These days, while Facebook pages and Twitter accounts dedicated entirely to companies are about as rare as a breakfast cereal aisle in a supermarket, a good slice of the business sector pie still finds itself scratching its head whenever confronted by the words “social media.”
See, there’s no question at all that every brand needs to do it, but what exactly does effective social media entail? How the hell do we make it part of our business in a way that ultimately benefits all parties involved?
Social media and the individual
There is a virtual world that is both parallel to and deeply ensconced within our actual physical world, and this thriving, pulsating realm is the internet. Real life and virtual life are so irreversibly linked to each other that any phenomenon occurring on one side will undoubtedly spur action on the other side.
When you interact with someone on Facebook, for example, the next real life conversation you have with this person will inevitably brush on what the both of you have said to each other on Facebook. The same could be said about the flip side of this situation – any real life hanging out with another person will usually drive your next Facebook interaction
Social networks not only mirror the multi-fold dynamics and nuances of our real life circles, they also furnish us with an immensely visible platform for self-expression. Because of this, an individual’s social network account arguably extends and expands one’s consciousness and experiences.
This is why being in this virtual space should be your priority as a brand: because your customers already attach some level of esteem to their social networks and the experiences they get out of these hubs, connecting with them in these spaces as a brand legitimizes them both in code and in the flesh.
Furthermore, the fact that everyone and their mother can be found with at least one social media account makes it ridiculously easy to touch base with your target audience at any capacity. You have a whole suite of different modes of interaction at your disposal: mentions, retweets, likes, tags, shares, plus ones –the gap between you and your target audience can be bridged by just typing a few nice words and then clicking a button.
Before jumping into the world of online conversations, however, you need to have your own non-negotiables to ensure that everyone who’s in on the social media task knows exactly how you want to play it. Swearing by a set of social media cardinal rules keeps sticky situations at bay (E.g., Arguments in posts and threads, twitter wars with trolls, statements open to misinterpretation, etc.) and reminds you that the internet is not a vacuum, and that actions made here require forethought and accountability.
Borrow from the corporate social media policies of the multinational heavyweights, like Ford or Coke – these guys have been smart about their social media from day one, and their guidelines have served them well in protecting their reputation and managing their audience’s perception of their brand.
- Honesty about who you are
- Clarity that your opinions are your own
- Respect and humility in all communication
- Good judgment in sharing only public information – including financial data
- Awareness that what you say it permanent
- Transparency in every social media engagement
- Protection of our consumers’ privacy
- Respect of copyrights, trademarks, rights of publicity, and other third-party rights in the online social media space, including with regard to user-generated content (UGC).
- Responsibility in our use of technology
- Utilization of best practices, listening to the online community, and compliance with applicable regulations to ensure that these Online Social Media Principles remain current and reflect the most up-to-date and appropriate standards of behaviour
Bring your A game
Now, whether you are an online gambling site or an online gambling affiliate, you’re most probably taking the plunge into social media because you want to connect with your customers and promote brand loyalty. A good way to do this is to adopt ‘holistic content strategies,’ which is the habit of leveraging your content to fit both your brand and your brand positioning.
Citing online betting website Paddy Power and their Facebook page as an excellent example of this holistic approach, theMediaFlow’s Nichola Stott points out what works about their method – “it’s not trying to aggressively get you to come back to the Paddy Power site –it’s really about speaking to their audience in tune with their brand identity.”
I asked my girlfiend if she could get me a newspaper. “Don’t be silly you can borrow my iPad” she replied..The spider never knew what hit it
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) September 27, 2012
EXCLUSIVE: We reveal Ian Poulter’s outfit for the first day of the Ryder Cup! twitter.com/paddypower/sta…
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) September 26, 2012
When you go social as a brand, what you are really doing is creating a community built on genuine relationships, albeit on a virtual playground. To engage your audience, you need to come out with things that excite them; to keep your audience, you have to validate them and make them feel that they belong.
So do the research and cook up something good – your aim is to be the kid everyone wants to be friends with.