Staying in control of your social media

By Laura Haight

Originally published in the Upstate Business Journal, Nov. 23, 2012

Every business loves those energetic up-and-comers who happily volunteer for additional duties, like handling social media, producing a monthly newsletter or blogging. Most likely, it's someone who is young, likes to Tweet, has a Facebook page, and speaks the lingo. You may have happily given your approval. After all, it didn't require more staff or more money.

But remember who owns the company.

Having someone perform these tasks is great, but your business needs to treat social media as you would any other marketing effort. Even though it is casual, mobile and seemingly transitory, it still demands the same oversight and control.

Here are a couple of considerations.

Control : The bedrock of Facebook is people, not businesses. So your company's Facebook page has to start with an individual creating it. Although that person is taking over the social media role for you, you are still the owner of your company. So make sure that you a) have a personal Facebook page and b) are an admin on your company page.

If your employee leaves the company and there are no other admins on the page, the page will be deleted - and along with it, all the content and, more significantly, the connections you've created. While you can recreate the content, rebuilding the relationships is time consuming and much more difficult. Unlike Facebook, Twitter accounts can be company based, but make sure you have the login and password.

Content: You would not let a mid-level, fairly new, line staffer go out and place a full-page ad in the newspaper about your company without significant review, discussion, and a pretty thorough approval process. But you may - and many businesses have - allow employees to send information about your company and its values out to the world via social media without any oversight at all.

Social media is part of a communication strategy and while it should be more casual, more authentic and less stilted and polished than other marketing elements, you still need to be aware of and in control of what you are saying.

Inc. Magazine recently listed the Worst Tweets of 2012 - a litany of poorly crafted, insensitive and extremely public blunders by large companies who - by and large - didn't know what was going out. Read the list (it's good for a laugh and a lesson) at http://goo.gl/IxKCM.

Image: All public-facing communications need to reflect your image, your message and your values. If you are a design company, you want your newsletter to look high-end; if you're a law firm, you are probably going for solid and dependable. Tools like MailChimp and Constant Contact make it relatively easy to create direct mail campaigns to your customer base or subscriber list. But they don't have design-police or editors.

I have seen some very buttoned up businesses send out newsletters that look like my neighbor’s middle-schooler put them together in art class. You don’t have to hire a designer to do this work for you, but a clean color scheme, clear logo, and good typography (14 pt lime green words DO draw attention, but not the right kind!) are the best bet for non-designers. Stick with the basics and let your content do the talking.

If you use these or other communications methods, make sure that you have the account information. Campaigns can be set up to automatically send out material on a schedule. If your go-to person leaves the company, you may have automated campaigns that aren't even aware of set to go out. And without the account information, you may be in for hours of time on the phone trying to regain control of your own accounts.

Final tip: Be a liker of your businesses Facebook page, a follower of your Twitter account and make sure your personal email is included in your email subscriber list and, if you use segments or groups, that you are in each one. That way you will always know what your connections are seeing.

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