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The unstoppable rise of social media has fundamentally and irrevocably changed the way we communicate with each other as well as the way in which companies and brands interact with their audiences. Companies want to be where their customers are and that increasingly means social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. However this convergence of an often forced corporate presence alongside the personal can make for unhappy bedfellows.
The fact is that some companies, brands and services lend themselves much more naturally to a social media presence. Sports franchises, with a passionate and invested audience already in place, are an obvious example as are magazine brands with an existing readership base and a raft of engaging content and archive material at their fingertips.
But many companies and brands are not in this position and worse, some run afoul of the fundamental truth that social media is an interactive medium by pushing irrelevant messaging onto audiences, simply in order to maintain a social media presence. This can result in negative feedback at best or, at worst, lead to mistakes and missteps going viral.
To avoid these pitfalls whilst harnessing the enormous potential of social media for your company, it is important to be very clear on how ‘social’ your brand is. This will allow you to shape your strategy and determine how, and to what extent, you invest in a social media presence.
So first, if you conclude your company does not lend itself hugely to social media, you can consider ways to improve this. In niche and emerging categories especially, the opportunity to position your business as a thought-leader by publishing white papers and posting relevant industry news is significant. Additionally, forming strategic partnerships with brands with a stronger social media bias (e.g. events, sponsorship) is another less direct route to reaching your audience in a way that is relevant to them.
Another key consideration is which social media platform is right for you. At its most basic level, a Facebook company page can act as a useful re-direct to your main website but chasing ‘likes’ with no real objective in sight can be diverting waste of time. Instead consider LinkedIn, whose visitors have a different mindset and can be a powerful platform as part of a content marketing/thought-leadership strategy. In fact, a recent poll of 50,000 B2B Technology Marketing community members on LinkedIn showed that 85% of B2B marketers say LinkedIn is the most effective social network for delivering content.
Twitter also presents many opportunities for companies to engage at multiple levels. It is common practice for many companies these days to have an official company account and for key personnel (e.g. CTOs, CMOs) to have separate professional accounts. This increases the overall company presence and also allows for a more informal, engaging approach. For example, while the company account might focus on announcements, white paper publications and so forth, the company individuals can engage in conversation with key influencers, comment on current (brand-relevant) events and build followers by being a useful, respectful, less overtly corporate presence.
A further point when building a presence, particularly relevant to Twitter, is to bear in mind that posts and tweets have an incredibly short shelf-life. Variously reported across multiple sources as being between one and three hours, the advantage to this is that content can be reposted/retweeted several times, or used again as the context arises. Equally, reposting credited content from other sources is a very valid way of building a presence. It promotes a position of industry expertise and also pays it forward by helping promote the original source.
In conclusion, it pays to remember that social media is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution and is not something to be forced. Further, as more and more platforms appear, it is important to resist the urge to be everywhere. By finding the right platform with the right content shared at the right time your social media presence can be a powerful and essential part of your communications strategy.
Interested in other tips to increase the strength of your online marketing? Check out our free ebook covering numerous aspects of inbound marketing.
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