The Social Medium is the Message; Part 2

Last time we talked, I made the case for using social media as part of your communication strategy. This time, I am going to walk through a few ways to do that. And maybe a few ways not to as well. If you have not read that post yet, I suggest you do, just to make sure we are all on the same page.

Social media has really become ubiquitous in our daily lives. It has become a time-filler for those in-between moments and a way for us to reach out to an audience.

Like all things, there are ways to do it well and ways to do it not so well. We want to show off our best side and promote our businesses, so let us learn to do it well. We talked about Pepsi’s ad last time. Don’t be like Pepsi.

Often, the people in charge of their businesses forget that this type of communication is a two-way street. You can get unfettered access to a wide audience who is willing to be entertained, if not listen. One of the costs of this access is that your audience now has access to you. Your audience now has a direct channel to vent and share their complaints. Of course, outstanding service and interesting communications are also shared. Here is a video of RyanAir staff playfully coercing a man to play his accordion.

It is that outstanding and interesting communication we want to aim for, though. That is our gold standard; quality content. This takes a solid understanding of exactly who your audience is and to what they will respond. Maybe you already know this or maybe you need to invest in some market research. Or… you could use the old trial and error method. Just make sure the errors are not too costly!

Once upon a time…

Every business has a story, the narrative that is specific to that company. Think about some of the bigger organizations that come to mind easily. Ford. Apple.Tesla. For each of these names, I am sure we can find a common thread. They may vary somewhat, depending on our personal experiences or even political views, but overall we will have similar ideas.

Ford builds reasonably priced and dependable cars, Apple is a leader its innovation of personal devices, and Tesla is leader in disrupting the old model of doing things. How close is this to what you thought? Does it dovetail perfectly or is it diametrically opposed. I am willing to bet it’s much more in the middle and without real argument.

Now, think about your company and what its story is. Not what you wish it were or even think it is, but how it is perceived by your employees and by your clients. If you are running the show, you may want to find out. But tread carefully. Advertising that you are looking for your faults may not go as well as planned.

If you don’t have a company narrative, find the right people to help you create it. From there, you can start developing the content to deliver. If nothing else, remember this: deliver and curate quality content. Make it interesting to your customers and not about yourself. Your customers are not going to care about your new Retro Encabulator.

I always encourage getting help where it is needed. Sometimes the right people make the worst decisions and you end up on a list of top social media gaffs. Once you have done your ROI analysis, you may find that hiring a firm to handle this for you will be your best bet.

People will also remember when you do get it right. Check out this list of companies that are being recognized for their work. In fact, I encourage you to take a little time to search for the best campaigns. This will give you an idea of what you need to do and what it takes to do it.

Breaker, breaker good buddy

One of the things I have learned from putting out content is that everyone is a critic. There are always a few people who are going to analyze and critique every word you have to say. Maybe there is good advice in there, but we cannot get to bogged down by constant micro-edits. However, we do want to monitor and react to customer feedback. Sometimes, we get the opportunity score major points. In a case where opportunity truly met preparedness, Elon Musk pulled out an amazing Social Media PR win. A customer sent a tweet to Musk, complaining about people leaving their cars at charging stations well after the car was finished charging. Musk, with a flair of decisive decision making, promised to make policy changes. The fact that the policy change was already on the books was quickly lost among the praise for communicating and acting quickly.

@loic You’re right, this is becoming an issue. Supercharger spots are meant for charging, not parking. Will take action.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 11, 2016

Six days after this tweet, Tesla had enacted a new policy that would start charging the credit cards of people leaving their cars at the charging station too long.

Opening up yourselves to your audience allows that chance to make sure they are happy. I have said it before and I repeat it here, this means both your customers and your employees. Listening to your audience allows you the chance to control the narrative if you respond quickly and authentically.

This is a word cloud of an unnamed airline who has not made the attempt to control their narrative over the years:

(source: The End of Business As Usual: Rewire the Way You Work to Succeed in the Consumer Revolution)

It’s ugly. I mean, this is really harsh in an environment where even a CEO can weigh in to make things right. Listen, I could go on with companies, listing success and failures, but I think you get the point with these two examples. One is a stellar win and the other is a series of failures. The only difference, I believe, is the willingness to listen and to act.

Give them something to laugh at

Content. What makes good content? Really, that’s the question thousands of content creators are asking themselves right now. Literally, men and women are drinking too much coffee, trying to solve this mystery. But maybe we can break it down into a few beginner parts;  provide something enlightening, tell a good story, or just make them laugh.

You are an expert in your industry. Remember that. Your customers are coming to you because you have or know the things they need. By creating informative and useful content, you provide reason for people to listen to you. Once they are listening, they will more happily buy your services or recommend them to someone who is buying. Remember who your audience is and write to them.

When creating your campaign, think of the greatest stories you have followed. Why did you follow them? What was so compelling that you needed to know what happened next?  Too often, we believe we have to just push our product, but by telling a story, people will naturally be drawn in. Our products can sit there for our audience to see. Or not. But the brand will be there and that builds the familiarity. Familiarity builds trust. People buy from whom they trust.

If all else fails, just make people laugh. Make your content short, sweet, to the point, and a little bit cheeky. Branson’s Virgin has been cheeky from its inception and prides itself on that tactic. From these silly ads to the wild and naked publicity stunts, Branson has been willing to get the laughs. If nothing else, people will remember the way you made them feel.

What do you think? How are you implementing your strategy? Have you made any gaffs that are worth learning from and laughing at?

B&L’s Social Media Checklist

  • Do listen to your customers
  • Do respond positively complaints and criticism
  • Don’t worry too much about the micro-edits and critiques from people scared to foray into the unknown
  • Do listen to your employees; they may have a better ear to the ground than you do
  • Do watch the latest trends and copy what works for you
  • Do hire someone to help

Paul Bergsma