An active social media presence helps businesses to be found every day by web searchers and potential customers. Being successful in social media has become so important that the question for most companies is no longer "if" they will engage on social media, but "where" and "how" they will do so.
In this post, we focus on the "how" of engaging in social media. That is, how do you create a balance between showing your brand's personality and maintaining its professionalism in social media?
Putting Your Best Social Foot Forward
The very name "social media" implies that the medium is highly personal and interactive. It's clear from the high social media participation that consumers want to hear the "voice" or the personality of the brands they interact with and buy from today. Yet, they still want to buy from companies they can trust. To build that credibility and trust, it's essential as a business to express who you are at the same time that you present a professional image.
Results are Worth the Effort
The statistics below were reported in Social Media Examiner's 2014 annual report on the state of social media. They show that an investment in social media not only creates conversation and attention, but leads to true business value as well.
- 95% of marketers who use social media for at lease six hours per week indicated their efforts have increased exposure for their business.
- 80% of marketers indicated that their social media efforts increased website traffic.
- More than half of marketers who have used social media for at least one year have generated leads through their social platforms.
Smart businesses create the social media image they desire by striking a balance between their professional image and the "social" personality of their team and brand. Below we explain some of the definite "Dos" for your business social media strategy as you work to find this balance.
1) pLace a priority on professionalism
This advice depends, of course, on the image you want to project. Businesses who know their target audience well understand how to "speak" to them and take the tone that works best in social media. However, you must understand this: Even if your product or service is of a less serious nature, realize that MORE people will be willing to pay money for what you have to offer if you appear honest, trustworthy and professional.
If you expect buyers to take you seriously enough to engage with you in a meaningful or profitable way, you owe it to them to put in the time and effort to be a serious business, even if you want to project a less-than-serious attitude. Here are a few ways to create that professional image for your online presence that can become the backbone of your social media interactions:
- Create a professional website that's easy to navigate
- Be an expert in your field
- Offer exceptional customer service and experience.
The website below from Bench accounting and bookkeeping services is a modern, easy-to-navigate site with all the desirable elements of mobile and online searchers. It features a blog that drives traffic to the site, offers upfront pricing that searchers want and it features an About page that informally introduces the Bench team and tells the company story.
Bench makes it clear they are a young start-up interested in changing the old-school perception of accounting services, but they present themselves as highly-organized and qualified. Their interactions on social networks can lead searchers to their high-quality site, supporting both personality and professionalism in social media.
2) Show personality by sharing your true interests
If your company's policy allows for some or all employees to post business information on personal social media accounts,, it's a given that business information will be intertwined with personal posts. A clear social media policy can help to set expectations for employees who take on this responsibility.
One way to show the personalities of your staff is to have several administrators with posting permission on a few main social media sites. Your company page can showcase the personalities and interests of employees and the team as a whole.
The Facebook page above from Top Left Design shows an active staff, including an office lunch meeting, a staff member's artwork and a celebration of a cause the company cares about.
3) Add your voice to business topics
In web communications, the tone of your writing has to replace the physical characteristics someone would see if you met face-to-face. Visual clues like hand gestures, facial expressions, the sound of your voice and other body language are missing in social media. With this in mind, writing the way you talk will convey the best picture of you possible on social media and in other content, such as your blog posts.
The example below is a blog post that shares an intern's experience at a design firm. The company allows her to express every feeling and thought she has about her time with the company. It's uniquely her voice — and her experience speaks directly to the personality, culture and image of the business.
Source: TLD blog
When you do decide to add your voice to business content, you not only represent yourself, you represent your brand. You take on the image of the company and vice versa. With this in mind, you should absolutely expect any personal comments or online actions to have an effect on your professional image and that of your business.
4) Keep it current
Social media is a real-time medium that lends itself to content that is current and trending among searchers. Show your brand is active and responsive to the world around you by posting about about current events and economic, social and/or cultural news that affects your industry or your team in some way.
5) Show a sense of humor
When you know your audience, you'll know what makes them smile. Using your knowledge and paying attention to news, current events and even pop culture can give you 'material' to comment on in your social media posts. Knowing where the draw the line with humor is a skill that may take some trial and error, but it's one that can endear you to your target audience and make you unforgettable.
6) respond to comments, positive or negative
Comments and conversations are truly at the heart of social media interaction. It's not meant to be a one-way platform where you scream from a soapbox. So, it's surprising when many companies are dumbstruck when they receive comments, whether positive or negative.
Having a plan to respond to comments is essential to maintaining a brand image online. A win-win strategy for dealing with negative comments is reply publicly with an apology and suggest that a solution be reached in private. Then, proceed to absolutely WOW the customer with your solution to the problem. The worst thing you could do in this situation is to use your apology as a non-apology or to alienate or further provoke the customer.
Consider this example below:
Although this particular comment doesn't show outright anger or include a direct insult, Hayneedle uses the opportunity to respond with regret and offer to make things right for the customer.
Finding a Balance: Final Thoughts
Many companies are still navigating the world of digital marketing and social media; and many are making social media a cornerstone of their digital strategy. When social media becomes one of the main ways your business reaches its followers, leads and customers, your social media image becomes all the more important — it truly becomes your brand image.
The most successful companies at finding the right mix of personality and professionalism in social media will be able to both gain trust and seem "human" to their followers. Making this a goal for your business will give you a competitive edge when web searchers look to social media for a solution like yours.
To find out more about using the Facebook platform to connect with followers and win customers, download a copy of our e-book below.
Image credit: yinyang