As a public relations professional, I am expected to have multiple tools in my communications arsenal — the ability to write, edit, present, create, strategize, and of course, “do” social media. These days, without an online presence, you might as well send your message via smoke signal or chisel it on a cave wall. But, while social media may play an important role in spreading your organization’s message, business leaders must recognize it as a tool, not a strategy.
Just as having a computer doesn’t give you an e-mail strategy, or having a phone doesn’t mean you’re ready to launch a tele-sales campaign, jumping on the Twitter (or Facebook or Instagram) bandwagon doesn’t mean that you are “doing” social media. In fact, a sure-fire way to tick off your customers (or potential customers) is to set up an online presence that isn’t monitored or used. Bueller? Bueller?
As is always the case when considering the use of any communications tool, start with research. Find out what online channels your customers use. Thinking of launching a Facebook campaign to reach the younger crowd? Think again. Facebook is quickly falling out of favor with teens, and growing steadily with grandparents. Teens are moving in droves to private-messaging apps such as Snapchat and Whatsapp.
What do your customers want to hear from you? How do they want to receive your message? You should have valuable information to share and be prepared to engage in a two-way conversation, not just bombard folks with what you think they want to hear. Do you have a defined process and protocol in place for posting and monitoring? Think of the staff you have in place. Can you sustain that two-way dialogue?
One company that seems to understand the importance of staying on top of social media is American Airlines (@AmericanAir). Once, after complaining via Twitter that I couldn’t access their promotion on my mobile device, I received a prompt reply:
I was provided with helpful information and was made to feel that American was truly listening to its customers. That warm and fuzzy feeling translates into customer retention and loyalty. Could that be helpful for your brand? You bet! When used strategically as part of a larger marketing and communications strategy, social media can be a valuable and powerful customer service tool for many brands.
Follow me on Twitter: @tgla1
Need a social media strategy for your business or organization? www.graysoncommunicationsla.com