Find out how a business can keep its social media presence from going to the Dark Side.
Whether you call it social media management (SMM) or social media marketing (also SMM), many businesses are very interested in having it. Creating and maintaining a social media presence is easy if you are a celebrity or a pro athlete, but businesses face some unique challenges. It can be hard to know where to go for help in learning what is still an obscure discipline. But sometimes, wisdom appears where you least expect it. Find out how a business can keep its social media presence from going to the Dark Side, according to Jedi wisdom. (Get some background info on social media in Understanding Social Media: What You Need to Know.)
"Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try."
Being consistent is the most important element of any social media presence. This means that a social media manager should be active and accessible even if the community is not. There are a number of tools that make it possible to simultaneously deflect blaster bolts and operate multiple social media platforms, but the actual effort involves little more than sharing an interesting link, informing the community of an update and the power of the manager's own mind. As long as something is interesting and comment-worthy is going on in your company or industry, you will never be short of things to post. If you can’t find anything, maybe you're not looking hard enough.
"Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering."
The biggest fear when it comes to operating a social media presence for an organization is that the overall engagement will be negative and hurt the brand. That said, even if the community reaction is negative, there will probably be some actionable items. Identifying legitimate concerns and addressing them publicly is one of social media's most powerful allies. By doing this, an organization may be able to win over previous negative members and enlist them in defending against people who will never be won over. The worst thing a social media manager can do is to lash out at negative comments. Instead, meditate on this: Your mind must be clear if you are to discover the reasons behind the negative comments against you.
"Hmm. Control, control. You must learn control."
While fighting back is not advised, managing is obviously an important part of social media management. This means using your admin privileges to draw attention to the types of conversations you want to encourage, and shutting down conversations when they’ve passed beyond being constructive. Essentially, social media management is conversational gardening - make sure the good discussions get the attention and weed out the rest. You may not be able to wave a palm in someone’s face and make them do what you want, but you can make your social media community a destination using other techniques like incentives and reward schedules. The future is always in motion, and therefore difficult to see, so creating a robust community involves ongoing time and effort.
"Help you I can! Yes! Mm!"
The purpose of social media management - and of all content management - is to establish an organization as a resource that people turn to for important information. If you are selling a product or service, then you want to be the place people go to learn how to evaluate that product or service. If you are selling information, then you want to be a primary source of it as well as an aggregate/curator of all the other relevant information that may benefit your users. The purpose of social media management is to help your customers understand why you are the first choice - or, if you aren’t in their eyes, find out what you need to do to become first choice. (Discover some of the things that are making the online business world turn in The 6 Most Important Trends in Online Business.)
"Much to learn, you still have."
Social media management is not a static field by any stretch of the imagination. In order to be effective, a social media manager must follow trends, integrate best practices as they evolve and be ready to unlearn past strategies when the time comes. The payoff for the effort is a community that is emotionally engaged with your organization and, ideally, on its way to being invaluable brand advocates both online and off.
Andrew Beattie has spent most of his career writing, editing and managing Web content in all its many forms. He is especially interested in the future of search and the application of analytics to the business world. Full Bio