Landmark Media

Social media … both the Saviour AND the Anti Christ

In our workshops we often talk about how people are rarely indifferent to social media – they’re either pro or con.  Social media polarises people.

I read a story recently in the careers liftout of The Advertiser here in Adelaide.  It was a double-page spread on how jobseekers could use social media in their search for work.  The article was littered with phrases like ‘you need to be in this space’, ‘everyone else is doing it’ and ‘this is the best way to improve your chances of finding a job’.  It was extraordinarily pro social media and the reader was left thinking that if they didn’t get themselves into social media immediately then they may as well not bother applying for jobs.

It reminded me of a story about the issue of Australian swimmers posting on Facebook photos of themselves holding guns (http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/australian-olympic-swimmers-nick-darcy-and-kenrick-monk-pose-with-guns-in-facebook-photo/story-fncv4yyy-1226387758816).  You can argue whether that was smart or not (and I don’t think it was) but the storm that unleashed was incredible.  At the time, I listened to talkback radio and also read the comments sections of a few mainstream media outlets to see how people were reacting to the story.

What I saw surprised me.  It didn’t matter whether people thought these two swimmers were doing the right thing or not.  The one thing that seems to bind all the responses together was the view that ‘that’s the problem with social media’.  Regardless of whether readers/listeners felt the swimmers had thought through their actions, they all seemed to think social media was at fault.

So, social media is both Saviour and Anti-Christ.  Talk about an identity crisis.

How does that relate to social media in business?  We are often dealing with management or general staff who see these stories and form opinions accordingly.  I have already had a conversation this week with a business owner who actually quoted the swimming story saying, ‘pretty unsafe this Facebook thing, so I don’t think we’ll bother’.

That’s our biggest challenge in social media … finding that balance.  To talk down the hyped-up social media converts and to talk up the haters.  Once we find that balance, running social media programs is much, much easier but importantly, much more profitable.

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The four keys to social media … #2

There are four keys to good social media practice.  It’s more than just choosing the right tool – it’s about the right approach.  Today is …

Key #2 – Consistency of message

When you look at successful social media, it is no different to any other marketing effort.

It represents your company in a space in which your customers – or even prospective customers – reside.  They perceive you through the messages you upload.  They form opinions on you and your ability to do business based on what they read.  They form long lasting perceptions about your customer service ability by how they see you reacting to customers.

For example, you can talk until you’re blue in the face about how well you handle customer complaints but if it takes you three weeks to respond to a tweet or post that is complaining about your product or service, then that undermines your message completely.

All good social media is like any other communication in that it demands a consistency of message.  If your point of difference is about price, then your social media program reflects that.  If your point of difference is about product, then you tweet about that.  If you stand apart from your competitors because of brilliant customer service, then your online community speaks of that as well (or, better still, the community itself talks about it).  If you’re a family business and your customers actually join that family, then your social media takes on that flavour.

This is something that businesses often forget.  When they are putting social media efforts together, too many times they are caught up in the nuts and bolts of the tool itself to see how they are portraying themselves.

But how they portray themselves is 95% of the success of social media.

Next time – key #3 in the four keys to good social media practice.

The four keys to good social media …

There are four keys to good social media practice.  It’s more than just choosing the right tool – it’s about the right approach.  Today is …

Key #1 – The ability to maintain it

A year or two ago, businesses were asking how to get into social media.  Now the question has changed with more businesses asking ‘why’ to get into social media.

One of the things that we factor into any social media program that we build for businesses is not just

The strength of your social media program is not the fact that you are doing it.  That is no longer a selling point.  The fact is HOW you’re doing it and your ability to resource it and do it effectively.  The key to good social media is not being cute or clever … it’s being consistently in the space.  It’s about being consistent in your delivery.

People know when they offer ideas, you thank them.  They know when they complain you respond.

Good social media is about starting and having conversations with your customer base.  Picture a networking function where your customer asked you a question and then you didn’t answer it until the end of the night.  How would they perceive you?  Rude?  Disinterested?  That’s no different to time lags in social media.

Next time – key #2 in the four keys to good social media practice.

Real web maintenance

I read a great post by Gerry McGovern, who made the point that companies are more than happy to spend $200,000 every three years on a massive website redesign and put no money into redevelopment in the ensuing years.  They were reinventing the wheel every three years and then letting the wheel go flat in between times. In short, he recommended that companies would be better off to spend $50,000 a year for three years.

He is right. But he is also in the minority, sadly.

Web site maintenance is a key part of a successful web strategy. In my workshops on web writing, I often asked the question of participants ‘ how often do you update your website?’   I sometimes ask them ‘ how often you go through your website taking down old material?’   The answer, sadly, is ‘when I can find time’.

Web site maintenance is not about web servers. Maintaining a website is not about minimising downtime so people can access information around the clock. It is about ensuring that whenever they access information they are getting the best information possible.  That usually means giving them content that provide to answer the questions, to help them to achieve their goals or to assist them to easily contact and connect with your organisation.

Website maintenance is about content.  It’s about maintaining what you have and ensuring it ALWAYS hits the mark – not just in the afterglow of a relaunch.

Part of any website responsibility is to ensure that you are regularly adding good information, replacing old information or archiving redundant information.  Does your organisation have a plan to deal with this?

Because many organisations struggle with this concept, I will be releasing shortly an eBook on how to effectively maintain your website, to schedule in time to continuously improve your web content. Watch this space.

In the meantime, do you proactively manage or maintain your website or does the website manage you?

Aren’t there some sort of statistics you can Google for that?

“Aren’t there some sort of statistics you can Google for that?”

I was stunned to be asked that question. I know Google is the font of all knowledge, but come on.

I’ve been working with a particular small business and helping them with some improvements to their web site and the establishment of better practice in their social media, which isn’t working.

I had raised a question about their customers, particularly in light of what THEY wanted from the business. The question, specifically, was “When it comes to your industry, what are the three things that customers want?”

Then I got that answer.

The answer then – as it will be now and forever – is NO.

There are two things you can learn from this brief exchange:

  1. There is no substitute for knowing your customers, as closely as possible. Not in a stalkery kind of way, but in the context of you knowing why they do business with you, why they perhaps don’t, why they don’t do more business with you or even how they relate to your brand beyond the product or service you offer. This information drives the posts you write, the pics you share, the content you develop … even the site map on which you build your web site.
  2. There are no shortcuts to finding this information. The question my client asked was at best naïve and at worst lazy. I’m always amazed at clients who tell me their social media program didn’t work but then when I ask them how much preparation they did before embarking on it, their response is almost none. “Join Facebook, starting posting” isn’t a communication strategy.

The more work you put into understanding your customers, the better your communication will be. It will be tailored to their needs, answer their questions and deliver value to them that they’re looking for.  It will sharpen your work, save you time and focus your business communication.  The better you aim your online communication, the better your results will be.

Or you could Google. And because you’re aiming at nothing, you’ll be guaranteed to hit it.

How often should you update your web site?

In a recent series of web writing workshops for schools, the question was asked – how often should we update our web site?

Updating your web site is critical to its success.  You can have the prettiest, funkiest, coolest web site that your designer can deliver, but if you get a reputation that it’s out of date, people just stop visiting.  They don’t cut you some slack and keep visiting in the hope it’s up to date – they just don’t bother.

So how often should you update your site to ensure people keep coming?

For schools, the answer is quite simple – you need to update your web site at least as often as you publish a school newsletter.

Companies or government can use a similar formula.  If you publish a quarterly newsletter, then your web site needs to be updated at least four times a year (and be updated we mean an overhaul and review of your content).

If you publish information on a monthly basis to supporters (if you’re a non-profit), then you need to update your web site content at least once a month.

So how does that flow into social media?  Shouldn’t you be in the social media space daily?  Hourly?  Minute by minute? Not necessarily.

When it comes to social media, the formula we like to use is to divide the timeframes you are updating your web site by four.  If you, as an organisation, are updating your web site once a month – and you are in the social media space – then you need to be posting/tweeting/contributing at least once a week.  For a quarterly web site update, it means at least once a month.

Notice the words ‘at least’.  One of the things about social media is that it requires ongoing commitment.  Less than that can be seen as a negative.  You need to be regular – not every day – but at least in keeping with the information flow from your business.

Should we build intranets like internets?

Yes.  Why not?

Intranets are fascinating business tools.  The responsibility to design them often falls to IT teams as a way of delivering information to staff in the quickest way possible.

What I find most fascinating is the relationship between the three groups who are responsible for communicating best with staff – Marketing/Communications, Human Resources and IT.

These relationships are often quite tense with various teams marking their virtual territory and vying for custody of the intranet.  Most times we end up not being strategists on these projects – we’re more like the Family Court.

Most intranet projects we’ve worked on are weighted too far in one of those directions … and this is what you end up with.

Marketing/comms intranets: are very warm and fuzzy, with lots of rah-rah and cheerleading.  Information is primarily sales-focussed.  Very glossy.

Human resources intranets: are very process-focussed.  They have lots of policies and procedures in place.

IT intranets: are built using cool tools.  Often very hard to understand or find anything.

The best intranets are built using a combination of all three.  In an ideal world, there are no custody battles over who ‘owns’ the intranet, but instead there is an easy path to a RANGE of information.

In our workshops, we often talk about the differences in what staff and an organisation think are the most important parts of their intranet.  They both start with the letter ‘P’.

Every organisation we’ve dealt with in developing an intranet says the most important thing is ‘POLICIES’ (with PROCEDURES running a close second – also a P word – how cool …)

Every staff group we’ve dealt with says the most important thing is ‘PHONE NUMBERS’ (with PEOPLE running a close second (also both P words – this must be karma …)

When building an intranet, your organisation should build it like an internet – identifying your staff as an audience and then delivering what they need from you.

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