Social media has forever changed the way companies market themselves. With Facebook’s population now more than double that of the United States, an arguably more active (though smaller) user base on Twitter, and sites like LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+ attracting thousands of new people daily, there’s no denying the impact these sites are having on the business world .
But hiring a social media expert to manage your company’s online reputation and drive traffic to your site doesn’t mean you have to follow every bit of the expert’s advice. Some social media consultants rely on the fact that their clients are unfamiliar with social media, and prey on this lack of knowledge by making suggestions that sound good, but really aren’t great advice.
Remember, you know your company, its culture and its personality better than any social media expert. Stick to your common sense!
Here are the five most common suggestions made by social media experts that you can ignore to protect your company’s reputation and integrity:
1 – You should create a fake online persona for your company.
Social media consultants who make this recommendation are undoubtedly considering your best interests. They think you should create a “face” for your company in social media. While it’s appropriate for a business to create a company profile on a social networking site, it’s NOT appropriate to create a fake person, complete with name, photo and bio, and to pretend that fake person is an employee.
If you’re feeling nervous about using your own name for your company’s social media presence, creating a fake persona may sound quite appealing. But it’s dishonest, and it opens your company to complaints of deception from consumers, and to penalties from social media companies.
Think there are so many profiles that a social media company will never realize your persona is a fraud? You’re wrong. Being shut down has happened to people I know, and possibly even to people you know (though they’re probably too embarrassed to admit it). If you aren’t comfortable using yourself as the face of your company in the social media world, create a Facebook company page, a company Twitter profile and other profiles with your company name. You can still develop a consistent “voice” and personality for your company profiles.
2 – Social media campaigns must be managed by a social media professional.
While it’s true that people without any prior social media experience could have a hard time breaking into that world, it’s not at all true that your company’s social media campaigns must be managed 100 percent by a social media pro.
For starters, unless you’re selling something extremely commonplace, your social media consultant is likely unfamiliar with the intricacies of your business, and will be unable to respond to inquiries quickly – or in a professional manner – without seeking your advice. Of course, you could train your social media consultant about your niche, but it makes more sense to have one of your staff trained in using social media appropriately so you can run portions of your campaign in-house.
One good example of this is Best Buy. The electronics retailing giant has 3,000 employees regularly tweeting suggestions and advice to customers, as well as responding to customer questions and complaints. CEO Brian Dunn is one of these employees. Though Dunn isn’t a typical social media expert, he works hard to maintain a relationship with his 14,000+ followers, and has succeeded in turning Best Buy into a social media powerhouse.
3 – If you build it, they will come.
When it comes to social media, nothing could be further from the truth. Publicizing a social media campaign requires not only regular posting (an admittedly time-intensive endeavor), but strategic marketing of the social media profiles through placement on your website, external ads, contests and other PR efforts.
Some social media consultants downplay the importance of aggressive campaign promotion because they’re trying to stay within a client’s budget restrictions. This form of compromise, however, will likely result in less than stellar results for the campaign, turning the up-front investment into money ill spent.
4 – It’s okay for social media to be a one-way street.
Don’t be misled! A social media campaign is not just another form of public relations. The goal is not just to push out your updates, articles or sales in a social platform – it should be to engage your investors, partners, customers and potential customers in a dynamic conversation. That will make all these stakeholders interested enough in your social posts to share them with their friends, who will then share with their friends, spreading your message to a wider and wider group of people with an interest in what you have to say – and sell.
An example of a company that does this extremely well is Coastal Contacts. The eyewear company offers giveaways and prizes to Facebook fans who send in suggestions and photos of their favorite eyeglasses, and fans who participate in online quizzes and challenges. The Coastal team also responds quickly to all customer inquiries on their Facebook page.
To succeed in social media, you may want to romance not only potential customers, but also influencers in your field who can help expand your reach. Here are a few suggestions to enlist social media influencers.
5 – You can’t…(fill in the blank).
When it comes to social media, there is no rule book or holy grail that can ensure a campaign’s success. If you feel strongly about sharing socially with a specific tone, approach or method, don’t hesitate to ignore your social media consultant’s dissent – once you’ve given these objections some consideration, of course.
It’s up to you to set the tone for your company. Unless you’re compelled to publish something inappropriate or irrelevant (think of how Charlie Sheen, Gilbert Gottfried and Anthony Weiner ruined their careers with inappropriate tweets in 2011), little harm will be done by pushing the envelope a bit. In fact, that’s a big part of what social media is about!
This article was written and contributed by Sari Holtz.
Sari is an internet marketing veteran who contributes regularly to Consumer-Rankings.com, a website that offers web hosting reviews, as well as reports and ranks of the top dating sites, online tax software and more.