Over the weekend I was asked by the Belfast Telegraph to do an interview about how businesses in Northern Ireland do social media. Grateful for a few day’s notice, I began jotting down a few notes. And the few notes became a few pages. I’m sure the journo will not be able to cover all of this, so here were my thoughts as of Saturday evening last.
For anyone in business who wants to know more about how social media can be used, I am available for a reasonable fee …
If the question is have I seen good examples of Social Media in Business in Northern Ireland – in short — not a lot. But i have seen some not good – rather than out right bad – Social Media. I fear that businesses don’t really get it – they know it’s there, but they haven’t quite worked out what to do.
- Social Media is not an easy option – but done properly it can be a very effective and affordable way to activity to support a business – Done badly, it can be a disaster.
- Social Media now needs to be at the centre of a business’s communications activity. It is not easy to organise and execute social media in a way that benefits a company but the skill of businesses today to communicate with customers online is vital. And all the more important when you are trying to reach new markets, and sustain existing customer base. It is also unavoidable.
- Unavoidable? A business might like to ignore Social Media but customers might decide not to. Look for example at Trip Advisor. A business must engage with customers if they are reviewing your Bar or Restaurant or Hotel. And if the public decide to discuss your poor customer support – or equally your superb service – you need to be part of the conversation
- I have seen some poor examples and very few good examples in Northern Ireland.
- It is not something for business leaders to delegate and forget about
- Put social media at the centre of all communications whether marketing or promotion, or (most importantly) customer service. In my view a business that puts marketing in the lead – or the press office – is destined to fail. I do not want to be marketed to on social media unless the marketers are vey, very clever (chack out the brilliant and long established http://www.
- It cannot be only about sending marketing messages – it has to be as much about listening, responding (appropriately) and helping your customers to be your supporters – it is possible to use social media to help your customers to be your ambassadors. I used to think that was just a line – but I am now convinced that your customers will speak up for you if they are truly satisfied with your product/service.
- Where do you start? You need firstly to have a social media policy as part of the organisation – staff, board members, managers need to understand what they can and cannot do using social media if they are going to be associated with what you do.
- Then you need a Social Media Strategy. You CANNOT tell someone to start sending messages on Twitter and think that will be effective.
- People running your social media output/content/platforms need to understand what you are trying to achieve – as a business leader and manager YOU need to know what you are trying to achieve.
- I have seen good social media from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, from BT (I have had direct help from them on two occasions)
- DO NOT put the youngest least experienced person in charge of social media. Woud you put a new start out as your main sales rep? There is a widely held – and wrongly held belief – that Social Media is some way all about Young People. There is no evidence that this is all about 15 year olds. A business’s activity must be as mature and sophisticated as they possible can be.
- Provide information- in real time to your followers
- Use two or three platforms – find out where your customers are and talk to them where they are.
- Use Photos, videos, audio – use humour – be good natured – but respond, help, be active.
- Marketing will think it’s their responsibility, the press office will think it is their responsibility, customer relations will think it is their responsibility. It is the CEO’s responsibility and should cut across all divisions and responsibilities.
- First question I am always asked is “What do I say?” The second questions is always “But what if they say something bad about my business?” The third question is usually “Where will I get the time?” Think about all those questions and work out the answers – or find someone to help you work out the answers.
- Plan, record, measure, respond. Make sure everyone in your organisation is available to your social media person/people/team.
- Develop strategies, develop tactics. Social media is a business tool. Regard it as such.
- And do not confuse Social Media with Marketing and Advertising. It is what it is itself. it is your direct personal line to the rest of the world – and I am not exaggerating.