Why you should take social media seriously

Posted by suzichristie on March 28, 2017

Recently the managing director of Cleankill Pest Control, Paul Bates, forwarded to me a post by one of his competitors. It would be indiscreet to quote the message and we are not here to do any public shaming, but the message clearly demonstrated a problem commonly seen with brand social media. Suffice to say, the message came from a LinkedIn post and it contained a number of spelling and grammatical errors.

Now, we are all humans and everyone is capable of making the odd mistake. This isn’t something we should beat ourselves up about but this was not ‘the odd mistake’ and, in one particular case, it was almost impossible to understand what the writer was intending to say. When you looked at the comments below the message, in addition to a couple of people questioning some of the ‘facts’, many people pointed out the proliferation of spelling mistakes.

This is a phenomenon we see again and again in brand social media posts. As I said above, everyone can make the occasional mistake but this will be forgotten if it is occasional. After all, one of the attractions of social media is that it is seen as a quick and personal message from a brand which can, to some extent, appear to be free from complex PR strategy.

However, social media is like any other form of publicity and should be accorded the same level of importance. With more and more people receiving information via social media, look at the current news stories concerning echo chambers and #FakeNews, it is clear that more and more people will have their initial contact with your business via a message on the internet. In many cases, this will be via one of their friend’s sharing a post that has caught their eye. As a business, you don’t want the first contact you have with a potential client to be via a message someone has forwarded because of poor grammar.

Part of the problem many businesses face is that social media is often seen as the domain of the young. This was certainly true a few years ago, but now people of all ages are on Facebook and Twitter, and LinkedIn has become an important resource for businesses and business people of all ages.

This association has however continued and, while it is an exaggeration to say that all businesses are run by older people, it is certainly a truism to say that a number of businesses are run by people who are less familiar with social media than the average teenager. The fact that PR in general, and social media publicity more specifically, is not always fully understood by business owners has often led to a dangerous precedent being set – social media being dumped upon the most junior member of staff.

It can seem logical for the owner to say: “I don’t use social media, our intern is on Facebook all the time so they must know about it, therefore I will let them do the social media work.”

The problem is, this person may not:

  • Be as fully invested in your business
  • Fully understand all aspects of the business
  • Have the same level of education
  • Have a grasp of the key messages
  • Understand the tone needed

Social media, like any form of publicity, requires a proper strategy. The days of either ignoring it or, perhaps worse, dabbling in it, are long gone. Companies need to understand the types of people who will use each of the different platforms, because a person on Twitter may not have a LinkedIn account and vice versa. Once you have targeted your market audience, you need to make sure the types of post you share will attract, interest and engage people and post them on the appropriate platform. For a longer discussion on what to post, click here.

A company wouldn’t let a representative go onto a television channel without media training, so why would you let an untrained person lose on your social media profile? The same strategies should be employed so that they know the appropriate behaviour and are fully cognisant of the key strategies and messages. Without this, your social media feed can appear to be a random and incoherent jumble of ideas and this will not appeal to potential clients.

We often talk to clients who are not particularly interested in social media but they do know it is important for their brand. A particularly impressive example of this is Catsfield Christmas Tree Farm, which employs social media during the short selling period before Christmas to interact with their clients. It creates a positive interface between the client and the company and has been one of the key components assisting their growth.

Whatever your strategy, it is certain your company will benefit from a coherent social media presence but, whatever you do, please don’t leave it to an unsupervised office junior.

Or, just as bad...

Last week I spoke to a company that was trying to run a personal Facebook page as a business page. I wanted to engage with them on behalf of one of their biggest customers but couldn’t get an adequate response. When I asked the company about it, they said the MD looked after the page – now, don’t get me started…