Social Cues: How to strike the right tone with social media

Social media channels are not just destinations for cute cat videos and goofy memes. These avenues can also be an effective tool for a business to enhance their brand image.

An active presence on popular social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter can accomplish two purposes for a business. It creates an unfiltered line of direct communication with both existing customers and potential customers. It also offers a useful way to do market research on a product or service and see what real people think about it.

For a business, jumping into the social media waters offers a chance to cast a much wider net and reach a bigger audience. It offers a step beyond simply crafting a handful of scheduled corporate blog posts.

“A blog post, you don’t know exactly who’s going to read that and how they’re going to take it and what they’re going to do with it,” says Paxton Gray, director of marketing operations for 97th Floor. “But with social media you have the opportunity to talk to one individual and know information about them, so you can appeal and talk to directly to them.”

Have a personality

Some businesses hesitate to embrace complete social media engagement because of the potential risks involved in traveling down this path. Playing it safe is important in some areas. Companies want to resist getting in arguments with people making comments on their social media posts. They should also avoid sending out any tweets or posts that can be construed as sexist, racist, homophobic or otherwise derogatory.

Being careful does not mean avoiding conversations altogether. Businesses can go a long way to building trust with consumers when they offer a personalized human touch behind their brand message.

If it’s done right, it can put a face on a faceless brand. “There are brands that just don’t do social media very well and they just share nothing but blog posts. They maintain that faceless corporate appearance. The reason that happens is because these companies want to play it safe,” says Gray. “You have to realize that when you start acting like a person with a brand, you open yourself up to potential shortcomings and scrutiny.”

Follow your competition

Monitoring what competitors do online can be a useful compass for businesses just making their first foray into social media. They can observe other organizations within their industry and see how they interact with customers.

More importantly, observing competitors makes it easier to discover how to pinpoint the person that a business wants to target. Social media serves as an impromptu method of mining measurable data ranging from interests to demographics.

“By looking at competitors, you can see what kind of content they’re pushing out through social media,” says Marcus McReynolds, vice president of digital marketing for Fusion360. “You can also see the amount of engagement people are having with their social media as well, really helping you identify what topic of interest people have—not only from what you try to push out there, but from what other people are doing as well. You can then build up stories and posts about that same thing that’s gathering a lot of attention elsewhere.”

One thing a business should avoid doing is simply mimicking a competitor’s social media strategy. Creating a unique brand voice is critical for a business that wants to stand out from the crowd on social media.

Create conversations

Listening and engaging on a Twitter feed can make a business feel more approachable and appear more caring to the thoughts and concerns of customers. That impression can have a ripple effect that offers a real-world boost to sales and customer retention.

Fusion360 CEO Todd Noall says it’s more important for companies to start conversations rather than jump into ongoing conversations. Their focus should be squarely on what they are doing instead of worrying about their competitors.

A business creates a better social media footprint when they make an effort to create a natural, ongoing relationship with their target audience.

“A big trap that a lot of organizations fall into is when they systemize everything,” Noall says. “That’s a huge mistake because, by nature, social media is so organic and is so fluid. It’s alive and you want to be able to take advantage of that real-time nature. If you put yourself in a box and have all these pre-set parameters, you’re really limiting your ability to participate on social media in that real-time aspect.”