My five tips for social media

Right now there are seven different social media accounts on my phone. That doesn’t include the Google +’s, the Tumblrs, Spotify’s and Pinterest’s I update via the desktop. Yes, when you manage social media you wear a lot of different hats. I can easily be chatting about the best foods for healthy hair and skin one minute before sharing a video of a racing bike careering down a mountain the next.

I don’t find it tough. Finding creative content when the whole internet is at your fingertips isn’t a huge chore. You have to live and breathe your brands and you have to be constantly cheerful and upbeat – even when being playful or gently sarky. The hardest part is getting it right all the time. Twisting and turning the content to suit the audience is where the hard stuff comes in.

Mainly I’m self-taught. I spend a lot of time online and having worked in communications and branding for nigh on 15 years I’m a strong advocate that the way you should talk to your customers doesn’t change, it’s only the technology tools that shift. I embrace being able to help a brand to speak. That’s all social media does, at its heart.

So when for the past five months I’ve worked with a SEO firm managing a handful of social media accounts with them I’ve been able to see how other firms approach social media. Mine has always been a hugely personal approach. Once I switch accounts I’m tweeting or updating as someone else and I keep that tone and the content distinct throughout channels, even if there is crossover.

I haven’t enjoyed what I’ve learnt, though. This company might be successful but I’ve been shocked at their approach. Instead of helping the brand they’ve worked on I think they risk damaging it.

Hopefully the things I’ve seen them do wrong can help you avoid the same approach on social media. Or make sure your own marketer doesn’t fall into the same trap.

*Get your tone and your voice right. Their tone is all wrong. It’s almost patronising. I can’t see anything good coming from a brand thinking it’s better than its customers. It doesn’t matter if you’re a hair and beauty specialist or a utility company. If you’re asking people to spend money then don’t talk down to them. Yes you’re curating content but not to educate people but to align your brand and find things that they might be interested in. Your meant to be a person tweeting just like them not a voice from on-high.

*Don’t be an ugly persona. When I start working on a social media account I develop a persona. Who’s the person who’s sharing this content and talking to followers? Why might someone be interested in them, what are they into? It’s an old marketing trick for personalising the audience and connecting with them effectively. So why would you want that person to be ugly and arrogant? Last month I had to edit a tweet this firm wrote. It described celebrities as being the epitome of female beauty. Who would ever believe that? It’s so disconnected and, well, offensive that if I read that as a follower I’d switch off. It doesn’t even fit with the brand they’re working for. Which reminds me …

*Know your brand. Anyone managing social media accounts who thinks they’re not as important a part of the marketing message as a TV advert deserve a good slap. Why would you not try to understand the brand you are articulating as clearly as possible? This comes back to personalisation. For this brand I even know what magazines we read (Marie Claire not Heat, Cosmo not Woman & Home). It’s about being inclusive and inspiring not just lumping content together as fast as you can because it shares the same keyword.

*Localise your language. This isn’t just typos and errors. I’d be mortified if I included a mistake regularly and it’s too slapdash to forget to proof and check what you’re publishing (have a little pride in your work). But this is more fundamental. Many social media firms are based abroad or, because they’re very cheap, use people from around the world to manage accounts. This is all well and good (well it’s not because it’s encouraging brands to think that social media management can be done for pennies but that’s a free market economy) but if you don’t localise your language you’re going to switch people off. Social media is fun. When it’s a brand it’s meant to be like a friend. That means, and you might not like me saying it, that the language has to be spot on. Bing Translate won’t suffice. My Spanish is pretty good but I wouldn’t feel confident in tweeting in it because it isn’t colloquial. I’d suggest the rband hired someone who spoke the same language fluently. If you’re articulating a brand it has to be right. Tweets might be transient but if you consistently get the language a bit “off” you’ll turn people off. Be chatty, colloquial and relevant. A phony stands out a mile.

*Don’t repeat yourself. Yes, we know. Social media is a sales tool. Yes we get it. But we don’t have to ram it down people’s throats. You’re selling and showcasing a product, yes. But you don’t do that by standing infront of someone and yelling at them how cheap it is. It can work on a market stall but even the best ones of those come up with songs or witty catchphrases to entice customers. If you just tweet lists upon lists of prices and products no one will care. No one will engage.

Social media is time-consuming and it’s hard work, sometimes. For the most part once you’ve sorted the tone and the voice you’re using it’s just tremendous, tremendous fun. But if you’re a brand and you want to be able to connect with your customers effectively then be careful. Know who is speaking with your voice and understand what they’re saying. You could find you end up excluding more than you befriend.

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