Information about social media for businesses is everywhere.
The surplus of ideas, suggestions, tips, tricks, and insider information confuses more than clarifies. But we cannot thrive without social media. So what should a business do with social media in the last six months of 2013? What are the practical actions that are “must have” status, not the “nice to have” ideas from the bleachers?
Let me run down the five most important actions based on our research for a major publisher who asked this question, “What do we have to do this year?”
Facebook. Check your Facebook page.
If you have one, is the content current? If you don’t have one, create a Facebook account, a Facebook page, and assign either yourself or a single individual to manage the content posted to that page. At set up time, consult a guide like Facebook’s at http://facecrooks.com/Internet-Safety-Privacy/how-to-lockdown-your-facebook-account-for-maximum-privacy-and-security.html and follow the directions. Interestingly Facebook’s popularity among those over 40 is rising. The use of the system by those younger is decreasing.
Get a Google Plus account and create a basic persona page. Monitor the content on groups germane to your business. You can find a listing of Google Plus at http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/communities/. Our research indicates that Google Plus is growing in influence. Learn the hot buttons for Google Plus by exploring and observing. Jumping in without checking the temperature of the water in the pool can deliver quite a shock to a social media swimmer.
Create a company page and a persona page. The basic LinkedIn presence is free. Once you have posted basic information which LinkedIn will prompt you to provide each time you log in. Identify groups germane to your company’s interest. You can scan the list of groups at http://www.linkedin.com/directory/groups/. If you want to be noticed, you will need to post appropriate, factual comments to groups. Stick with facts and avoid blatant self promotion and marketing pitches. Take responsibility for these LinkedIn content pages or assign the task to a single person.
Twitter is an information culture. Accounts are free. Obvious functions like indexing tweets, figuring out how to track particular business topics, and crafting brief comments is tricky. You can send a tweet from almost any device connected to the network. Our research indicated that for a business, factual messages sidestepped some of the more inflammatory aspects of the service. Coordinating and managing company-centric tweets is a good idea.
Everyone wants to make a video. On the surface, a video is much easier to create than a business white paper or a content-rich essay for a Web log. Most videos on YouTube are not viewed. If you create a video, keep it short. Pay attention to quality. Once you have posted a video, you should have a marketing action in place to call your prospects’ and customers’ attention to the video. For some companies, a video can get a complex point across quickly. If you commit to a video, you will want to create a series of videos. One shots do not generate significant traction unless you are a master of viral marketing like Psy, the Gangnam style pop singer’s backers. Instead use multiple angles and cuts for a professional appearance.
Signing up and moving forward on these five touch point s is easy. There are some considerations which our research can maximize the payback from an organization’s social media activities in the last half of 2013.
What about launching a professional blog?
A casual blog is easy to roll out. Navigate to Tumblr, sign up, and go. An online publishing presence for business requires work, time, and money. A casual post or two every few weeks is unlikely to work unless the author is a high-profile figure. Our research suggests that blogs need to be planned and executed in a professional manner. Otherwise, don’t bother.
What about posting presentations on Slideshare?
Google once indexed PowerPoint presentations and PDF documents quickly and comprehensively. In the last year, the scope and timeliness of the indexing has, its seems to me, degraded. Slideshare is a LinkedIn service and allows registered users to posts PowerPoints. If you have a high-quality, content-rich presentation, post away. Keep in mind that findability of presentation content is a work in progress. You will have to hook the presentation into your marketing activities; for example, an email to key contacts, a reference and link on a Facebook page or a well-phrased comment and link on a LinkedIn page or in a LinkedIn group, tweets, and maybe a traditional news release will help get the talk noticed. A single presentation posted in the wilderness of Slideshare or a similar service is likely to be ignored.
What about posting pictures on Instagram, Pinterest, and other services? If you sell a product or can create an image that drives business to your door, think twice about firing off an image. Our research suggests that image services have a findability problem. You can post an image, but how does one find it. You will have to do the promotion and publicity yourself. Depending on your market, images might not cause your telephone to ring or your email to chime.
What’s the net net for the last six months of 2013?
Social media is not a solution to basic marketing challenges? Social media is not a single function like old-fashioned direct mail. If the message is off center and the quality below par, social media will at best yield zero results. Make an error and the Internet pit bulls will pounce.
Social media is not responsive to one-shot actions. Because “social” means “humans”, use of the identified channels requires sensitivity to the idiosyncrasies of each service and the users of that service. “One size fits all” is not found in the social media mall. To be effective, the basics of planning, execution, and follow up have to be figured out before pumping out content.
Social media is anchored in an individual who is providing information on behalf of him or herself, a persona, or an organization. Professional, responsible approaches to content, messaging, and interaction with others is essential. Those pit bulls rarely sleep.
Is there software which can make managing and producing social media content less of a hassle? Yes, but tools like Hootsuite at https://hootsuite.com/ do not do the planning, writing, and interacting for an organization. Like most high-value business marketing opportunities, resources and consistency are necessary.
Social media is a low cost, ubiquitous feature of today’s connected world. As one US military professional said, “Focus on the front windshield, not the rearview mirror.” Just drive carefully across the social media landscape for the balance of 2013.