Four Ways Businesses Can Optimize Social Media Usage

Social media is now as tied to our lives as our Social Security Number; it’s how we communicate with others and share information.  We now use it to apply for work, to conduct business transactions, and advertise our services to others.

Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re on at least one social network, probably LinkedIn and Facebook at a minimum.  While you’re on social media, are you using social media most effectively?  From a business standpoint, using social media effectively and professionally leads to trust in your brand and convincing the customer that they should be investing or spending money with you.

While every brand is different in how they communicate a message, share a photo, livestream an update, or who they retweet, there are some practices that every business should engage in.

Using hashtags to encourage coworkers to talk about their jobs.

Author disclosure:  This section is not meant to promote or endorse the hashtag mentioned below, but rather to articulate a feature on Twitter that can give the public a look into what happens at Kohl’s.  I have also worked in a number of Kohl’s locations and have bore witness to the conversations that have developed around the hashtag.

Look no further than Kohl’s’ hashtag #LifeAtKohls.  As you read this article, Kohl’s is featuring tweets from employees who share their experiences at work.  Whether it be a picture of a new floor display, a picture of an entire team, or a video of associates hard at work, Kohl’s encourages their employees to be expressing and share work-related content to Twitter.   During the Christmas season, especially when stores opened for 24 hours during Black Friday, many employees took to Twitter to talk about how many hours they’d been awake, or they took pictures of what their store looked like during the day.

Some merchandisers would take pictures of their newly-setup and presented displays as a way to compete with others in the same district.  I recall seeing a tweet from one store after a remodel of the shoe department.

When the public sees these jovially constructed tweets, it further motivates them to shop and interact with the employees within.  It wouldn’t surprise me if a customer saw that fabulous shoe department remodel and made a trip to that store to see what new shoes could be featured.

Be aware of what goes out from corporate social media

Career counselors drill this into the heads of job seekers as they embark into the professional world outside of college, but the same can be said for the social media team for any brand.  As much as the job seeker should regulate their social media usage to promote a positive identity to whoever might be looking, a brand should aspire to do the same considering social media is how job seekers learn about brands.

Remember that your social media channels are the official channels and are considered official communications.  Among the viewers of your communications are stakeholders, investors, suppliers, competitors, customers/clients, and potentially your own employees.  Brands spend a considerable amount of money, time, and effort to cultivate relationships with these people and the last thing they need is a bridge broken because someone decided to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.  On the same token, what the job seeker posts on social media is an official communication from them and while you might enjoy sharing vacation photos, various types of humor, or even politically-oriented posts, what you post gives you insight into who they are.

A brand’s director of communications and/or the public relations team should always have a plan in place for when social media updates run afoul of company policy and procedure, including who will assume the duties of social media updates in the event that someone has to be terminated.  Be clear on what information is for public consumption and advise your employees to be judicious on what is shared in a public forum as it doesn’t take long for a comment to be screenshot and for it to make the rounds.

Use all available asset types to enhance updates

When you’re launching a new product, are you live-streaming its inception with a knowledgable employee?

If a new facility is opening, is someone filming any speeches given, as well as taking pictures of the audience?  Moreover, since a new facility means a potential for new jobs, is HR pushing updates on LinkedIn for available job openings?

Has a hashtag been prepared for this event that attendees can use to spread the message further and wider?

When key employees are in pictures, is someone posting that image to social feeds and tagging where appropriate?

While it’s not an asset as much as it is a metric, who is monitoring analytics?  Which tweets are seeing the most interaction?  Which Facebook posts are engaged with the most?  Which accounts are your most frequent contributors and what are they saying?

Since social media is the predominate channel by which brands talk to their audience, it makes sense that a team should be covering as much territory as is feasible while keeping the audience in mind.  On the same heading, knowing where your audience frequents will determine everything.  A frequent example I use is “Should AARP broadcast updates on Myspace?” The question isn’t about Myspace’s appropriateness as a medium, but rather examining the likelihood of that generation having an account there.

When resolving a social media crisis, be calm and in control

It can be difficult to remain in control of things, or be calm when things are at their worst.  You don’t want the brand to suffer in terms of revenue or lose relationships with people who invest in you, purchase from your physical and virtual stores, or the vendors whose relationships enable you to expand your product offerings.

It’s important to remember two things when it comes to public relations with brands:

The crisis will always seem worse to the outside world than it is because of how social media and mainstream media will present the situation to the audience.

Being in control does not mean being unsympathetic or unwilling to go the extra mile to make amends.

Social media crises go through a cycle:  Initially, the angry mob will vent their frustration no matter how you respond or what you offer.  Your post or tweet will end up going viral and publications will take advantage of the hysteria for site traffic.  Naturally, when someone searches your brand, the first 2-3 pages will be the hysteria.  Your social media inboxes will fill up to the brim with angry messages.  You will want to have someone sift through the messages you receive to see if any match up to current employees in case action is to be taken.

Among things to share during a time of crisis:

  • The nature of the situation, to the extent that it can be publicly discussed.
  • What reasonable actions will be taken to rectify the situation.
  • Some show of sympathy to those affected.

When containing the situation, there are some key things to remember:

  • While you don’t want to delete or suppress negative commentary, slander and blatantly false statements should be moderated.
  • Don’t ostracize or denigrate any commentator regardless of what they say, but take notes as to who is commenting.
  • Be able to spot legitimate questions and concerns to address them directly, even if it means private messaging the person.
  • At no time should you block someone from commenting unless they are spamming a thread, or harassing people.

Finally, whether the crisis is happening at the physical location, or on the internet, business must continue to function as normal despite interference from unhappy customers or clients.

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