It’s no secret that social media has become a common marketing tool for brands to engage with their target audiences. But with the rise of social media marketing, many people have developed conflicting opinions about the ability of recent graduates to drive an organization’s social media efforts.
Brands and Social Media Marketing: Two Common Viewpoints
There is a view out there that some employers are too ready to give their youngest employees carte blanche with social media just because they are “plugged in”. This point of view is referenced in a recent Inc.com article, 11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media, which — as its title clearly indicates — is plainly critical of employers who take a hands-off approach with their twenty-somethings social media staff.
Though the Inc.com article acknowledges that it can be completely reasonable to hire a new grad for social media marketing, it stresses the point that employers should stringently vet their young hires’ writing skills and strategic thinking before bringing them on board. As important as this is, an organization can do more to ensure that its social media is not drifting off-brand, regardless of which employee happens to be at the helm.
4 Brand-Savvy Tips for Your Social Media Plan
If specific brand guidelines are in place, it shouldn’t matter if it’s a 20-year-old intern, or a more seasoned pro running your social media accounts. Leaders within organizations should always have a hand in guiding their social media marketing, ensuring that criteria are set for what is and is not on-brand. That way, a social media presence isn’t dependent on a single person within an organization. The following are four tips to help your organization build and maintain a minimum viable social media plan.
1. Provide a Clear Brand Strategy Summary and Brand Guidelines
Arming your team with concise and clear summaries of you brand strategy and brand guidelines will lay a strong foundation for all communication. This will allow your team to engage with your customer more successfully, using less resources. These clear and concise summaries make up the brand building foundation that will keep your organization’s communication on-brand into the future. You will have a framework in place for you and your team to review content effectively to ensure it meets your brand building objectives.
For more information, please see our post: Is Your Brand Ready to Start Inbound Marketing?
2. Provide Social Media Guidelines
Provide social media guidelines and best practices to avoid common pitfalls. Don’t assume that, just because someone is comfortable with the technology, these guidelines are overkill.
Fact checking is an example of a guideline that should always be explicit. Sometimes, what seems like highly sharable content is, in reality, completely untrue. Sharing and re-sharing untrue content will harm your brand and could also open your brand up to defamation claims.
This might sound obvious, but it is crucial for all social media professionals to bare this in mind. Sometimes fake content can be incredibly well done. A prime example of this can be seen in a recent social media prank played on Shell by new media activist group The Yes Men in conjunction with Greenpeace. Earlier this summer, The Yes Men rolled out an elaborate web hoax which opposed Shell for its arctic drilling efforts by means of a fake corporate website that broadcasted the negative effects of the drilling. This came complete with fake Shell social media pages, which sported fake corporate responses to The Yes Men prank, discouraging people from sharing the hoax site. When we came across this, it initially looked like Shell had let their social media tone completely get away from them. Really, it was all part of The Yes Men hoax. Since things like this do happen, your social media team needs to be cautious of such hoaxes to avoid sharing such content in the wrong context on behalf of your brand.
Key Considerations for your Social Media Guidelines
- Credibility Killer
What types of content will kill your credibility with your audience? Provide a list of the types of content that you don’t want to be part of your social media.
- Brand Values
What content and tone is aligned with your brand values? What goes against your brand values? It is wise to be clear that content must not include anything discriminatory or anything sexist.
- Consistent Formatting and Style
Ideally, you will set a consistent style for how posts and other content are posted. Different people have different styles. Clarity on formatting will make seamless collaboration easier, paving the way for a consistent brand image.
What is your policy on sharing competitor content? You may not want your social media spend to be promoting your competitor as a thought leader. Or, you may decide that it is all part of the marketplace of ideas. If you do not want competitor content to be shared or reshared, then you should develop a list of competitors and competitor traits for your social media team.
- Content and Content Mix
Providing guidelines on the types of content that you want your brand to share, along with the relative mix of that content, will help your social media team plan their posts.
3. Social Media is Too Public to Take a “Sink or Swim” Approach
You should plan on allowing sufficient time for new team members (or existing ones) to (i) take on a social media role, (ii) to get comfortable with your brand, and (iii) to get comfortable with your social media guidelines. This means ensuring there is time in both in their schedules and in yours.
There are many examples of brands being forced into damage control mode by backfires in social media campaigns. You want to make sure your brand doesn’t become one of them. Ultimately this is just common-sense. As with any position in your organization, don’t assume that a new hire should be left to perform their job without guidance. You can provide time-efficient oversight by using social media scheduling tools (or even a spreadsheet) to review draft posts when someone new is working on your social media. This will allow you to provide feedback on drafts in terms of the writing, personality and content of the posts.
4. The Social Media Channel Decision
Be wary when allowing a brand new hire to decide which social media channels you will use. This goes even for a team member with proven social media savvy.
Deciding where you want to spend time and resources is a strategic decision. It is important to evaluate social media channels for their ability to effectively promote your content and engage with your audience. There are many, many social media channels. Trying to use all channels or even multiple channels is a big commitment. We recommend that you rank social media channels in terms of importance and use by your target audience, and then make a decision on which channel or channels you will use. The universe of social media channels is an expanding one. Select social media channels include (but are in no way limited to): Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr, YouTube and Pinterest. For more on evaluating social media channels, please see our post “Online Location and Social Media Channels”.