Written by Paula Toole
Ten years ago, the phrase ‘social media’ had barely been uttered, but now it is completely unavoidable both in business and society in general.
The chances are pretty high are that any person walking past you with their smartphone in their hand is commenting on a status, retweeting something or connecting with a business associate, and it is something that organisations of all sizes and in every sector have taken note of.
As such, it is rare to visit a company website and not see icons redirecting users to social channels, where they can share their experiences with others and engage more fully with a brand, its products and fellow consumers.
The challenge for brands is ensuring that each of these channels is being harnessed in the best possible way, and while many adopt the approach of posting content a set number of times each day across every platform, the truth is that different platforms require different approaches.
A 140-character tweet offers little opportunity to explain something in depth, and so a bite-sized approach to sharing needs to be adopted by businesses looking to harness its potential.
Rather than settling on a specific issue and randomly tweeting it out, the instant nature of Twitter means that things can get lost in the shuffle in an instant, and so the best tactic is to offer insight or comment that is a break from the norm.
Although hashtags exist on other social platforms, Twitter remains the king, and monitoring these and responding in kind can help to generate awareness of a company’s market presence and also its ethos, depending on the content of that tweet.
Twitter is also perhaps the most evenly spread platform when it comes to the B2B/B2C split, with companies and the public alike taking to it to update the world on everything form their brand strategy to what they had for dinner.
It means that sifting through it can sometimes be a minefield, but also means the opportunities to enter and spark debate are almost endless.
Despite not altering its makeup or focus for many years, LinkedIn remains the world’s third most popular social media site, and still offers a veritable smorgasbord of professional opportunities.
At its heart, the platform is an opportunity to make and maintain business contacts, which is perhaps a reason why the formula has rarely been tinkered with, but the posting function can also be fruitful if approached correctly.
Generally, LinkedIn users have far less tolerance for spammy content, and so multiple posts a day about inane subjects will result in apathy at best and a lost connection or negative sentiment at worst.
A business platform needs business-focused content, and therefore any content you post – whether first or third party – needs to tap into organisations’ concerns while also offering a unique perspective on it.
By harnessing thoughts and opinions on a pertinent matter, the probability of likes and shares will increase, which in turn will help to boost the reach of the post and awareness of the company itself among connections’ own contacts.
The world’s most popular social networking site by far remains the most enigmatic when it comes to business use, with multiple approaches each reaping different rewards.
At its heart, Facebook provides an opportunity for organisations to have an additional online presence outside of their own websites, with a page that Facebook users can like and then receive updates on, whenever they are posted.
However, as the vast majority of page likes are likely to be from existing customers, the challenge for businesses is how to attract new ones while not putting off prospective custom.
Social media competitions are a proven way of pulling in shares and likes, but their efficacy is questionable when weighed against the cost of giving away products or services and the probability that engagement will largely result from the prospect of a freebie.
Instead, creativity needs to be the key driver, with content that can entertain, educate and engage being the most effective at getting eyes on the product and boosting brand recognition.
Of course, social media is not limited to these three platforms, but the need to adopt differing approaches to properly utilise them is consistent across all channels.
The next time you see a news item and go to share the same thing across your social platforms with the same wording, pause to think about who will be seeing it, what you want them to do with it, and how it can ultimately impact your brand – it will likely change your approach.