Social media dos and don'ts
The explosion in popularity of social media means having a presence on the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram should be a top priority for your startup.
Keeping up with the ever-changing world of social media can be tough, but there are some simple, yet incredibly effective tips you can follow to help you succeed.
To show you how to get the best from your social media platforms (such as Facebook or Twitter) our Plusnet Pioneers, including Social Chain co-founder Steven Bartlett, LDN Muscle (LDNM) co-founders, Tom and James Exton, and innocent drinks and JamJar Investments co-founder, Richard Reed, have come together to share their words of wisdom.
These Pioneers reveal the key things they’ve learnt about growing a business on social media including: why it’s vital to produce emotional content, why you need to nip negative comments in the bud and why having lots of followers doesn’t always mean instant success for your brand.
The four dos of social media success
1. Appeal to your customers emotions
With brands increasingly competing for attention online, Steven Bartlett highlights that you need to make customers feel something if you want to stand out on social media.
Steven: “Because of the way social media platforms are today, if you don’t make people feel something, you’re not heard. People working in marketing spend tremendous amounts of money on marketing, but then sometimes put completely different messaging on it that makes people feel nothing.
“They need to appreciate the super busy world that everybody else lives in, there’s a lot of other marketing content online competing with yours for their attention. To stand out, you’ve got to create content that will engage and entertain your audience.”
2. Make your branding stand out and consistent across all channels
Tom and James explain why clear, consistent and eye-catching branding is key if you want to gain followers on social media.
James’ essential advice is to “make sure that all your social media accounts have the same user name and handle such as @yourbrandname so there’s consistency and customers can find you easily.
“Once you’ve done, you can get an idea of what your messaging on social media is going to consistently be, with common themes and ideas that relate to your audience, rather than just posting something that’s a bit random.”
Tom agrees: “Make sure there’s something bright and engaging on your social media feeds so it catches people’s eye and make sure your branding is clear.
“There are so many brands on social media where it’s not immediately clear what they’re about and there’s nothing memorable or catchy about what they’re posting.”
3. Choose the social media platform that suits your business
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. - they all offer businesses different benefits and not every single one will be right for your company.
Steven: “We live in a world where there are so many different types of social media platforms and it’s incredibly hard as a business owner to know which one you should be using, especially if you’re a small business.
“The first thing is understanding how these platforms fit into the social media world. If you are a fashion brand then you want to look for a platform that a) targets your key audience, and b) allows you to tell the story of your brand in all its glory such as Instagram. If you’re a company that puts on a lot of big events, then the platform for you is one that has a reverse chronological timeline, that allows customers to search through easily and see the latest, most relevant content; and that’s why Twitter is the best platform for real-time events.”
Every social media channel will give your business different results, so while the above are suggested channels for certain industries, it’s important to invest time in exploring which is the best platform for your company.
4. Deal with negative comments immediately
For a new business, negative comments on social media can be discouraging – but it’s vital you don’t ignore them and let the negativity grow.
James: “Reputation is probably the most important element that could stifle your growth. If you do get someone that has had a bad experience, just give them a quick reply. They might even remove their negative comment because they understand the frustrations on both sides and your reputation is kept intact.”
Tom: “That’s very important, especially on platforms like Twitter. Negativity and abuse can spiral, so if you can nip that in the bud and try and take someone from Tweeting you to sending you a direct message instead, you can usually solve the problem more quickly. There are very few people who can’t be calmed down. Some companies ignore it. It’s very important that you jump on it because it can easily get out of hand.”
The four don’ts of social media success
1. Don’t make the mistake of thinking anyone will care unless you make them
Just because you’ve put months, or even years, of effort into building your company’s social media presence that doesn’t mean you deserve to get more followers on your social media platforms and customers. You need to make them care – as Steven found out.
Steven: “The biggest trap that small businesses can fall into is not being able to put themselves in the shoes of their customers, and falling into the trap of thinking that everybody cares about them.
“It’s the same trap I fell into when I started my first company called Wallpark and one of my biggest learning curves. I spent three years building a company from nothing to having a team and having investors. And on that day when I pressed launch on my website, because I’d worked so hard and I’d built something that I thought was brilliant, I expected the world to show up, and then nobody came.
“I slowly realised that nobody cared about me, and nobody cared how hard I’d worked and my job wasn’t to get them to care about me, it was to show them what Wallpark could do for them. And that shift took me out of my own little bubble and I started competing and trying to win attention by posting engaging and exciting content as opposed to thinking I was entitled to it.”
2. Don’t just sell – add value to the lives of your customers
It can be tempting to fill your social channels with product and sales posts with the mistaken belief that people will buy from you immediately. As Steven and Tom explain, this is not the case.
Tom: “Ensure that the content you’re putting out there is giving your consumers something extra. Don’t send them the same sales messages day in and day out because people are very savvy and they know when they’re being sold something. Try and give them something that’s going to add extra value to their lives and then they’ll come back and they might read your sales message at a later date and buy something.”
Steven: “You should adopt a ratio of 20:1 – 20 pieces of content that are for your audience with content they are interested in, and one sales message. Then, when you post that one thing that’s an advert, you’ve got a bigger, more engaged community and the results long term will be better. If you adopt the other approach – 20 adverts to one piece of content for them – you’ll never build an engaged social media community in the first place.”
3. Don’t spend, spend, spend on social media straight away
You may also think that putting loads of your hard-earned cash into social media from the outset will mean you will see a return on your investment – think again says Richard Reed.
Richard: “It’s too easy to raise the money and then go and spend it on supporting and boosting your social media presence. When it comes to social media, it’s ultimately a massive opportunity – you do it right and it’s a way to communicate with the world for free.
“While social media provides many free opportunities for businesses, employing someone full-time to look after your social media accounts can be a big expense. Make sure the cost is beneficial and worthwhile.”
4. Don’t think lots of followers results in income and success
Lastly, just because you’ve got a million social media followers doesn’t mean you have a million customers. You still need to put the work in to convert them into buyers.
Richard: “A follower on Facebook is following you ultimately for purposes of entertainment, which is different to a consumer buying your product when they see it in a supermarket at another point in time. Don’t confuse the two. Generally, it’s good to have more awareness on social media and it’s a social place to share your stories, but these platforms are in the business of grabbing the consumer’s attention and not necessarily converting them to customers and driving your sales.
Steven: “The last point I’d like to touch on is, startups need to focus on securing genuine engagement from their customers in instead of impressions. So the number of interactions they have with your content rather than the number of times they see it. The metrics really count and show that someone took an action which is the most important thing about social media activity.
“So many of the bigger brands are obsessed by their follower number. They’ll pay tremendous amounts of money to increase that number. What you don’t realise is, you don’t get to speak to all of your individual followers anyway. It makes much more sense to focus on the content you are putting on your social media channels instead. As clichéd as it sounds, content is king and context is just as important.”
Interviews were conducted as part of our Plusnet Pioneers programme, an exciting content series to help small businesses grow and reach their potential. We’ll be sharing more useful tips so please visit our Plusnet Pioneers section on the blog.