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Why is it so easy to be a ‘social media expert’?
What used to be a closely monitored field is now something we all need to be a part of.
August 6, 2013 1:53 by kippreport
By Alex Malouf, communications professional and Kippreport columnist.
Do you have three years of experience in using Facebook? Are you a ‘serial tweeter’? Can you put a sentence together?
If you’ve answered yes to all of the above then you’re probably qualified to become a social media executive. I kid you not. Based on most of the classified adverts out there, most companies would seem to value an ability to understand the technical aspects of how to use social media platforms rather than what they should be doing online and why.
Social media has changed how companies and their brands interact with the public. In many ways, consumers have become much more demanding of their brand communications; social media users expect companies to respond, and they will anticipate a speedy response.
Where communication was once entrusted to a select few in the company and was closely monitored, social media has transformed each and every single employee into a potential brand ambassador. In many global corporations today, social media training isn’t just given to people who handle the marketing; it’s given to everyone who joins the firm. You do your compliance training, your health and safety courses, and now you have your social media literacy training.
There are many companies out there who understand the impact that good, and bad, social media can have on their brands. And then there are those who don’t. Ask yourself, did your company get on the bandwagon because everyone else was launching a Facebook page, a Twitter account or a YouTube channel? If that’s the case, then your boss took the wrong action.
While it may be free to open an account on most social media networks, let’s be clear – social media isn’t cheap marketing. It’s certainly not just a case of ‘let’s get online and they will come.’ To build up a community and develop a sense of trust and association with your brand takes a lot of time, patience and hard work. It also requires leadership and involvement from the top. Richard Branson is a great example of a CEO who interacts, who engages and who tells a story in his own words across a host of different online platforms (coincidentally, we’re still lacking that online interaction from business leaders in the Gulf).
Business owners need to buy into the concept of social media wholeheartedly, and they need to fully understand the benefits and the risks of taking the plunge. If you and your company are serious about getting their message out in the right way online here’s what you need to do:
Train from day one – develop a social media policy, a list of dos and don’ts, and ensure that every single employee, from the secretary to the CEO, signs up to them. Make the policy transparent and deliver it in the most engaging way possible. You want to make sure that every single person understands it and knows about the importance of communicating online to the company.
Keep the conversation going – employees are going to go online at work and they’re going to use social media. If your employees want to talk about work (hopefully in a positive manner) from their personal accounts give them suggestions for their status updates and tweets. Keep your employees informed of the company’s activities and let them decide if they want to take the message online. Employees should identify themselves as being part of the company when they’re talking about their company online. This helps develop trust and transparency with your wider community of followers.
Keep learning and training – social media is continually evolving; new platforms are launched, older platforms are expanded and refined. If you want your social media team to continuously improve, then you have to invest in training and listen to your team when they’re telling you what works and what doesn’t, then refine your policies accordingly. Good social media requires adapting to the changing needs of the communities we are part of.
The above may sound simple enough, but there is one scenario where even the best laid plans will fail. If your company suffers from a bad reputation when it comes to customer service, no amount of social media activities will help stem the tide of complaints and angry comments. If you’ve got a customer service issue, get it sorted before you go online, or else your reputation will get dragged down with all the negativity on your online forums.
If you’re planning to get online, or if you’ve already got your social media channels up and running, remember that social media is more than a 20-something in front of a screen typing away and posting updates and tweets. Social media is your mouthpiece to the world. Make sure that you know what you’re saying online is in line with your brand’s values and messages and that you trust the people who are in charge. Otherwise you may have to bring in a couple of social media firefighters to help that ‘social media expert’ you hired a couple of months ago.