New businesses, particularly small ones, are fully aware of how important social media can be. So why do so many of them make such simple and avoidable mistakes?
If a company engages with their customers, both the company and the customer benefit. The company has a higher likelihood of revenue by increasing their reputation and the customer feels like they’re appreciated socially, not just for the contents of their pockets.
Particularly with the retail industry, social media can be used to discuss and engage with current and potential customers, so that everyone feels like they’re on the same level as each other. With billions of people all on Facebook, Twitter and Google+, how can a company afford not to tackle this goldmine correctly?
- Not replying to anybody. We can probably all think of an occasion where we’ve posted on a small retailer’s Facebook page to settle a query and we’ve been ignored. This is evidence that the company has created an account for the sake of creating one, rather than as an important (and most of all, quick) contact method. It’s not just a waste of people’s time – it’s downright rude.
If your customer asks you a question in person or over the phone, you’d answer them straight away, and the same should be said for social media. They won’t bother shopping with your business in future if they feel that you aren’t listening or you don’t care. You need to get back to people within 24 hours of them posting, or they’ll find other means of communication. Or even worse – other places to shop.
- Not posting anything. While a social media page is largely for allowing customers a more instant form of communication, it’s also for giving them interesting things to read or look at. If you don’t post anything, nothing will appear in their newsfeeds and they’ll potentially forget that you exist.
- Not posting anything interesting. More annoying than nothing being posted at all is if you click on a business’s social media page and it’s littered with a load of dull, uninspiring and irrelevant rubbish. People will soon learn not to visit your page because there’s much more interesting and relevant stuff out there.
- Overly automated posts. You may have seen a page in the past where nothing is posted for hours, and then in the space of just 10 minutes, you’ll be confronted with dozens of posts at once. This happens when automation isn’t scheduled properly. Even more infuriating is when a business posts to Facebook using the ‘@’ symbol because they haven’t changed the post’s format from when it was on Twitter. This gives the appearance that they are just spooling out the same information without giving proper attention to Facebook-based customers.
- Volatile temperaments. Getting hostile is absolutely inexcusable, but many of us will have seen a Facebook page where a restaurant is defending their food when someone has complained about it. You need to be able to handle criticisms and honest opinions if you’re venturing onto social media, or you’ll put your customers (and their friends) off for life.
- Being too opinionated. Following on from being too hostile to customer’s opinions, you mustn’t be too opinionated yourself. Even if it’s a positive opinion, it’s best avoided if you’re a small business because it could be seen as getting too big for your shoes or it could offend someone with conflicting views. Ben and Jerry’s came out in support of gay marriage, which is great, but they’ve got nothing to worry about when you consider their current size and popularity. Wait until your business has grown before projecting opinions.
- Inconsistent branding. If your company has a specific brand image which has long been established, your social media page needs to be consistent with it. It might be tempting to be really chatty, hip and approachable, to try and appeal to people, but if that’s not in line with how your company has previously projected itself then it will feel awkward.
- Not being ready for change or different platforms. Facebook might be one of the most popular platforms in the west, but this isn’t necessarily the case in other parts of the world. Facebook is prohibited in China and they have their own platform called RenRen, and sometimes Facebook just isn’t as popular in some countries as it is over here. Obviously make sure your business is on Facebook and Twitter, but be ready for the constant influx of new platforms. Culture changes with every passing day, and you need to be ready for it.
- Mixing business with pleasure. While it’s good to be light on social media platforms, you mustn’t in any way mix your business page with your personal page, unless your personal page is highly professional. Your business won’t look trustworthy or respectable if users can easily flick onto your personal page, where you’ve recently discussed how much you hate the general public. Your comeuppance will be swift.
- Finally, not being aware of current events. If something cataclysmic has happened in the world and the public is in mourning or distress, and your business continues posting about how awesome your pepperoni pizzas are, you’ll lose respect. It will either show that you aren’t keeping an eye on automated posts or you simply don’t care about what’s happened. Social media can sometimes be a place for users and businesses alike to come together in times of disaster. You need to be aware of how insensitive it can appear if you don’t acknowledge what’s happened.
Even worse is when companies use a tragedy in order to gain some promotion, such as in the wake of the Japanese Tsunami. It’s vital that your company keep a low profile in times like those, as one word out of place that you think is harmless can be the height of offence to others.
These days, the reputation of your business online is very important and failure to behave professionally can be extremely damaging. There have been plenty of social media fails since the medium came to life as a business tool, don’t let yours be one of them.