The media can be very powerful tool to promote your business. But over the last few years this important communication channel has changed dramatically. The advent and rise of social media, the live indexing of search engines and the growing prominence of smart phones, has accelerated the speed with which ‘news’ is communicated . Millions can be reached in a matter of seconds.
Social media may have brought businesses great opportunities to communicate with their markets, but the pace with which it develops, necessitates organisations consider how they will use the likes of Twitter and Facebook, without landing themselves in compromising situations. There are no guidelines, no rules, few precedents on how best to use it. They are being written as we speak.
The connection between social media and business has solidified over the last few years and it is not just the big consumer brands that are getting involved. More and more SMEs are creating Facebook business pages and setting up Twitter accounts. As a marketing company ourselves, we highly recommend considering including social media within your marketing strategy, however, steps have to be taken to ensure that what is being said about your brand online is monitored and controlled.
Customers are increasingly using social media to air their opinions of a company or service. To get recommendations, fact find and discuss infinite topics. Businesses cannot control what is said, but unlike traditional face to face conversations, we are afforded the valuable opportunity to listen in and learn.
Trying to maintain brand reputation online, combined with higher levels of connectivity, may sound daunting for a business owner. Whilst large corporations can spend vast sums employing teams to monitor the ever expanding list of social media platforms, what can SMEs do without these big budgets? The opportunities that social media affords small businesses mean it cannot be ignored. Indeed it should be embraced. The key is taking the necessary steps to ensure you minimise the risks when getting involved.
1. Put in place a social media policy
Effective social media polices set the guidelines, not only for what employees cannot do, but also set out best practices and activities that members of the team can do to help market the business online safely and professionally. The policy addresses the terms of usage, both during the employment relationship and after the employment relationship has ended. Social media policies prohibits the disclosure of confidential and proprietary information in postings and non-company communications. Staff members may not comment on any aspect of the business as representative s or imply representation without prior authorisation. Staff members should not to compromise the privacy of customers, colleagues, or any other affiliated party.
2. Google Alerts
It’s hard to track the reputation of your business and monitor what is being said about you on the net. One of the ways it can be done is through social media monitoring tools, a great free one is Google Alerts . Once set up, it will alert you to any mentions of keywords you have specified, such as company name, made online. It is an effective tool for gathering both positive and negative feedback that can be responded to accordingly.
3. Make sure you commit to it
A reliable line of communication enables customers to easily feed back their questions and comments about your services or products. A simple email and mail address displayed prominently on your website and other marketing material once sufficed. However, social media has given consumers and businesses alike a platform to communicate directly in real time. Don’t ignore the opportunity to utilise this medium. Ask your audience how they want to communicate and set up the channels they use. Not every platform is necessary or appropriate. Don’t waste time and money trying to use them all. But make sure that if you do get involved you take the time and make the commitment necessary to do so effectively.
Above all else, be genuine and truthful. Over the last week or so, we have all seen how quickly and effective social media can be at outing the truth.