Taming your business social media

By Laura Haight

How would you describe your social media management style? Is your approach similar to any of these four characterizations?

  • You are hands off. You don’t understand it, you don’t really want to hear about it. You pay someone to do it and, until you hear otherwise, they are doing their job
  • You lurk. Sure you’ve got someone doing it, but you watch like a hawk and jump in frequently when you think things are going off course.
  • You do it yourself. After all, how hard can it be?
  • You don’t do it. No one can tell you this matters. Your clients/customers aren’t tweeting. This would be a waste of your time. You’re a serious business and want to look that way.

Almost every business has got a social media presence of some kind now. But while big businesses have been building strategies and capitalizing on data, small firms have struggled with the two-edged sword:  resources and training. Small business owners face the added challenge of managing an area they may have little knowledge of.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to help small companies make more out of their social media footprint.

DO find a resource to work with you on your social media. If you are a business under 10 employees, you really want to stay focused on your core product. Social media can help here, so you’ll want to layer it in, but you also don’t want to personally responsible for maintaining it. Hire internally or bring in an independent contractor to help.

DON’T think your work is done just because you found someone to handle this “task”. If you hire a freelancer, be honest about wanting their advice. A great many independents fall back on doing exactly what they are told to do by their client. If you say you want a Facebook page with four posts a day, they’ll do that, regardless of whether it is the right approach for your business. A good partner will develop a strategy and goals with you and should be willing to explain things to you as you go along.

DO develop a strategy and think through what you want to accomplish. There are scores of social media sites and you can’t be everywhere - nor do you want to be. If your business doesn’t lend itself to photography, Instagram isn’t for you. If you are B-to-B, you may want to focus a lot of efforts toward LinkedIN.

DON’T be a slave to any strategy. There’s a fine line between fickle and flexible. Any strategy has to have time to work. By the same token, predictive data over time can illuminate better paths.

DO always listen to the voices of your customers/clients/constituents. Replacing a customer is difficult and costly. So hold onto the ones you have. Listen and respond in the most positive way possible.

DON’T let anecdotal evidence dissuade you from what your metrics tell you. Facts can be very dangerous things: they often fly in the face of long-held beliefs, and dyed-in-the-wool company behaviors. My least favorite phrase — “We have always done it this way” — is not the discussion stopper it used to be when real evidence takes a seat at the table.

DO let your staffer or contractor take your plan and run with it. Develop a calendar and work with them to make sure they’re aware of key events in your business each month. When new products are rolled out, involve the social media side at the start, not as an afterthought. If there’s a special event in the works, use social media to drive interest, sell tickets and collect names and email addresses of attendees.

DON’T let your social media get too far out of your control. Wherever possible instruct your contractor or employee to open “business accounts”. If accounts have to be set up and associated to an individual’s email address, make sure the address is one used specifically for the social media accounts and that more than one person has access to it in an emergency. All social media access and login information should be in your control at all times. I have had several situations where clients had lost control of their own pages on various social media sites and regaining access can be a lengthy process. And sometimes you don’t win.