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By Bernard Wainaina
CEO,Profarms Consultants®

Every new form of communication creates new rules of engagement.

Unfortunately, these rules are often unspoken.

In the early days, the rules might be hotly
disputed, too.

Social networking through sites like Facebook and Twitter is changing the way customers and
businesses interact.

And the way you conduct yourself through your social media accounts is a direct reflection on your business.

In this post, I have compiles a checklist of best practices and etiquette for corporate social media engagement;

RESTRAINT

Engage with people on social networks, talk
to them, listen twice as much as you speak, and
market half as much as you think you should.

It’s tempting to respond to everything with a pitch, but a modicum of restraint will yield more
opportunity and less disengagement.

Save the pitch for the right time, rather than every other message, which may mean you’ll have to get away from those canned responses and really, really chat it up.

GIVE CREDIT WHERE IT IS DUE

Whether sharing ideas, suggestions, or statistics, be sure to mention the originator if it wasn’t you.

RESPOND TO PEOPLE

I find it incredibly rude when I go out of my way to respond to people on G+ or Twitter . . . and “hear only the sound of crickets”.

If you were at a. party and someone struck up a conversation with you, would you walk away?

DON’T BE ALL BUSINESS ALL THE TIME

Mix in a bit of the personal (and some personality)… people like doing business with human beings.

“Humanizing the brand” shouldn’t be code for “it’s ok to be frivolous.

” Humanizing the brand” means cheering successes, acknowledging others, responding individually, and admitting when you’re
wrong.

It doesn’t mean embracing a general goofiness in the name of brand-building.

FIND NEW CUSTOMERS,BUT DON’T PESTER THEM WITH SALES PITCH

Always have a clear audience in mind.

What are they interested in?

What do they care about?

ALWAYS EDUCATE,NEVER PROMOTE

Think about them, not about you.

Don’t be boring.

KEEP IT SHORT

When commenting on other’s articles, keep it short and to the point.

Don’t engage in endless rounds of point proving –no-one else is interested.

By all means be provocative to stimulate new and healthy ideas, but not at the expense of others.

What do you want to reader to do or feel after
reading your article?

Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say face to face.

For LinkedIn – Send a short note of congratulations and good luck when “Status Update” tells you someone has a new job.

When creating content keep your headlines short.

I use the 65-character rule.

Any more than that and it can become difficult for people to comment on your shared links, especially on Twitter, where there is a 140-character limit.

This is beneficial for SEO(Search Engine Optimization) too, as Google only shows around 65–70 characters of your
page title.

KEEP PRODUCING GREAT QUALITY FREE CONTENT

Do write about what your target audience might find interesting.

Don’t just write about what you think is interesting.
Focus on strategy before getting down to tactics.

Don’t sweat the small stuff, get the big picture over.

Look like you are giving, not selling.

Ask questions and provide answers.

Think of posts as storytelling, make them want to ‘turn the page’.

Some companies bring their customer services to open social media channels.

This can be great to show that you transparently and effectively deal with customers.

But it can backfire if your customer services stumble.

FREQUENCY NEEDS TO BE RIGHT

If you tweet/post too often, people will unfollow or unlike.

Try to offer exclusive things of value.

If you can generate new and interesting information,people are likely to share this content, and you can gain a larger readership.

Try to cross post across your channels.

Tone needs to be consistent.

Tools like CoTweet can be useful to maintain a
frequent social presence maintained by a small team of people.

Some people simply retweet a lot of OTHER people’s content and links.

Retweets should make up no more than 25% of your Twitter stream.

USE FACEBOOK DIFFRENTLY FROM TWITTER, AND NOT JUST AS A TRAFFIC SOURCE

Many people will gladly and successfully experience your brand entirely within the walls of Facebook.

The key then is to give them a consistent, branded experience within Facebook,
including content and rich media optimised for the format.

When marketing using social media the best tip I have been given is to be consistent… guess what, it works!

Be wary of crossing that line from business over to personal especially on Facebook.

We come across a lot of established business blogs and one of the main improvements that can be made instantly is to stop the personal blog posts.

Feel free to blog and tweet as much as you like about your personal life, but do it on a personal account not on a Corporate blog.

The occasional personal story on a business blog will generally be of benefit, as it shows the readers that they are able to communicate with a person, but stray too far and too often into the personal domain and it’s likely to have only negative repercussions.

DON’T TALK ABOUT YOURSELF CONSTANTLY

Share information which has value to your business.

Be accessible and responsive to give your account a human face.

Help others for the sake of helping others
R-E-S-P-E-C-T others (competition or not).

Contribute to the conversation for the sake of the conversation

GET RESPONSE

Understand what benefit you are providing to your followers and give them what they want!

Social Media is an excellent vehicle for sharing content.

Understanding what content your audience is looking for will guide a successful social campaign.

Are your followers looking for company updates to provide new information in your line of business? Industry news? Promotions?

The goal is to connect with your audience in a way that benefits both parties.

This will grow your influence and help you better understand who your business is serving.

If utilizing Twitter… ask your target audience to
include #letstalk – this also assumes you include
your #letstalk when beginning a conversation – as example – this helps with inclusion, customers like to feel that they are apart of your circle and the conversation.
“They belong” – this also helps with tracking consumer sentiment.

DON’T JUST DO SOCIAL MEDIA, BE SOCIAL

Think globally but act locally and be truly interested in your community.

High quality content will show if your purpose is to serve others.

It’s important to acknowledge and say thank you when someone mentions you, RTs, comments or contributes to the conversation.

To get a feel for community on Twitter, I recommend taking part in a Twitter Chat.

It makes you realize that although the tools are digital, they enable old-fashioned conversation and relationship building.

Add your website to blog comments by all means –but don’t comment unless you have something to add to the conversation.

Route social media discussions you’ve monitored to the company experts; not to the marketing department.

Make engagement part of their job description.

HR teams: sweep forums for those looking for work, and also as a tool to find out more
about applicants.

DON’T. MUSCLE YOURSELF INTO A CONVERSATION IF YOU WOULDN’T DO THAT IN REAL LIFE

Self promo is a no-no.

Let your talk do the walk.

Remember that the very benefits of social networking are also its greatest potential threats…depending on your organisation and markets.

For example:

Transparency: It’s fantastic in terms of relationship/brand building but also dangerous because certain information is best kept confidential.

Listening: Wonderful to be able to tune into what people are saying about you, but then the thorny dilemma of deciding which conversations to join and act upon…or should you not pick and choose?

Thought leadership: Great to build a reputation with influential opinion and all that good stuff but in these austere times is ‘return on engagement’ sufficient to justify all the effort?

No, up yours! I wouldn’t say that to your face, but sometimes online the temptation is to be abrupt or rude.

Or to be the online equivalent of an annoying
child repeatedly shouting “What about what I want!
No-one listens to me”

I believe that for Business2Business marketing to have any relevance whatsoever our goal must be to be helpful to our target audience at all times.

If not we’re just wasting their time.

Same applies to posting blogs, re-tweeting, replying to tweets, whatever:

THINK OF YOUR AUDIENCE FIRST
.
What problems can you help them solve?

Go on and help them.

A great example of this happened to me the other day, I tweeted a message and a follower – someone I admire – took exception and tore a strip off me, but added nothing of any value except spite.

I replied, “Thanks, that was a great help.”

The next response was a series of suggestions about how my campaign could be improved.

I updated my blog, re-tweeted and this now very helpful person tweeted it on to their 10,000+ followers.

So last tip from me.

If someone does come at you, don’t take it lying down.

Think of it as an opportunity to turn them around.

Keep your accounts well defined, and keep the content adequate to your target.

And another good business tip for Social
Media is to leave no comment without response,
whether you’re talking about Facebook, LinkedIn, even Twitter (many celebrities make it a habit to answer most or all posts on their pages).

This helps engage users and build trust in your person.

And it’s also good manners.

It’s important to remember social media is really
about the conversation.

I’ve generally been struck by the level of politeness – sometimes too polite in various discussion groups.

Often more polite than in real world discussions.

As has been mentioned –listening is key, being open to other points of view,challenging them politely, learning from them – it increases the value of the discussion for everyone.

People who are dogmatic, or solely out for self-
promotion are generally not impactful or effective.

People who take themselves too seriously struggle.

The quality of the contribution is generally more recognized than the quantity or volume (meaning noise level).

The most effective promotion is actually
no promotion, but thoughtful participation in the discussion.

UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF HUMAN CONNECTIO

Leverage the opportunities for damage control –turning an otherwise negative or mistaken moment into a fast, positive response.

Every moment is an opportunity for good customer service.

Large organisations can easily connect on a very personal,one-on-one level and show they really care about their customers.

Use customer service strategies to better engage
your followers.

Create content that is not solely on self-promotion but rather invites followers to interact with you.

For Twitter especially whilst it can be a challenge to work within the confines of 140 characters a business should never adopt teenage / text style abbreviations.

I’ve seen this happen and that company just comes across as unprofessional and poor at
communicating.

There are other ways to work with that limit of characters.

Social media represents a huge opportunity for
businesses to give a human voice to their brand.
And thus in turn very much the same manners apply for businesses as for individuals.

These are just a few guidelines on Corporate Blogging Social Media Etiquette.

Your Code of Conduct for your Corporate Social Media Policy must be more comprehensive to reign in the staff into a strategy that furthers the company goals other that personal gratification especially if they can post on behalf of your organisation.

Now go on and make a gainful presence in your corporate social media accounts!

“The African Story as told by Africans”.©African News Digest®

“The African Story as told by Africans”.©African News Digest®

“The African Story as told by Africans”.©African News Digest®

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