As a PR professional with some social media expertise, it’s clear to me that the rules of managing successful social media channels are constantly changing.
I cringe when I read articles about the ‘new digital age’ and ‘social media is becoming big’, truthfully it has been for some time. It’s not fake news, with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn growing every year, but it’s certainly nothing new.
Most clients are pretty switched on when it comes to social media, they know it’s basic purpose and are aware of it’s importance to their business. Organisations have become much more knowledgeable about ‘social media’ and tend to have a basic understanding of the key platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
In October 2017 figures showed that there were 65 million Facebook local business pages and in March 2017 12 million LinkedIn company pages.
Clients understand that the world is now online. A social media platform, along with a snazzy website, is perhaps the fastest way to reach a particular audience in the majority of cases – be that B2B or B2C.
It is the fastest way to tell everyone that your local pet shop isn’t going to be open on a certain day, to alert patients of a new health service, or give your trade customers a sneak peek of a new product.
As you can expect, now every business is on board with social media, the majority of platforms have become overcrowded.
The challenge we now face, is that so many organisations have bought in to social media as a ‘must have’ without first thinking to read the instructions.
Of course this is metaphorical, there is no set of instructions for using social media correctly, just a lot of people with ideas of things that work and things that don’t.
I do believe there is some best practice, which is dependent on a combination of platform, audience and industry – but this best practice is constantly evolving.
The trouble is, to adopt social media as a business is one thing, but you must be prepared to evolve.
Some people seem to believe that once you know the basics on content posting, you know it all. That’s really not the case.
Proactive following and engagement, influencers, targeted ads, competitions – these are just a handful of things off the top of my head. Also, the platforms aren’t the only things that are evolving, so are consumer needs and behaviours.
The truth is that the moment everybody starts using these tools, the less effective they become.
How do you know if you have ever reached the peak in terms of sharing the best content you could be posting?
A lot of businesses use social media as a tool to sell, sell, sell without any form of real interest in who their audience is and what they care about.
Twitter generously doubled their character limit for the businesses who wish to add more to their messaging, giving more room to add corporate sales jargon.
Organisations that will prosper are the ones that keep their messaging short and sweet, using the additional characters to engage with key partners.
It comes as no surprise that Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that Facebook was going to prioritise individual’s posts and put business posts lower in rankings. This could be caused by a genuine interest to keep Facebook to its roots, but more likely a prompt for business pages to pay for their audience through advertising.
The flip of the coin is smaller businesses that clearly understand that they need social media for awareness and to keep in line with competitors, but fail to stay professional in communication.
If positive news can spread fast amongst the local community, you can bet that a bad customer experience can spread like wildfire and destroy any sense of reputation if not managed properly.
Not enough business owners have the expertise to deal with negativity or the unexpected when it comes to social media.
As PR professionals we must address not just the positives with clients, but also the downside of being at the centre of public attention.
It is good to keep a handy list of quick responses for tricky questions, however not all can manage enquiries with the speed, consistency and elegance required.
The truth is, a lot of successful social media comes from understanding your industry, knowing what you want to achieve and allowing for trial and error.
Be prepared to research your competitors, think ahead about your content and don’t be afraid to get creative and try something new.
Just be warned, social media isn’t one size fits all.
You can be sold a masterclass, webinar, or 100 page book about best practice for social media, the likelihood is that it is out of date the moment it is published… just like this blog post.