by Ophelia W Livingston
You’re going to give this social media thing a solid chance. You’ve heard that social media delivers leads, connects you with customers and you’re confident that you can avoid falling victim to the many social media myths. All that’s left to do is create the accounts hop in. Ok, take a deep breath and RESEARCH your direction.
Before you enter in the world of social media, make sure you’re presenting your best possible face. Get out your paper and pencil so you can determine what you want out of social media, where you want social media to take you and how you plan to get there. Getting things in order before you take your first public steps will help customers trust your interactions and get things start on the right foot. You wouldn’t show up to your first day of work without taking some time to look in the mirror or would you?
Here are Ten Commandments things to do BEFORE you enter social media.
1. Create a rulebook: Before you step onto that field, memorize your plays. Study the channels you plan to use, listen to the conversation, understand the behavior and create your rulebook for how your company will engage. Identify how you’ll handle common support issues, the tone you’ll take, how you’ll address negativity, how fans will be rewarded, etc. Work up fake scenarios and create a plan for how you’ll deal with them. Look at issues competitors have had in social media and map out how you’ll do it better. The more you prepare, the better off you’ll be. Negative comments are a lot less imitating when you have a plan for how you’ll convert them to your side.
2. Assign responsibility: Make it known who is going to be responsible for social media BEFORE everyone stands around looking at each other. Figure out things like:
a. Who will be responsible for creating the content, pushing it, talking to people, responding to questions, etc?
b. Who will implement any changes/issues discovered through social media?
c. How much time should this be taking from everyone’s day and is the number you just came up with realistic or did you just make it up? Unless social media is someone’s responsibility, it’s no one’s responsibility. Someone in your organization must be accountable for the information that is added to all social media portals.
3. Increase your customer support: When you open the social media floodgates, you’re creating a new channel for people to come and get help for issues they’re experiencing. You may need to increase your staff in order to handle that. If you’re a small business, that may mean rearranging your customer support system or, if you’re a little larger, it may mean adding actual bodies. Either way, you’re now going to have a live stream of people coming to you with questions, concerns and things they need fixed. You can’t ignore them. Put systems in place to handle the increases customer service tickets.
4. Fix your issues: You live in your business. You know that sometimes your service is flaky. You know the number one problem with your product. You know your most common complaints. Do your best to get these under control, or at least on the mend, before you enter social media. People aren’t going to suddenly stop noticing that you could be better just because you’re talking to them. Maybe start your social media effort by TALKING about all the things you’re looking to fix.
5. Shift your culture: There’s more to being a social company than simply creating a Twitter account. There needs to be an internal culture shift based on creating transparency and authenticity in what you’re doing. You need to be social from inside your organization out and that that may change how you deal with customers, how you treat your employees, and how daily job functions are performed. Make sure you address this before you suddenly have a spotlight on you.
6. Create content around common complaints: While you’re busy fixing your issues, you also want to create content on your site dedicated to solving, resolving and addressing your most common complaints or anything that may haunt you. By putting the information out there yourself, you give yourself somewhere to link to when issues arise and you also increase the transparency of your company . If you know that sometimes you get negative mentions over a business decision you made, create a page on your site that explains it. The more you can invite people into your company, the better. Answer your customers concerns before they even have them.
7. Commit to responding: You’re entering social media with the best intentions. You want to engage, to connect and to create real relationships with your customers. And that lasts for about, oh, two minutes after you come across your first online complaint. Don’t run away! Commit yourself (and your company) to responding to complaints and staying in the game. These mentions are why you’re here and addressing them is how you can provide the biggest value to your company. Don’t get scared away now.
8. Be ready to act: So, when people come to you with complaints or things they need fixed – you actually have to act on them. You can’t serve them platitudes on Facebook and then go back to business as usual offline. If you’re entering social media and inviting people into your organization, make sure you’re doing them justice by not only listening to what they’re saying, but making good on it, as well. If not, you’re going to give yourself a bigger online reputation management problem than had you just stayed away.
9. Clue in employees: The strongest band advocates you have are you employees. They are the people who have intimate knowledge about the day-to-day operations of your business. They have the power to influence customers and deliver your message is often underestimated. Make sure you clue employees to your new social strategy and let them know their role and how they can help the company. They want to get involved. They want the company to be the best it can be. Give them the power and the knowledge to do that.
10. Periodically review your plan. Develop a timeline to review and monitor your social media plans. Review what is working and what is not working. Know what is bringing traffic to your site. Think about ways that you can improve your website, your ministry. Remember to keep your website fresh; because social media is dynamic, it is always evolving.
By taking care of the items listed above BEFORE you enter the world of social media, you help to set your company off on the right foot. Ignore them and you may as well forget to show up for work.