Most PR pros know social media is well past the point of being an optional, add-on service. Most of us have been helping our clients navigate the digital waters for years. We’re familiar and comfortable with social media. And that can be a problem.
When we become comfortable, we often fall into routines. We let auto-pilot take over. It makes our jobs easier, but in doing so, we can take for granted some of the most fundamental principles of social media.
The solution? Stop trying to be so clever and get back to basics. Keep in mind these five guiding principles and you will ensure your clients are getting the most out of your social media efforts:
1. Align your social media tactics with your clients’ business objectives. Many businesses are eager to get involved in social media simply because they don’t want to fall behind their competitors. Don’t let your clients’ fear of missing out drive your online efforts. That results in social media operations that are obligatory rather than strategic. Social media is an extension of your client’s broader efforts. Ask your client what he or she hopes to accomplish, and identify platforms and tactics that can support those objectives.
2. Give your audience what it wants. Deliver engaging content that can spur people to action. Before you make content public, ask yourself, “Would I click/respond to/share this if my client wasn’t paying me to do so?” You don’t have to answer yes every time, but it should be the answer pretty often. That means you must know your audience. Social media is not one-size-fits-all.
3. Be human. We hear the term “social media” so often, most of us probably don’t think much about it. When it comes to business, it’s especially easy to forget the social aspect of it.
Results are important, to be sure, but don’t get so caught up in analytics and metrics that you lose sight of the big picture. You’ll end up with content that is data-driven rather than people-driven, the marketing equivalent of “teaching to the test.” What gets lost in the mix is authenticity, the human element that puts the “social” in “social media.”
4. Evolve. If your clients have been active in social media for several years, good for you. They were ahead of the curve. The question now is: What have you done to help them stay there?
Facebook and Twitter may have been the only tools your client really needed when they got started, but chances are, they’re not the only ones you should be using today. Talk to your clients, colleagues and friends regularly about what social platforms they’re using, and keep an eye out for emerging or niche platforms that haven’t yet hit the mainstream.
5. Listen. Social media isn’t a soapbox. It’s a dialogue. If you’re not engaging with people, you’re doing it wrong. How can you engage if you’re not listening? At best, you will miss out on valuable feedback and insights from your target audience. At worst, you risk overlooking or ignoring important information and posting content that makes you appear insensitive and tone-deaf. It’s one of the major risks of using admittedly convenient social media automation software that lets you set it and forget it. Besides, people can tell when you’re listening.
Tom Corsillo oversees digital and social media for The Marino Organization (TMO), a NYC-based public relations agency. In 2011, while working with Morton’s The Steakhouse, TMO orchestrated what Peter Shankman called “The Greatest Customer Service Story Ever Told.“