Social Media Basics
Tips, strategy and “how to” articles suitable for those new to social media for business.
Tips, strategy and “how to” articles suitable for those new to social media for business.
(Learning for today: “hoax” is one of those words that looks increasingly wrong, the longer you look at it. Go on, try it….see?!)
Hoax posts or tweets are increasingly common, and often brilliantly crafted to take advantage of users’ fears, or breaking news situations. Sometimes they’re fun, other times they’re downright sinister. Either way, if you’re using social media in a official capacity, you don’t want to be called out for perpetuating them, do you?
The fast moving nature of social media sites makes them fantastic environments for spreading a hoax. Sometimes they’re just invented by pranksters wanting to fool people for the sake of it, other times they’re looking to get exposure for a particular Twitter or Facebook account.
A couple of the latest viral hoaxes are pretty much representative of how many of them get started. You might have seen this popping up in your Facebook newsfeed:
This particular hoax spread so quickly because most users are aware of the “evil Facebook” concept – a critical mass of stories in the media about how Facebook is plotting to steal your data / bank account details / soul and must be stopped. Consequently they’re quick to copy and paste text like this, and think they’re doing their friends a favour.
Unfortunately most of these types of stories are wrong in one of the two key aspects – what the problem is, or what to do about it. In this case there’s some truth to the issue; depending on your Privacy settings, Facebook’s Terms of Service allow them to make use of (NB, not “own”, though) certain of your content – but none whatsoever in suggesting that this course of action will make any difference.
The other big trigger for hoaxes recently was Hurricane Sandy. Again this is quite typical – a big news event where everyone wants to be first to share things, is a great opportunity for hoaxers.
Within hours, this image was doing the rounds:
Looks stunning, but is totally photoshopped. That one was gleefully jumped on by skeptical types with wonderful results:
If only all hoaxes were so easy to spot.
Anyway, here’s the thing. If you’re sending things out from an organisational account where credibility matters, it’s really not that hard to avoid passing on a hoax. Here are three ways to check that story.
1. Mainly for Twitter based scams, check out http://istwitterwrong.tumblr.com/. In fact do, anyway, it’s a fun read.
2. For Facebook, Snopes.com is usually fairly quick off the mark
3. If all else fails, simply try googling the first line of the content if it’s text based (like the Facebook example above), or a few descriptive words if it’s an image. “Statue of liberty hurricane” run through Google would show up pretty quickly that the “Sandy” image has been around for years.
Hope that helps keep your reputation in the clear – and leaves you free to enjoy the more imaginative hoaxes for what they are.
What’s a QR code again?
Just to recap: QR codes are those square, usually black-and-white, barcode-style graphics you sometimes see on marketing materials these days.
You install a QR code reader app to your smartphone, which is then able to decode the data held within it to perform an action – usually, taking you directly to a specific web links, but it can be to do other things such as loading business card details directly into your phone’s contact list.
It’s quite common to see examples of marketers Missing The Point with QR codes on a massive scale. The Point being, that you’re essentially just saving the user from doing something longhand – typing in a URL, or your phone number.
This is only really helpful if you’re going from an offline to an online environment - otherwise, the user could often just click a simple link to achieve the same thing.
So a QR code on a paper flyer might be useful; a QR code embedded in a website, which just links to a YouTube video, is not. A QR code on a For Sale sign which, when scanned, takes the user directly to the online details for that house, is very useful; the same QR code embedded in an email, less so. You get the idea.
There are times, though, when ONLY missing the point would’ve been a blessing.
Here’s a collection of QR code uses so spectacularly misguided that they verge (literally, in the case of example two) on the homicidal. We love these so much that they just had to get their own blog post here – click below and enjoy!
Last week’s massive network outage must’ve given mobile phone provider O2 a colossal headache. When something like that happens, it’s a perfect test of how well the company concerned has understood the social media environment. If they’ve “got” it, then the informal nature of a platform like Twitter will be a huge asset in humanising the company and getting customers back on side. If they haven’t, they’ll run for the hills and either resort to total silence or stilted corporate platitudes.
But before we look at O2′s response, let’s look at how not to do it. Argyll & Bute Council’s response during the enormous outcry that followed the banning of the Neverseconds blog remains a classic of the genre. A quick search on their @mentions that day revealed that they were swimming in questions, pleas, and a certain amount of downright abuse, running into hundreds of tweets. Their response:
Yeah. That’s about as running for the hills as you can get. As far as I’m aware, not one single person who Tweeted them on the issue ever received a response.
O2 didn’t play it like that. Somebody, somewhere, gave their customer service team permission to be human, and to relate to customers on their own level. There are some great examples from during the network outage itself in this article from the New Statesman , and you can get a flavour of how they respond below:
In a world where we’re constantly bombarded with corporate blandspeak, it doesn’t take that much to stand out; If I was one of those customers, I think the surprise of receiving a genuine, humorous reply would probably have bonded me to O2 for life.
With that in mind, here are our three Top Tips for dealing with angry customers on Twitter:
However you feel about swearing, for a large part of the population it’s part of everyday life and the normal way to express anger. Just because railway companies get away with putting up those signs designating pretty much anything they don’t want to hear as “abuse of their staff”, doesn’t mean you can make the rules on Twitter. A prissy reply telling the customer off for using bad words is rarely going to be constructive.
Humour is one of those things that sets us apart from the animals – and from robots. Forget everything you’ve learned about appropriate corporate communications, and let the customer see that you’re a real person dealing with the issues as best you can.
If the customer is complaining about obvious incompetence or failure, acknowledge that. For one thing, they’ll be so surprised that you’ll have a great opportunity to fix things while they’re catching their breath!
Of course, all of this will be of very limited value if you’ve left someone manning your corporate Twitter account in a sealed room, with no support from the rest of the organisation. The tips above will go a long way to making the angry customer > customer service interaction a constructive one, but if the lines of communication aren’t there to back it up, you’re going to run into trouble. Make sure that whoever is running your social media presence has their finger on the pulse and a clear path of escalation to senior management if they need it. Then hopefully, you’ll never have to resort to the Twitter Witness Statement like Argyll & Bute.
Running promotions on Facebook is one of the key strategies many businesses use to attract new Likers to their pages, and to increase the amount of activity on their pages. How many times do you see “Like this post to win…” or “share our page to enter” pop into your News feed? For us, it’s at least a couple of times a week.
But. Facebook has very tight rules around running contests on their platform. You know that, right? Of course you do, you ticked that little box saying “I have read Facebook’s terms of service” when you signed up for your business page.
Yes of course we’re joking. Nobody reads those things. They run to many pages, and the majority of scenarios they cover won’t apply to most users and, well, they really ought to know that “I have read the terms & conditions” is the most frequent lie of this decade. So no, Facebook aren’t making it easy for you.
Nevertheless, there are one or two areas in there which will affect most organisations, and contests are one of them. Get on the wrong side of the law and Facebook will delete your page, just like that, gone. No discussion, and we’ve only heard anecdotally of ONE instance where a company got their page back – and that was because they knew someone who worked at Facebook HQ.
Until fairly recently, we’ve not heard of too many instances of pages being deleted, but it seems to be on the increase. The notice on the right was posted by a New Zealand-based burger chain who lost their almost 10,000 fans after someone complained about a contest breaking the rules.
Other brands we know have been hit include a French clothing retailer (lost 130,000 fans) and the Indian pages for FCUK and Cadbury’s. Smaller companies don’t tend to hit the news when their pages are lost, but we’ve heard of a few.
So statistically, given how many companies are in breach of the rules on a given day, it’s not *likely* to be you, no. But all it takes is one of your Likers (or even, without wanting to be too cynical, a competitor) to complain about your page. At the click of the Facebook Terminator’s mouse, all that time and money invested in building your community will be gone.
Obviously our main advice is to read the rules, and take them seriously. Oh and make sure your agency does too, if you’re outsourcing – we’re aware of many who are running contests on their clients’ behalf right now, either because they’re ignorant of the rules or they think it’s a reasonable risk. The full Facebook Promotions Guidelines can be found here.
Secondly, stay up to date. At the time of writing, the Promotions Guidelines were updated just over two months ago. Facebook don’t make a big noise about it when they make changes, and they do so regularly.
Thirdly, if you’re going to run contests, the easiest way to ensure you’re compliant is to use a specialist application. These will keep the promotion on a separate tab on your page, and will guarantee that all the other guidelines are followed, such as disclaimers. The premium service we use to create custom facebook tabs for our clients is great for this, so give us a call if you’d like help.
Thirdly, don’t put too many of your marketing strategy eggs in one basket. Remember, you don’t have a contract with Facebook (or any other social media site you use!) and even if you do nothing wrong, they could pull the plug at any time. Try to diversify so that you’ve also got a communication channel with your customers via your website, or have encouraged many of them to opt-in to your email database.
The UK user base for Twitter is growing every day. Every time you see one of the huge Saturday night TV shows (X Factor, The Voice, etc etc) promoting their Twitter handles or hashtags, more of their mass-market audience think “hmm, what’s that all about” and many of them will go ahead and set up an account. And Twitter is addictive, so what starts with following a feed from Saturday night TV can easily become a big part of the 36 hours an average UK user spends online each month.
Many heavy internet users now rely entirely on their online experience for information – they’ve not bought a local paper in years, and usually fast forward through TV ads. So, you’re only going to get the chance to influence those people if your business is active and well connected on Twitter.
Plus, the way Twitter works makes it almost unique as a fast communication medium with your business’s current (or future!) customers. Here’s an example of all the things one brand could’ve discussed with their customers, in just a few hours on twitter…
If you’ve already got to grips with the basic functions of Twitter, but aren’t sure how to apply it to the commercial world, here is a super-simple, five-minute outline of how to create a strategy for your business on Twitter.
Before you do anything, take a look and see whether anyone is already discussing your company or products on Twitter. Use the Advanced Search function for a short-term snapshot, or there are other social media dashboard tools which can help with this – socialmention.com is one of our favourites.
What’s being said? Is there a bias towards customer service or support (for example, a lot of people complaining about a particular function of a software programme) or are people complimenting or just mentioning your company – either of which gives a great opportunity to develop a dialogue with your customers?
It’s also worth taking a look at what your competitors are doing – this is just as likely to highlight what won’t work as what will! Both of these exercises will help you with step 2.
Or, deciding what you want Twitter to do for you – and even more importantly, how you using it will benefit your customers. That’s the thing about social media, if you don’t offer some value to your followers, they’ll tune you out pretty quickly.
The detailed answer to Step 2 can be complex and will be different for most businesses. If you found that the answer to “who’s talking about us” in Step 1 was “nobody”, then you might want to start by changing that – even the smallest neighbourhood boutique or restaurant will benefit from happy customers giving them some love on Twitter.
Think carefully about what you could do (“find and reply to people asking for recommendations in my sector“) or say (“let followers know in advance when we’ve got a sale coming up“) which will benefit the Twitter community.
As an example, we’re always happy to help anyone who asks us questions on Twitter, but as every third Twitter account belongs to a “social media guru” we tend to focus on providing a great information feed. So although there are masses of spammy, low quality articles out there around social media, our followers know that following us on Twitter will help them find just the most important, carefully selected articles which are relevant to them as business marketers.
Just sending out great content or being helpful won’t get you an army of Twitter followers – at least not in the early days. You need to be a bit more proactive.
Create a “perfect follower” profile for your business. Does it matter if they’re male or female? How old they are? Where they live? How often they tweet, and how many followers they have? You may never come across Mr or Ms Perfect, but at least you’ll know what you’re looking for.
Use your follower profile from Step 3 to set up some searches, so that you can find the right kind of followers either from their Bio information, or from the kinds of things they talk about in their tweets. Join in with their conversations, but politely and without pushing your business – imagine you’re standing next to them at a party and you won’t go too far wrong.
Work out what makes great, shareable Twitter content for your particular business. If you’re a Bakery, your followers would probably appreciate recipes for delicious looking cakes – even if they’ll never get around to making them because they’re too busy.
That doesn’t mean that you’d send out nothing but recipes though. To keep things interesting, try and brainstorm at least four or five “themes” to talk about. Is all this starting to sound a bit like being in charge of a magazine? Then you’re on the right track.
This one covers a multitude of sins, but the way you run your Twitter account REALLY reflects on your business. Everything from poor spelling to ignoring @ mentions may lead followers to draw negative conclusions about you. Spotting someone mentioning your product and thanking them, even if they didn’t mention your Twitter username, gives the opposite impression.
Avoid the negatives by checking in regularly, chatting to your “friends” on Twitter even when they’re not singing your praises, following back, and occasionally reviewing what you’ve sent out over the past month.
Then, you just need to figure out ways of creating extra positives and delighting your followers!
If you’re struggling to get from the outline above to a detailed plan for your organisation, our private Twitter training might help.
We come to your office and work through the whole shebang with you, from getting set up to fleshing out the outline strategy above. If you’re interested, here’s how to get in touch.
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