Whether we like it or not, the modern world is more and more moving online. Social media has become a primary source for people when they are looking for news, gossip, and advice. Many businesses were quick to exploit this, jumping onto Twitter or Facebook without much idea about what they were doing. The truth is, while social media can be a positive for a business, it can equally be negative.
So, what do we advise for businesses looking to post on social media?
You must always remember social media is a mechanism that can help you build a relationship with your customers. It, therefore, must be looked after, carefully. Just as a friendship will become strained if one person abuses the ‘relationship', your followers will ‘unfollow' if they feel it isn't valuable to them. Ignoring or blocking businesses on social media is easy. It is important for you to remember that ultimately, while you are trying to promote your business, you are also trying to create a connection with your audience that is a positive experience for them.
What are our top six don’ts on social media?
1. Spelling and grammatical errors
An obvious one. It's an old truism of business that "people buy people". If your next potential customer keeps seeing you make the same sloppy mistakes, then they may decide that this is representative of your approach to business and decide to go elsewhere.
Of course, we are all human and mistakes do happen. The real problem is, when they happen consistently, this can be interpreted as unprofessionalism. If you have a problem with grammar or spelling, use an online spelling resource – e.g. Grammarly.
People like doing business with professional people. If you are a window cleaner, for example, it may not be so vital because they are buying your ability to clean windows and not your written eloquence. If you are a lawyer, financial advisor or private tutor, however, it is imperative to get these things right because your customers will care. Would you entrust your children's education to someone who didn’t know the difference between 'were’ and 'where'?
As we say, mistakes happen, but it is probably a good idea to take a little bit more time and read through your posts before they are sent. An alternative is to employ a professional – allowing you to focus on selling your services.
2. Negative or controversial content
Does anyone like listening to miserable people? Negative comments can be funny, occasionally. They can be positive, if constructive. They are not, however, pleasant to be receiving constantly. To use the friendship analogy again, friends will listen with a tender ear to your problems for a period, but there is a limit. We’ve all had friends that we’ve slowly moved away from because they are relentlessly negative. On social media, moving away is easy. It just involves clicking a button, and there is no fear you’ll bump into the person you’ve blocked in the bar.
Social media is not the place to voice your personal opinions. Steer clear of politics, views
on competitors, and negative or controversial content. In a time of Brexit, Trump, etc. it can be hard. Remember, your customers may not agree. Do you want to lose business because of your strongly held views on Brexit?
A terrible mistake we’ve seen on social media is one company bad-mouthing a competitor. It looks shallow. It looks mean. If you get into an argument with them, it will never end well. Whatever you may feel about the competition, keep it off social media. You can't come out of an online squabble looking good in the eyes of potential customers.
Finally, as with politics, avoid controversial content. You may think something is obviously innocuous, but we will guarantee someone else will find it offensive. In the worst-case scenario, you may even find yourself at the end of a campaign. Just look at the recent controversy over Dave's Funniest Joke at The Fringe. To many, it was a joke involving cauliflower and broccoli but to a Tourette's syndrome charity it was offensive.
Our advice is, avoid all strong political views and controversial topics, images and videos. It will just make your life easier.
3. Too much promotion
A major bugbear for many people on social media is overselling. If someone is following your business on social media, it is implicit that they are interested in you and your products. You, therefore, don't need to keep pushing your services or products as you have a captive audience which is already converted.
Social media is good for growing brand awareness. It is the perfect platform for sharing a variety of interesting content that will engage your followers. If all you do is post about your products, your followers will soon unfollow you as that is a one-sided relationship.
Certainly, if you have a new product talk about it. They will be interested, and you will gain valuable exposure.
In general, however, we advise minimal sales-orientated posts - one or two a week, maximum. Instead, if you want to sell, you will get far more valuable exposure through buying advertising on social media - e.g. Facebook or Twitter Ads. This will reach new customers and people automatically understand ads are for selling.
4. Be consistent
Social media is an extension of your brand. It is important for you to maintain the same visual style and tone as you do in the rest of your marketing materials. If your social media messages differ greatly from your usual branding, they may appear to be from a different company.
5. Dealing with complaints
Be careful! You can't win if you take it personally and respond accordingly. Yes, there are stories of chefs hitting back at negative reviewers on TripAdvisor but, ultimately, while these stories may gain some column inches in a national newspaper, they do leave the faint aroma that the reviewer may be on to something. You don't want that!
If you need to respond to a complaint, try to move it away from social media. Say you can deal with their problem better over the phone or via email. You will look proactive and professional and you will have shut them down. If they refuse, you know that they are only interested in creating problems and you should probably hide their comment and block them.
6. Paid-for reviews
No! Don’t pay for fake reviews There are companies that will offer to post reviews for you even though they have never been to your establishment or used your service. You may even think it sounds like a good idea, but you could get found out. If someone reads a fake review and then uses you off the back of that review, they will be judging you against something someone has written which is not based in reality. You can’t win in that situation, as they will feel duped. That is far more damaging.
In a similar vein, don’t get friends to write negative reviews of competitors. I know you wouldn’t, but we have seen it done and it is always obvious
It is, however, a good idea to get people to write genuine online reviews of your business. For instance, if a customer e-mails with positive feedback ask them to review you on Facebook or Google. It’s also a good idea to make it easy for them by adding a link to Google Reviews to your e-mail footers and website.
Finally, another ‘Do’, rather than a ‘Don’t’. Do get into the habit of thanking people online if they leave you a nice review. If you are unlucky enough to get bad reviews, then take time to respond and find out what went wrong.
Social media is a brilliant tool. It is a great way to engage your clients. Think of it as a friendly exchange without the heavy sell. One of our most successful examples is the Facebook page for Catsfield Christmas Tree Farm. Over the years the number of people following the site has grown enormously and one of the simplest things we’ve done is repost pictures people have sent in of their trees when they are decorated. There is no hard sell, but there is a great exchange with customers and it helps people get into the Christmas spirit.