Lately I’ve been signing up a lot of corporate clients who have dipped their toes into social media without a ton of planning. You might call this their “experimentation phase”. While testing the waters is a great way to understand the lay of the land (mixed metaphor, but you know what I mean), it’s rarely satisfying. Somewhere along the line somebody’s boss says “what’s the point?” That’s a great moment, because from that point on the organization has a chance to use social media strategically instead of committing random acts of tweeting.
What comes out of this experimentation phase is a fairly common set of don’ts and dos. This is valuable hard-won experience that your organization can benefit from too.
Here are the five most common social media mistakes that you don’t want to commit:
- Putting a junior person in charge without a plan or adequate guidance and supervision. Some young folks, notably recent PR and journalism school grads, are quite adept at managing messages, dealing with irritable folks and reputation management. Others are less adept at diplomacy and communications, as we have seen time and again. The kids are not necessarily alright – do not leave them alone.
- Not tracking. PR folks got into PR because they like words, not numbers, and they are usually uncomfortable with analytics. Too bad, they need to get over it. Analytics is a powerful tool for communicators to understand if the content they are producing is connecting with audiences. Click through rates, traffic, page views, visitors, bounce rates, exit paths and more can all be revealed through powerful, free tools like Google Analytics. Use these tools to build better programs.
- Broadcasting only. Numerous corporate entities figure social media is just another broadcast channel – set up an RSS feed to tweet out press releases and BOOM we’re social! Wrong. People hate spammers; you’ll damage your brand or at least look foolish and antiquated in doing so. Better to stay out. The kissing cousin to broadcast only is the dreaded “intern came to work” syndrome, where all the posts come out at 8:30 AM. Phew, social media box ticked. Again, you look arrogant. Stop it.
- Diving into social media before fixing your website. Admit it, your website sucks. Somehow over time it became the bride of Frankenstein as each department had their way with their section, and now it’s mostly a collection of spare parts. Ugh. The saying “you shouldn’t write a social media cheque your website can’t cash” comes to mind. Fix the website first, don’t lure social media readers into a digital wasteland.
- Having unprotected encounters. Without the right policies, monitoring, and protection you’re inviting STDs – that’s socially transmitted diseases. These diseases don’t respond well to penicillin or antibiotics, and tend to require a lot of lawyers to resolve. Avoid the burning pain of an STD – take precautions before dipping into social media.
The corollary to the don’ts is what you should do – the do’s. Here are my top five tips:
- Get executive support by building a business case.
- Prepare – lock down your brand, put up listening posts and establish some policies for staff and contractors.
- Map out a strategy before you engage anyone online.
- Allocate new resources to content creation and conversation.
- Measure and report – continuously connect your efforts to business imperatives, or don’t be surprised when the execs pull the plug.
If you’re just starting down the path of corporate social media, learn from those who have gone before you. There’s no sense falling in the same traps as the early adopters.
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