Many organisations rush in to Social Media as the answer to their marketing prayers. As with any new opportunities, though, take a moment to think through your approach.
Firstly, what are you trying to achieve? Good communications can support your business, but only with a strategy in place aligned to your business goals. Social media should undoubtedly form a key part of this strategy.
Take time to listen to online discussions before diving in. Start your social media journey by understanding your audience, seeing what works and be willing to learn. Define a clear, measurable approach from the outset and monitor progress. Ensure you put appropriate processes and staff policies in place.
Social Media presents a great opportunity, but the greatest benefit will accrue to those who approach it strategically.
Most businesses have a story to tell. Whether you have a great new product or service, new plans, an event or a success to announce or your staff have done something amazing, the art of storytelling can help build your reputation and raise your profile.
How to make the most of this? Think about your audience, how newsworthy the story is, the angle to take and who best can bring it to your audience.
Where to tell your story? A plethora of channels are available - local and trade press, TV, radio and online media, email marketing, your website, social media, customer or staff newsletters, etc.
Make sure you make the most of this opportunity to help your business.
Defining PR is not as easy as it seems, but put simply, PR is all about looking after an organisations reputation. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) definition starts "Public relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you."
Any organisation that values its reputation needs to consider PR. Gaining understanding and support and establishing goodwill or mutual understanding with your stakeholders, customers and staff are key to supporting business success.
Good PR and communications ensures you have a strategy that is closely tied to your business goals. In this way, communications will always be focused on delivering tangible business outcomes.
The other day during a conversation I was complimentary about someone else not present, having regularly received informative, friendly email newsletters from them and following their regular news and advice on Twitter. To my surprise, someone else in the conversation suddenly said "oh, you get spammed loads by them". It got me thinking, when does a helpful, informative communication to a known contact turn in to spam?
There are several elements in the spam equation.
Firstly, there is familiarity. How well known is the recipient to you? Do you know them personally, have you met and chatted to them face to face, or are they just an email address you picked up along the way?
Secondly, there is approach. Are you really being informative and helpful, or perhaps you are just selling behind a smokescreen. There is nothing wrong with selling (without it where would we be?). Maybe, though, there is a time and a place, and a level of honesty and transparency about the process is needed. You can just provide helpful information without a sales message.
Then there is style. How you are communicating and how often? Facebook updates or tweeting many times a day would not be seen as unusual, as the recipient is in control of whether and when they read it, or for that matter whether they follow you at all. But emailing or phoning several times a day would clearly be overkill and unacceptable to most. Also, are you engaging and interesting in what you have to say? Have something useful, original or of interest to say, otherwise you may just be wasting people's time. How many times have you seen "news" or "views" that are little more than an excuse to be visible.
And finally there is timing. Social media and email allow an element of control by the recipient on when then engage with you, but even so most people will prefer business communications during business hours (whatever these are today!). A sales call during Eastenders may not put your recipient in a good frame of mind and tweeting in the middle of the night will rarely be seen.
So always consider the approach, style and timing of your communications and build familiarity with your audience so that you don't step over that line into the spam zone.
There is a common view that people do business with people they like and in many situations this is absolutely true. A good first impression may be important, but just as vital is the on-going conversation. Communication lies at the heart of how people get to know you better, how they perceive you and build trust in you.
In today's social world there are numerous opportunities to continue your conversations, building an on-going positive perception of you and your business. Whether it is through one-way broadcasts, two-way conversations or within open environments allowing dialogue and discussion, social media allows the conversation to continue and develop.
However you decide to keep the conversation going it is important to always remember that companies don't communicate, people do. Whether you are tweeting, blogging, posting updates, emailing or even sending a letter, be yourself and be an individual. Allow your audience, whether one or many, to get to know you the person and not to see a faceless organisation.
Then maybe, when they are ready to do business, they will remember that person, like that person and do business with you.
This is where I'll be sharing my thoughts on public relations and other relevant topics that matter to me and that I hope will be of interest to you.
I also have a personal blog where I discuss a wider range of thoughts at ThoughtsWhileIWalk.
If I catch your interest, let me hear from you.