We wrote The Little Book of Social Media to give business owners and marketers real, easy-to-follow tips that will help them provide a great social media experience for their customers. When we were putting together the data for the book, it was disturbing to see in aggregate how many times social media is seriously misused by companies large and small. It seems like every day another company is in the news for a social media-related PR nightmare.
Last week, it was Home Depot and Kellogg’s, two big brands who certainly have the resources to support plenty of great social media content. (It just goes to show you that money does not equal quality.)
In Home Depot’s case, someone (they cited an “agency and Home Depot individual”) tweeted a racist tweet. It was subsequently removed and the agency and employee were both fired, but not before earning Home Depot a lot of unwanted publicity.
In the case of Kellogg’s, the UK branch of the breakfast food company tweeted “1 RT=1 breakfast for a vulnerable child”—an offensive retweet request that seemed to use hungry children as a marketing promotion. The company later clarified that they fund school breakfast programs.
There are so many easy ways to prevent this type of mistake and avoid the possibility of alienating the people who follow you. Don’t let it happen to your company! Check out my previous post, 10 Ways to Protect Your Reputation on Social Media. Read The Little Book of Social Media (available on Kindle too) for 60+ social media tips, including many pointers on how to manage your company’s reputation and what to do–and not do–when interacting with customers on social media.
This post features more excerpts from our ebook The Little Book of Social Media: 60 Ways to Create a Great Customer Experience. The Amazon version is on sale this week! You can also download the PDF from our site.
Having great content is promote is only half the battle. How and when you deliver that content is just as critical. But how do you know the best times to post, tweet, or pin? It depends on the audience and the platform you’re using.
If your goal is to get the most customer engagement (measured by views, likes, shares, etc.), here are the ideal times (based on studies from Argyle Social, KISSMetrics, TrackMaven, and HubSpot) for some of the most prominent platforms:
Remember to also utilize each social site’s metrics to further refine the best times for you to promote content. For example, on YouTube, you can look at your views by day and determine what your specific audience’s viewing patterns are.
Remember time zones
If your company is based in the Mountain or West time zone, remember that 80% of the U.S. population lives in the East and Central time zones. Adjust the timing of your posts accordingly, whether your customers are mostly US-based or global. If you have a dedicated cadre of European, Australian, or Asian customers, make sure some of your content is arriving during their respective peak viewing times as well.
Schedule content according to your audience’s priorities
Too often, businesses schedule and release their content based solely on their own priorities–quarter-end revenue goals, capital campaigns, or product launches, for example. Obviously you must do that sometimes to achieve your business goals, but you will be most successful if you think about how you can maximize your timing to best help your customers. For example, if you’re a tax advisor, plan to provide additional content from January through April, when people are more focused on taxes. If you run a blog devoted to fans of a TV show, you post content right before, during, and/or after each new episode airs (or live blog the entire episode). Use your customers’ priorities as a guide to help you provide the content when they are most likely to benefit from it.
Once you’ve set your goals, it’s time to figure out what content you will promote on social media to support those goals. Brainstorm topics, themes, and formats. What will you talk about? Will you produce news, interviews, or customer stories? How about ebooks, contests, or polls? What existing content can you leverage in new ways through social media? For example, do you currently have an email newsletter that contains useful tips or short articles you could also promote on your Facebook page or Twitter feed? Think about categories and keywords that describe the content you’ll create to help you envision what that content could be. The goal is to plan enough great content to fill up a 3- to 6-month social media calendar. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Regardless of the subject matter, your content must provide value. Don’t constantly pitch your products or talk about how great your company is. Instead, create content that adds value to your customers’ lives by giving them information that’s useful and interesting to them. If you can do that, you’ll be on your way to creating a great customer experience.
Get 59 more social media tips: Download The Little Book of Social Media now!
Content isn’t just your website – it’s every form of communication your organization already produces, whether it is email marketing campaigns, print materials, billboards, TV ads, etc. And, of course, it’s your social media assets. Many businesses launch social media accounts without aligning them to their existing content, which can create an inconsistent brand that confuses customers. A great social media strategy is part of an organization’s larger content strategy.
What is content strategy?
Content strategy has been defined in many different ways. Probably the most well-known definition comes from the influential Kristina Halvorson, founder of content strategy events company Confab and co-author (with Melissa Rach) of Content Strategy for the Web. In that seminal work, Halvorson wrote: “Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.”
In other words, content strategy is not just a phase of a website project, or merely the creation and editorial curation of articles, emails, or web pages. Content strategy intersects with and helps to drive many different practices, from information architecture to user experience design to editorial strategy and more–because all of these practices are critical to the production and delivery of information your customers want.
Why is content strategy important?
Brand strength: Good content supports, enhances, and reflects well upon your company’s brand. Bad content damages your reputation and erodes customer trust.
Consumer loyalty: If consumers know you will give them great content–the information they need delivered in an easy-to-use and attractively designed way–they will come back.
Return on investment (ROI): Good content helps the bottom line. It increases. It helps attract and retain customers.
Creating a content strategy usually involves 4 steps:
What does it all mean for social media?
The content you create for and/or promote through social media–from the photos you post on Facebook to the profile you write for your company’s page on LinkedIn–needs to be aligned with your overall content strategy. Before you schedule, pay for, write, or produce content for social media, ask yourself: Does this fit well with the other content we have out there? Is the tone consistent, and is the information useful or entertaining to the customer? What other great content can I create for my customers?
Asking questions like this can help you make sure that your company’s social media will provide a great experience for your customers.
Learn more: Download our ebook now!
The following is another excerpt from our ebook The Little Book of Social Media: 60 Ways to Create a Great Customer Experience. Get the Kindle version now or download the pdf.
Once you’ve decided that you want to use social media to connect with your existing customers, find new customers, and further your brand, you need to focus on strategy. Too many business owners and marketing managers jump on social media with no plan, no goals, and no content pipeline. They just want to do it because, well, everyone else is doing it! The social media landscape is littered with abandoned and poorly maintained accounts that are the victims of a lack of strategy. To prevent your company from being the next social media victim, review three critical components of your business:
Align with your business strategy
Now that you’re armed with more information about what your customers want from social media and what your competitors and industry leaders are doing in the space, focus on your business strategy. How do you want your company to be perceived? What are your short- and long-term business objectives? What can you provide through social media that will support these objectives? What benefits (customer service, thought leadership content, etc.) can you provide to customers through social media as you work towards these objectives? Think about some concrete measurements (increased sales, a certain number of new customers, etc.) that will help you determine what success looks like.
We recommend you focus on the top three business goals that social media can help you achieve. If you are that local retailer from our previous example, your top three goals might be to double your sales, expand your product line, and open a second store. Your social media activities should support all three of these objectives. We’ve created a social media strategy template (available on our website) to help you get started.
Coming up in our next post: Content strategy! And why you need to care about it as you plan your social media presence.
The following is an excerpt from our ebook The Little Book of Social Media: 60 Ways to Create a Great Customer Experience. Get the Kindle version now or download the pdf.
1. Do your homework.
Before you jump into social media, there are a few questions you should consider to make sure it’s appropriate for your organization:
If you don’t have the time and resources to do social media right, don’t do it! It’s better to stay away than to risk damaging your company’s reputation. But if you think social media might be right for you, the next thing to consider is strategy.
We’ll talk more about social media strategy in our next post.
Every day, more small businesses and non-profits are realizing the benefits of social media. Social media provides an amazing opportunity to build brand and product awareness, attract new customers, and increase sales — and it does all of these things at a substantially lower cost than traditional marketing.
But before you dive in, you need to know the ground rules so you can protect your brand and your customer relationships. This ebook outlines those ground rules in an easy-to-understand, accessible way, with 60 quick tips that you can use immediately.
You’ll find tips on how to:
To help you start using these tips right away, we’ve also included two downloadable templates that you can customize — a social media strategy and a social media calendar.
Get The Little Book of Social Media now (downloadable pdf).
You can also buy it on Amazon.
Coming soon to the iBookstore!
Here’s another excerpt from our upcoming eBook, The Little Book of Social Media, coming out at the end of the month.
Misusing social media can severely damage your brand. You must be vigilant. Here are 10 ways you can protect your brand and safeguard your reputation.
1. Respond quickly.
Be on constant watch for questions directed at your Twitter user handle or posted to your Facebook wall. Respond to each one. It’s not just about the people you are interacting with; it’s also about all the other people who are watching how you interact. Use tools like HootSuite or HubSpot’s Social Inbox to help you monitor your social media feeds and make sure you are not missing any mentions or comments. You can also create Twitter lists of your customers and search them for words like “help” and “support.”
2. Don’t ignore negative feedback or complaints about bad service.
You are always better off responding quickly to a bad review or a complaint. If you don’t, others will fill the gap – and their messaging won’t be positive. You should respond even before you have an answer, just to let your customers (and the people who are watching your exchange) know that you’re listening and will work to address the problem. As soon as you’ve acknowledged the concern, take the issue out of the public eye by contacting the customer directly. If the customer is a lost cause, at least you will show that you tried to right a wrong, regardless of what the consumer decides to do.
3. Admit mistakes immediately, but don’t delete them.
This seems obvious, but many companies take far too long to apologize for their mistakes when they post something inappropriate. Every minute that goes by increases the possibility of bad PR. If your company made a mistake or showed poor judgment, do not delete the mistake (people will circulate screenshots of the deleted content, so your deletion will seem sneaky or even cowardly). Instead, immediately acknowledge that you messed up, and promise to do better. Take responsibility for your content and what you put out there.
4. Hire and train professional, quick-thinking people.
This may seem like another obvious tip, but you’d be surprised how often a company hires someone to manage their social media based solely on the criteria that the person knows how to use social media. While it’s helpful to already know all the tools and to be immersed in online culture, it is even more important to have the right skills to effectively engage with customers. Not every intern is cut out for social media management! Your social media manager is one of your company’s most public voices, so he or she needs to be professional and cool under fire. They also should have a sense of humor and the ability to deal with customers without acting defensive or passive aggressive.
5. Don’t talk to trolls.
Trolls are people who purposefully post inflammatory and often extreme comments in an effort to get others riled up. Attention is what they want, so don’t provide it. Don’t defend yourself from them and don’t engage in snarky comments about them. Simply enforce your community guidelines and delete any comments that don’t meet those guidelines.
6. Think twice before you sponsor or leverage a hashtag.
Twitter monetizes its service in part by offering companies the opportunity to sponsor hashtags or tweets. Make sure the hashtag you are sponsoring is not too vague or does not have a double meaning; in either case, trolls will jump on the opportunity to turn it into a bashtag (remember the #McDStories debacle?). Similarly, make sure you know why a hashtag is trending before you jump on it as an opportunity to promote your company or product — I bet CelebBoutique wishes they had done that.
7. Tweet from the right account.
This mistake is easy to make, but its effects can be hard to undo. Several companies, including KitchenAid and StubHub, have learned the hard way that it is critical that their social media managers be vigilant about keeping work and personal social media accounts separate. Each company had to issue a public apology when their social media teams posted personal (and offensive) tweets from their corporate Twitter accounts. A mistake like this really exposes your brand to not only negative attention but also a sense of mistrust – who is really behind your tweets and are they the nice people they seem to be?
8. Don’t talk politics or religion.
It’s the same golden rule we abide by in the workplace and with people we don’t know well: don’t talk about politics or religion. Unless you are an organization with a known political or religious affiliation, stay away from these touchy subjects. Regardless of your views, you will alienate many of your customers.
9. Have a plan for reacting to national events and negative PR scenarios.
Think through possible scenarios and document a plan for handling each one. Review the plans with your team. Examples might be a national emergency or disaster, a market downturn, a product recall, a scathing customer review, etc. When it comes to national or international events, your best bet is either to say nothing or to offer a simple message of condolence to those affected. Having a plan in place certainly would have helped Epicurious, the company that unwisely responded to the Boston Marathon bombings in April 2013 by suggesting that people try their cranberry scone recipe.
10. Make it easy for customers to get in touch, and be available around the clock.
Provide a connection to customer service right through your social media team. Don’t make your customers go looking for customer service, and don’t send them to a 1-800 number. It will mean more work for your team, but that is better than having a customer post a complaint about not being able to reach you. You’ll also need to keep an eye on your accounts and your account management tools (such as the aforementioned HootSuite) around the clock. Divide the off-hours responsibility among team members so nobody is “on call” to check your social media management accounts and management tools every weekend. You don’t want a customer to post a question at 4:59 p.m. on Friday and not get an answer until Monday morning.
For more tips on how to create a great social media experience for your customers, look for The Little Book of Social Media, to be released on July 31st.