Putting together an effective social media strategy involves harnessing your enthusiasm about your brand and relaying that in an effective – and non-offensive – way to your customers, your prospects and the world.
That was one of the key takeaways from the session “What Every Executive Needs to Know about Social Media” at the recent ITEXPO Vegas. The session, moderated by Blair Pleasant (News - Alert) of COMMFusion LLC and UCStrategies.com, included the well-versed group of panelists Garrett Smith of Smith on VoIP, Jeremy Watkin of phone.com, and David Vaughan of TSG Global.
“Think about how you would interact with people at a cocktail party,” suggested Vaughan. “Would you stand on a table and yell ‘Me, me, me, me, me’? No.”
You probably shouldn’t behave that way on social media either, he said.
Companies on social media should always be business-appropriate but should not be afraid to take the conversation away from all business and open the conversation to discussions about life, family and personal interests, suggested Smith, adding that nobody wants to talk business all of the time. He calls this approach business casual.
Pleasant kicked off the session by offering some basics. She talked about there being two types of social networking – external/public, like Facebook, Google (News - Alert)+, LinkedIn and Twitter, and internal/enterprise, like Cisco WebEx Social, IBM connections, Jive and Yammer. She also asked and answered the question: What is social media? Her answer: content, like profiles, blogs, microblogs, wikis, forums, filesharing; connections, involving people and expertise finding; conversations, including activity streams and commenting; and capabilities.
There are lots of ways to address customers on social, she said. You can monitor their conversations about your company using tools from companies such as Buzzient and Radian6, and you can choose to respond or not. If you choose to respond, the best method is often to send a quick acknowledgement of the customer’s concern and then offer an answer to that individual’s request. It’s better yet if your company can engage the customer in the process of the social interaction.
To help individuals know how to best use and respond to social media, she suggested, create a social media policy and guide. Start by listening, she said, and then put together a plan for how to respond.
If you’re going to use social media as a channel to respond to customers, be sure to respond to them in a timely manner, the panel agreed; otherwise, it doesn’t make much sense to have a social customer service strategy or a Twitter (News - Alert) feed. Smith suggested it’s best for companies to respond to social media customer requests or comments within two to four hours. If you wait longer, he said, “you just give that person time to stew and boil.” Vaughan added: “Think about e-mail, would you let it sit a week?”
Another thing that’s important to remember is that these sites are public and everyone can see your comments, so you may want to take conversations offline in some cases, the panel suggested.
“Just remember that everyone’s watching,” said Smith. “If it’s a gray area, walk away.”
And don’t engage people who are just complaining for the sake of complaining, said Vaughan.
“Do not feed the trolls,” he added. “There are just people who hate life, and hate their life, and want to inflict their misery on anyone they can.”
Despite the negativity commonly associated with social media, it does offer a lot of great opportunities to learn from and connect with customers and with others at your organization. So, if you’re ready to jump into social media but aren’t quite sure how to start, just do it, said Smith.
He just did it by starting to blog and post on social media, and one day a guy in the industry noticed and invited him to a networking industry event at ITEXPO (News - Alert) with some industry big wigs. Smith said he led from the front in his organization, but it wasn’t about him, so he then set out to bring others from his organization into the social media loop. He did that by creating what he called the A-team, which included others at his organization with an interest in learning about how to use social media and then providing their particular expertise to the company’s social media initiatives. Others can do this kind of thing too, he said.
Social media seems daunting to some, but it’s happening, and you should get involved, he added.
“Don’t not participate,” said Smith. “Don’t be scared. Don’t be afraid. Get out of your comfort zone. Get out and try it out, it’s a lot of fun.”
Edited by Stefania Viscusi