Social Media: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Best

by Clara Jacob
August 14, 2014 • 3 minute read

How does your business use social media?

I’m assuming your organization is engaged in social media. Most likely, your customers are, since more than 67 percent of Americans have a profile on one or more social networks (Edison Research via MediaBistro, April 2014).

As social media evolves at breakneck speed — and matures — companies scramble to figure out how to use social networks to their advantage.

The Good

The news about social media is overwhelmingly positive. At a time when people wonder if print and TV are dead, social media is innovative and growing strong.

Using social media allows you to target very precisely, collect massive quantities of data and see metrics instantly. It’s pretty sweet.

Social media also allows you to have conversations with your customers and respond to their concerns immediately. Software enables your community manager or social media strategist to monitor social media in real time, locate all mentions of your company name or brand and determine whether they’re positive or negative comments.

You can also advertise within social media. This works particularly well if you also use social media, because the integration gives you a double boost. Advertising within social media is affordable, allows for freakishly precise targeting and, like all digital tactics, serves up those awesome metrics.

The Bad

However, many companies could do a better job using social media.

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve seen ads for products or services in which you have zero interest. Like the one from the law firm that keeps asking if I have problems from Risperdal use. My guess is that this law firm’s strategy is more of a shotgun approach than a targeted buy.

Even worse, you’ve probably seen some less than worthwhile posts from companies you follow. Let me rephrase this. You voluntarily follow certain companies on social media because you’re interested in their products or services. And they punish you with meaningless posts or updates so infrequent you forget they exist.

On Twitter, for example, I follow a graduate school I’m considering attending. Their last tweet occurred three weeks ago and consisted of a quote about character.

Another company I follow on Twitter is a local restaurant startup. This business posts once a week about an evening special – instead of tempting followers daily by describing or showing their delicious fare.

Both of these organizations — the graduate school and the restaurant — have a direct line to get my attention and my money. And both are throwing it away. The magnitude of wasted opportunity on social media is staggering.

The Ugly

All too often, the intern is assigned to handle social media because it’s perceived as simple and unimportant. Besides, the intern supposedly knows more about social media than anyone else, because he or she is a student.

This is a recipe for disaster. Every social media post is like a press release. It’s critical that your social media strategist have judgment as astute as your company spokesperson’s.

Unfortunately, examples of social media debacles abound.

  • Over the 2014 Fourth of July weekend, American Apparel posted a photo of the space shuttle Challenger explosion, apparently mistaking it for fireworks. The person who posted the photo was too young to know about the 1986 event.
  • US Airways famously posted a pornographic image on Twitter in response to a customer complaint. It was apparently a simple mistake, but when you have an audience of thousands in a social network, no mistake goes unnoticed.
  • In our community, a restaurant customer and the restaurant’s co-owner battled on Facebook. In the past, disagreeing with a customer would be a private matter. Now, hundreds of people witnessed and commented on the exchange on social media and it became news — reported in the local paper. A small faux pas on the part of the restaurant owner turned into a PR nightmare and loss of business.

Here at Paulsen, we have a social media policy. If your company doesn’t have one, that’s a great place to start. It’s better to get out in front of the situation to prevent problems than to wait until they happen.

The Best

How can you make social media work for you?

The truth is that you need a social media strategy (and if you don’t have one, Paulsen can help with that!).

Your social media shouldn’t be just a fire hose of information. Make sure your strategy is guided by objectives, key targets and effective messaging. Just like the rest of your marketing efforts.

For example, if you sell corn hybrids, posting product shots on Pinterest might not be your best option. A whopping 80 percent of Pinterest users are female, and most corn hybrid purchase decision makers are male.

On the other hand, posting photos on Instagram of your big, beautiful hybrids in fields across America might be a wonderful idea to reach the 35-and-under audience, which account for 90 percent of Instagram users.

Better yet, why not post video interviews with growers who use and love your hybrids on YouTube? Your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn posts can link to the YouTube videos. Now you’re reaching an older and more male target.

And if you want to reach the next generation, you can even post key clips from those videos on youth-oriented Vine and Snapchat.

Social media isn’t so different from any other marketing tactic. Its success depends wholly on your purpose, strategy and skillful implementation.

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