listening to what they’re saying, but making good on it, as well. If not, you’re going to give yourself a bigger online reputation management problem than had you just stayed away.
Clue in employees: The strongest brand advocates you have are your employees. They’re the people who live your
business every day and the power they have to influence customers and deliver your message is often underestimated. Make sure you clue employees to your new social strategy and let them know their role and how they can help the company. They want to get involved. They want the company to be the best it can be. Give them the power and the knowledge to do that.
By taking care of the items listed above BEFORE you enter the world of social media, you help to set your company off on the right foot. Ignore them and you may as well show up to your wedding still in your pajamas.
Good tips Lisa. Social media can be a bit overwhelming at first with all the applications and opportunities it presents, so it’s definitely important to know what exactly you want social media to do for you, then organize it from there. I definitely agree that it’s crucial to respond and keep up conversation with your customers, too!
Sorry to sound incredulous Lisa, but this list would take so long for most businesses to accomplish that they would never get into social media (especially the culture piece you mention). Do you feel it would be possible to succeed in social media if only a small “skunk works” team could achieve these goals?
Great article. Whereas many entrepreneurs try intergrating social media into their models but fail to recognize that the culture inside has to shift as well in order to make social media work./
This is an excellent post not only for start-up businesses, but especially for small businesses with growing pains.
Everyone goes into business with the best intensions in mind. There isn’t a person with an ounce of integrity that opens a new business and feels that he or she will recklessly disappoint good customers or deny that there will be times when things get a bit out of control. They always seem to and often regardless of our best planning.
Years ago, when bad things happened to good customers the stakes were not as high for business operators. Business owners could easily isolate the issue to a customer or two and make things right before the dissatisfied customers took the logical next step in spreading the word. Back then, the next step was probably a call to the Better Business Bureau of Office of Community Affairs. While certainly not a desirable outcome, damage control was a little more effective back then because the complaint escalation process moved slower than it does in 2010. There was a cooling off period that took place leaving more time for negotiation and settlement off issues before the whole world new there was a problem.
Today, we have the Internet right in front of our noses and there are very many popular sites that accept complaint posts and that are widely read, locally. So, an angry customer has the ability to spread the negative word only moments after he or she feels they were inconvenienced or even cheated, in some way. Here’s the worst part. They can post during the initial temper tantrum; it’s quick, simple and deadly.
This is why a new business person should heed your advice and give as much thought as possible to worse case scenarios and how they should be handled.
Love this and wish I’d written it myself! I’m going to send it to my client who is entering his company into the social media realm more carefully than most – and would love this list of carefully considered steps. This may be overkill for a very small biz, but it’s right-on for a mid-size company that needs to coordinate a social media presence across its employee base and multiple departments.
Very well-articulated! You’ve made a great point that just having a presence on a social media network isn’t enough; profile-upkeep and engagement are absolutely necessary for making SM marketing work. I especially agree with points #2 and #7, Assign Responsibility and Commit to Responding.
It’s essential to have visibility among staff members who are playing a role in managing your business’ social media, such as being able to view scheduled tweets and specific campaigns on Twitter set up by their coworkers. In order to keep up your company’s commitment to responding, it’s important to maintain an easily accessible, efficient method for tracking mentions and DMs from followers and prospects on social networks like Twitter.
We, Optify, offer a Twitter for Business application, which helps businesses to schedule tweets ahead of time and assign them to specific campaigns, view progress reports and enables your entire staff to monitor and contribute to your SM efforts on the same page. Check it out here: http://www.optify.net/b2b-marketing/twitter-for-business
# “Shift your culture: There’s more to being a social company than simply creating a Twitter account.”
This is so true. Even if I tend to agree with Robert, that implementing the things from this list into the business may prove very time consuming, getting adequate to social media by adjusting the type of culture is indeed a good solution, rarely mentioned in the forums and blogs. It is well known today that, beyond basic information, people interact through culture. Adjusting the culture opens the gates to authentic communication.
Thanks for the list. I will go through it with some potential clients and partners.
Robert: Have you read Groundswell book? I have listed the P.O.S.T strategy on my site.
Social Media can be an effective tool to increase the company’s visibility and contractor leads. However, before directly jumping into the hype, business owners must carefully plan the information and company image that they would portray on the online community. Like most marketing strategies, preparation is the key in online ventures.
I think that corporate culture is definitly one of the strongest barrier when thinking about adoption of social media services for internal usage (employees). But there is another important reason. How to identify business goals and how to measure them? In my opinion you have to analize coroporate existing communication channels and than try to find best practise mappings with social media tools. Then you can identify real business goals that drives you towards success in adoption.
Great topics to consider. One point I would add for any business to consider is what the business purpose to be accomplished through social media. In working with clients to minimize social media risks and draft appropriate policies, I’m surprised how often this consideration is overlooked.
Great article for small business owners! Social networking also helps to introduce business practices, vendors, employees, and sales prospects etc., In addition we can get tips and advice, comments from other experts!
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Social media is like any other marketing tool; it requires a plan and confidence in the driver’s seat. Research, regular maintenance, and a strong sense of customer service are pivotal in achieving success.
Mistakes will always happen, no matter how perfect your marketing strategy is. It’s how you deal with them that matter most. Thanks for Sharing!!!