Social media is widely hailed as the latest big thing in brand perception and reputation management. With the number of people using social media growing by the day, more and more businesses are recognising the need to connect with this audience.
When you’re taking your small business into the world of social media, take a moment to think about how best to manage your brand reputation – and how to manage your social networking profile in its own right.
Finding the right tone on social media can be a difficult balance to strike. Too chatty, and you risk looking like you don’t take your customers’ concerns seriously enough, but too corporate and you look out of place on a social network.
Here are 6 tips to help you make the most of the opportunity that social media offers your small business;
Build your profile
The first thing you need is an established profile – don’t expect to walk straight on to a social network and immediately reap the benefits in terms of branding.
Like building your business, you need to put in some groundwork to get your name noticed and build a bit of a follower base – and then you can start managing your reputation through your social interactions.
Watch the chat
Nobody can read everything that’s posted on Facebook or Twitter, but with some careful use of text searches, you should be able to spot mentions of your brand.
When you do, get involved – if the message is negative, try to offer support to resolve the problem, and if it’s positive, offer some recognition and thanks for the friendly feedback.
As you build your profile, more and more messages are likely to come directly to you, rather than simply mentioning your brand name.
Be responsive to these, to show your customers that you care – and while you should avoid the hard sell, that doesn’t mean you should never take the chance of an up-sell opportunity!
The soft sell
Heavily promoting your brand on social media can be a bad idea, as it can look too pushy. However, there’s nothing wrong with linking to your site from some of your updates, particularly if you’ve published a new page or blog post, or have a special offer running.
By gently promoting your brand in this way, you can gain a reputation as being a company that offers good value or customer incentives, which is all some social network users are looking for.
Stick with it
Once you make the decision to go with social media as a way of promoting your business and managing your reputation, it’s important to give it a reasonable amount of attention and enough time to get your profile properly established.
Go into it half-hearted and you risk missing some customers’ messages – and an unanswered complaint can be a public relations disaster.
Likewise, once you’ve got a follower base established, it’s counter-productive to abandon your social media presence and return to traditional offline methods of customer support.
In a sense, social networking is a long-term investment – and the returns should be greater the more you invest into it.
Pull it together
Whatever decisions you make on offering refunds, replacements, special offers and so on for comments and complaints, be consistent – both in what you give to your customers, and in your tone of voice.
A slightly more formal approach to handling complaints might be appropriate, but a radical swing in mood makes your account look artificial.
Social networks are all about human interaction through the artificial medium of the internet, so be consistent and committed to your brand, and you’ve got the best chance of success.
More help on ByteStart
For more help on making the most of social media, try these other ByteStart guides;
- 5 steps to building an online fan base for your business
- How to get your customers talking online
- What benefits can Twitter offer my small business?
- How to get started with Twitter
- 5 ways to maximise your business with social media
And to help you with understanding and building your brand;