Is There A Person In There?
It’s called social media marketing. The term social implies that the communication meant to travel down a two way street, yet many small businesses which offer very personal service in real life are still struggling to grasp this concept when it comes to their advertising.
This might be because its scary, it might be because the poster is instantly opening them self up to criticism. It might be because they are afraid to say something wrong and, heaven forbid, see some negative criticism come from a post. It is easy to continue to hide behind the corporate image your company provides when attempting to communicate in order to avoid some of the anxiety and personal responsibility that comes with communicating with people…
Let’s take an example, many local businesses will show their personal side by using employees or business owners in television commercials, however on Facebook they will still appear to be one uniform post generating machine with no human face. Ask yourself this, whens the last time you knew who the person was behind a Facebook post?
Businesses are slowly starting to come around though. Let’s take a few examples…
The first is Saab Automobile. Saab is an internationally recognized auto-manufacturer serving dozens of countries. A little while back, like most car companies, Saab would release press, articles, and news through their expressionless corporate face. Sure they were posting to a social network and interacting with people, however it still felt fake. Users may feel like they are just talking back to a corporation full of rules, filters, and lawyers that must approve everything that gets said… And sure this type of monitoring will need to continue, but it should be invisible to your followers.
To kick their personality up a notch, Saab launched a new “insider blog” written by a real person that has a real face, real opinions and real interests. His name is Steven Wade and he is a Saab fanatic. He got his blogging start several years ago with his blog “trollhatten saab“, which later evolved into saabsunited.com. Swade as he likes to be called gained international recognition as the “guy in the know” when it came to Saab. Frequently traveling internationally to find the latest news on Saab to report to his die hard fans. Swade even had a large hand in promoting the Save Saab campaign which is generally recognized as being the single largest factor in saving the brand at a time when much larger volume makers like saturn, hummer and pontiac were being dissolved. The new blog is http://inside.saab.com/
The point here of course is that Saab is putting a face on their news now. Their new “insider” information will be written by Swade, it will sound like its coming from a real human being with human emotions, human opinions
and the ability to make human mistakes… Where in the past they took a largely neutral position on everything like most other automakers (ignoring both positive and negative criticism, feeling like a robot designed just to make facebook posts).
The second example I would like to take a look at is WGME CBS 13 in Maine, a local news station. They have recently started identifying staff personally in many of their posts. I really like this one because it includes a perfect demonstration of the petty negative criticism you open yourself up to in any situation.
Here, it would have been very easy to leave out the “Giovanna Here” portion of the post… however in this case in particular, this tiny addition does wonders for the personal branding of WGME’s news staff. You can regularly see Giovanna on the news reporting live from various locations. Knowing that she’s the one talking to you on Facebook adds a personal touch and increase the connection the reader feels with the post, and may increase the amount of “activity” the post receives. What was suddenly a faceless robotic (or intern made?) post now has a face, a human connection that the reader will immediately visualize.
This may also effect the way people interact with posts as well (usually for the better). Of course, haters gonna hate, as evidently a grammar teacher and life coach seems to take issue with Giovanna’s posting format (see above), ironically, using equally poor formatting.
Now what does this all mean as far as benefits to your corporation? More trust, more communication, more people that can identify and feel comfortable knowing that a real person is listening to their feedback. But of course the benefits are supposed to work on the same 2 way street if you let them. Being able to listen to people provides critical qualitative market research that is basically free. Listen to what people are saying and use the information to improve your own business. Having a system in place to track trends and aggregate ideas and thoughts from followers can allow you to offer people that extra something special that will make them more loyal.
An important thing to remember is that interpersonal communication skills translate directly to the internet. Skills that facilitate good communication in real life can be directly applied to things like Facebook and Twitter, including asking open ended questions, being able to accept, process and learn from criticism, and not raising communication barriers when things start to get hairy (ex: deleting negative posts or trying to bury them with a flood of garbage posts).
It is also important to heavily train all of your staff in regard to etiquette, your terms and conditions, as well as crisis management. It can seem a little overwhelming, luckily there are businesses that specialize in PR and communications which would be happy to consult your business and provide training seminars to get all of your staff up to speed on using this technology. In addition many businesses will offer tracking and monthly analysis in order to help improve your strategy.
So what are the steps?
- Don’t be afraid to identify yourself or your staff as real people in your posts.
- Don’t be afraid to throw out a harmless opinion every once and a while (Instead of just asking other people what they think, let them know what you think if its harmless enough, it will definitely spark much more interaction)… Don’t go stating who you’d vote for in the next election just yet; use your best judgement and consult others before taking any chances if you are unsure.
- Embrace all kinds of feedback
- Train your staff and have contingency plans.
Of course there is no one-size fits all owners manual that will tell you how to run your Facebook page… A customized approach is a necessity, and the ability to learn and adapt over time is crucial. If your Facebook page is stagnant, see what you can do to mix things up!
So embrace social media marketing! It’s here to stay and it’s only going to get worse!