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Opinion, Sector knowledge

Social Media: Don’t just do it!

During my time working in the world of social media I have been staggered by the amount of organisations who have decided that their sole social media strategy should be founded on building a Facebook page, setting up a Twitter feed, or launching a YouTube channel. Precious marketing funds are spent for the sake of it, rather than to achieve a defined business objective.

They have no doubt been caught up in the hype that surrounds these social behemoths which are now household names and have their own entries in the Oxford English dictionary. Wanting to sound forward thinking and edgy in the boardroom they have put forward the “novel” idea that the company should be making waves on Twitter as fast as possible, or maybe their son or daughter has stumbled across a competitor’s Facebook fan page and they simply have to follow suit. In other words they are doing it because everyone else is doing it.

All this was certainly true when I started a previous social media role. A quick flick through the company’s annual report revealed a page along the lines of “our forward thinking digital strategy allows us to engage with our customers through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr”. In reality all it meant was they had a Facebook page, where potential students asked questions which went unanswered, a Twitter feed linked to their non-existent Facebook status updates, a YouTube channel with a host of random videos and a Flickr account which was being used as an organisational photo dump. In this state the social media was probably doing more harm than good.

Even with all the right intentions I have seen organisations set up a presence on various social media channels and then just sit back and wait expecting hundreds of people to suddenly interact with them in their new social space.

Last year I put together a proposal detailing how one of the UK’s largest metropolitan police forces could utilise social media to run a video competition promoting student safety. Sadly they didn’t take on board too many of the recommendations and decided to adopt an “if we build it they will come” approach. They set up a Facebook page and a YouTube channel but didn’t tell people about it. This ultimately led to the competition failing as no one knew about its existence. It is a shame, because the outcome could have been so different it was a great competition with an important message. The initial brief indicated they had the ability to target tens of thousands of students via email and a small advertising budget, so letting people know about the competition should not have been a problem.

The intention here is not to try and put you and your organisation off utilising social media. It is to highlight the fact that real thought and discussion needs to take place around how the different tools available can be used to benefit your business. Clear goals need to be set out, don’t just say we need a Facebook page or a Twitter feed. Identify why you need to use a certain channel, how it will be used and importantly who will be responsible for it. If you can’t answer these questions then maybe that social media channel is not for you at this point in time.

I hope to cover each of the main social media tools and channels in more detail over the coming weeks and months in order to give you some food for thought on how your business may benefit from using them, whilst also reviewing some of the lesser known but promising platforms

Finally, to illustrate the point of this post further I would like to turn back to the example of my previous employer to show that it is not all doom and gloom.

Over time we were able to build up a thriving community on Facebook which acted as a central hub for all of our other social media operations. Through this community we were able to answer questions from potential students and guide them through the application process. Many of these students represented thousands of pounds of revenue for the organisation alone, demonstrating a direct business case for doing social media well. Video guidelines were created and soon the YouTube channel was full of interesting and relevant content showing what the school had to offer (with this content then easily embedded on the website to make it more interactive).

I am only just scratching the surface here on how we were able to turn things around but I hope it clarifies the point that with just a little bit of thinking, planning and effort social media goes beyond a fashionable business fad and starts to become a useful business function. Don’t just do it; plan what you want to achieve and why. Then do it!

Chris Walmsley, Social Media Consultant, Skout PR

You can follow me @skoutchris

Make sure you keep up to date with all things Skout at Skout Stories on Tumblr!

About this article

Read time:

4 minutes

Category:

Opinion, Sector knowledge

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