Once you’ve decided to introduce a social media initiative to your company, you need to decide how to do it. One important comment needs to be made here:- the internet and social media make the actions of your company much more transparent. The acts of one part of the company can impact on the reputation of another part.
So say you have excellent customer service in your contact centre, if your repair service is awful, that bad experience will be quickly reflected across the whole of the company. Hence many commentators suggest that social media must be pervasive throughout the organization.
This also comes back to what do you want to achieve from social media? You may want to have a social media presence for your customer service department to deal with customer issues and your product management department may want to use social media to learn more about customers and their experiences.
Hence any initiative must take into account how your organization will engage with the different networks.
Today, for most businesses, there are two main social media networks that are important: twitter and facebook. There are others too, for particular niches, such as Apple’s Ping for music and Sermo for US Physicians.
The principal difference between twitter and facebook is that twitter is an open network and facebook is a closed one. That is, interactions on twitter are open to the public and those on facebook are within a closed network.
This is of course a gross oversimplification, but an important one to understand how to use the two different networks. It is possible to send private messages on twitter and it is possible to have a public facebook page, but these are not the main way in which each platform is used.
Hence twitter is an effective tool for recruiting new people to your social media network and facebook is a good tool for nurturing them.
The magic of twitter is its openness. This openness allows you to search for interactions by people with whom you can offer your assistance and start building a relationship. For example, if you are selling travel insurance, you could search in twitter for “travel insurance” and engage with people looking for information.
The engagement should take the form of offering advice or answering a particular question rather than pushing a particular product. For example, if there is a question on whether a person requires extra insurance for travel to Europe, the response would be of the form:
“Travel Insurance is recommended as medical visits in Europe cost on average $10,000”
As opposed to:
“Buy our European Travel Insurance for only $29 per week!”
Engaging with advice starts to build trust, and you need to be able to trust your travel insurance provider!
Facebook’s role becomes more apparent once you have a relationship with someone. Companies typically create a page on facebook and then ask for people to “like it”. The “Liking” party will then receive updates from that page on their facebook.
So you can use facebook to keep your network of contacts updated with information that may be of interest to them. This can be new blog posts, this can be questions and it can be competitions. One hotel holds a weekly draw for a free night’s lodging for its facebook community to help keep excitement for the hotel alive.
The members of facebook who like a page can also comment on any item posted, so they can have a conversation around points of interest. For example, if the travel insurance company were to post that 45% of travellers are underinsured, it’s community could discuss the impact of this.
In summary, twitter can be used to find new customers and facebook to nurture them. The key element is to continually build a trustworthy relationship to make your company the first place someone would visit for your product line.