How to Not Look Dumb on Social Media

Posted by Taylor Haney on Fri, Jun 21, 2013

Only a few more posts for our social theme this month! Read this fantastic one from Christopher M. Litster, Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing at Constant Contact. Chris provides social media tips that sometimes we forget or overlook but are absolutely essential to success. If you are interested in contributing to next month's e-Commerce theme please e-mail me at taylor [at] mitx [dot] org.

Chris Litster 008 formalChris has been at Constant Contact® since February 2006 and oversees the worldwide sales and marketing team for the company. In his more than seven years at Constant Contact, Chris has served in a variety of senior sales and marketing positions, running the conversion, website, and product marketing teams, in addition to the EventSpot business unit. In that time, he has developed a deep knowledge of both Constant Contact’s business and the small business market the company serves. 

Corporate social media policies aside, questions still arise about the best ways for a brand to present itself online. While the rule of thumb is that social media posts should reflect the tone and culture of our employers, this doesn’t mean we should default to using the language of corporate drones. So if you want to make sure you don’t look dumb on social media, follow these three guidelines:

  1. Be transparent. Everybody knows companies invest in social media to connect with customers and, let’s face it, sell their goods. And there’s nothing wrong with that – though sometimes brand ambassadors are cagey about their affiliations and fail to disclose that they’re not posting purely out of the goodness of their heart.

    Aside from the fact that these posts are easily spotted and undermine your reputation, sometimes they violate the FTC’s Dot Com Disclosures. The latest guidelines came out in March and for the uninitiated, they outline the rules and laws of online and mobile advertising. 

    To be transparent and grow your online audience, you have to strike the balance between informative and promotional messages. A good ratio to consider is one promotional message for every five that are educational or otherwise engaging your customers.

  2. Be human. The Oreo tweet during the Super Bowl blackout is one of the best and more recent examples of how much consumers love it when a brand shows its human side. It reminds us that we’re talking to people and not corporations.

    On the flip side, we’ve all winced at less than stellar examples of corporate social media posts gone awry.

    While we have to be conscious of the fact that we’re always on the record, this doesn’t mean we can’t show our personalities in the context of the brand’s image. With this in mind, here are two pieces of advice when it comes to showing your human side on social media:

    -When in doubt, leave it out. If your gut is saying that perhaps your post is not in the best interest of your employer or customers, ask for a second opinion or ditch the idea completely.

    -Don’t try so hard. We’ve all seen the posts that are created with the intention of stirring the pot, or the expensive, overproduced videos that are desperate to go viral. We can’t help but tune those messages out because they don’t come across as having the consumers’ best interests in mind. When it comes to branding on social media, authenticity rules.

  3. Be engaging. The whole point of social media is to be social, right? Along with being social, you want to actively engage your audience. The three primary benefits of engaging your customers online are:

    -To build greater brand awareness by showing the human side of your company. 

    -Respond to questions (and complaints) so you can defuse negative experiences and reinforce your commitment to customer satisfaction.

    -Learn about the interests and needs of your customers.

    This information is invaluable for refining your brand, products and services.

    To get your social media investments to pay off, be more engaging by soliciting opinions, running contests, hosting Twitter chats, and tossing out provocative questions to start a discussion. Oh, and don’t forget to always respond when customers engage you.

Now a lot of this is common sense – yet, perhaps less common if you’re among the 99.9 percent of us who have ever scratched their head after reading a bad corporate social media message.