Which Network?

There are many different networks, each with their own pros and cons. Spend some time looking at the various options and listening to the online chatter, and assess what suits your business. Where are your customers most likely to be? Does LinkedIn make more sense for you at the moment than Facebook?

Where’s the Value?

Participate where you can add the most value. Do not just try and be everywhere and likewise do not just stay within your own domains. Use your newfound knowledge from researching the various networks to assess appropriateness.

Be Flexible

Keep flexible and aware. Technology is constantly changing and just because certain networks suit your business today does not mean they will necessarily be the right choices in 3 months time. Look out for key customer trends and where relevant, use them to your advantage.

Who Are You?

Develop an online style. Become “human” online with a tone of voice and brand personality; but be true to you.  You need a coherent message on your website, through social media, in advertising and in person.  Think of your audience. If you are selling kid’s toys for example, is a very corporate tone of voice appropriate? Will that engage your target audience? If you are selling luxury items is it appropriate to be relaxed and jokey or will this impact on perceived professionalism?  Use your common sense and put yourself in the shoes of your customers.

It’s All About the Strategy

Have a communication strategy; a framework that covers off how you plan on using the channels you decide to be involved in. This should look at frequency of comms, how to deal with specific queries, who to escalate to, what should be deleted (if anything) how to deal with public complaints etc. It is then very important that the people responsible for delivering the social media strategy fully understand the communication strategy. Gain employee buy in. A joined up approach is very important for a business, however smallAny inconsistencies are likely to be picked up and could impact on people’s impressions of your brand.

Do I Have Enough Resources?

Think about your resources carefully. Do you have the resource available to keep up the level of content you are planning? Do you have the resources available to deal with any feedback in real time? Do your team thoroughly understand the communication strategy? Will any training be required to ensure consistency in approach and understanding of various networks?

Technology Barriers

Do you have the technology to support your strategy? Are there any firewalls that could prevent access? Who do you want to have access to the sites? Could this cause internal conflict? How will you monitor work vs. personal time on social media?

Take Part

Within the networks you decide to  join, do not just listen – that will not get you noticed. Do not just sell – that will get you ignored. Find a balance between offering advice, recognising others’ contributions, sharing content and telling people about yourself. The balance will vary depending on the network so make sure you take the time to sense and respect the norm.

What’s too much?

Do not amp people. Content is king but overload is not! The definition of “amp” will again vary across networks. For example, in a single day people would expect to see more than just you on their Facebook home page, people use this to see information about their friends. A few posts is fine but if you start taking over their page they may stop following you for this reason. Twitter on the other hand is very different. Because it is constantly moving,  followers  like information to be shared as long as it is relevant and interesting and therefore you could post a bit more if you wanted.

What Are Your Competitors Doing?

Use competitor intelligence. See what your competitors are doing and try and get a sense of how you can improve it. Look at customer comments and what they are asking for. Assess what appears to work for others in your market place by looking at customer interactions and use it to your advantage. There is no point in starting right from the very beginning if you do not have to.

Can You Handle the Truth?

Be prepared for feedback, whether you ask for it or not. One of the best things about social media, is the ability to hear customer feedback in real time. This is something many are afraid of but actually should embrace. In order to build a community online you need to know what you do well and what you could improve, what people like about you and what they don’t, what you have above competitors and where you lack…. this can only be a good thing if you treat this information as gold dust. Respond to feedback honestly and publicly, in line with your communication strategy. People respect honesty and if you mess up so to speak, you should be held accountable. At least this way you can make amends rather than lose a customer forever..

Be Polite

Thank people publicly. If people say nice things about you and your products, thank them. Engage with them so they know you appreciate their business and opinion. They are more likely to praise you again if they think they will get recognition in return.

Image via howtostartablogonline.net

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