Social media is a valuable tool, but often an under-utilized one. Many businesses know they need it, but they don't know how best to put it to use. Too many set up pages and only post sporadically, if at all.
It's not enough to just have a social media presence. You have to be vibrant and engaging! It's important to make sure that you're regularly posting interesting content picked specifically for your target market, to ensure that your customers see you in their news feed. Social media raises your brand awareness, keeps you in the forefront of your customers' minds, and provides you with valuable opportunities to interact.
Think of all the things social media can do for you: it can help you inform your customers about promotions, new locations, new or limited time products, holiday hours and other important information. You can establish yourself as a member of the community by sharing local news and events. You can answer customer questions or address complaints. You can direct people to your website, newsletter, and of course to your physical storefront.
How you use social media will depend on what your business needs. Whether you decide to handle it in-house or outsource to a qualified team, it's important to be clear about who is handling what, and what your expectations are. You want to know that you're adhering to the best practices for each network you're on, while also sharing content that is in line with your brand.
Your social media team should be empowered to react quickly and divert occasionally from your content calendar. You don't want to miss out on a great viral marketing opportunity using a clever hashtag related to current events because someone was waiting for approval to make a meme! Give your team a little creative leeway and watch them work wonders.
And while we're talking about employee empowerment, your team should also feel confident in handling customer complaints. This is the dark side of social media – many customers will go straight to your Facebook page to leave a negative review, or Tweet about you, rather than contacting you directly and giving you the chance to make it right. A well-trained social media team should be able to handle complaints, make amends, and know when it's necessary to put an unhappy customer in touch with someone from management. When a complaint is dealt with in a timely fashion and with respect and empathy, it can turn someone who was angry into a happy, life-long customer!
It's important to ensure that your social media is being monitored regularly, not only to catch complaints, but also to answer questions, thank customers for good reviews, and otherwise just engage with people and make them feel like you're listening. Your business may not have the budget for someone to watch your social media 24/7, but you should try to respond to everything within 24 hours, and ensure that you pay extra attention to your accounts on days that you're running a promotion.
Finally, you and your social media team should be on the same page about what success looks like. Are you more concerned with follower count, online engagement, or with directing people to your site or storefront? Having a clear idea of your goals and what metrics you’ll use to track your progress makes it easier to tell when your social media campaign is a success, and when you need to make changes. Be sure that your team is giving you regular reports that paint a clear picture of what you’re achieving.
Putting a little extra time and money into your social media efforts can pay off, in both the long and short term. It's all about meeting your customers where they are, and today, most of them are on social media!