Don’t Make These Social Media Mistakes

Here are some worthy reminders from Digital Relevance regarding mistakes you should avoid when using social media for your business.

Your tweets or Facebook posts are solely promotional.

Social media can be a good venue to share special sales and promotions, but don’t post these activities too often or your “fans” will drop you. People want to follow your company because you are helpful, informative and have something to offer.

You don’t interact with anyone.

It is called social media for a reason. It seems like a no-brainer, but a big no-no many companies make is not interacting with its followers. You should promptly respond to mentions, replies and retweets and continually check your Twitter feed to respond and reply to your followers. Be sure to answer comments or questions on Facebook as well.

You tweet too much or share too often.

Twitter is a much more continuous, open platform for sharing multiple times each day. You should tweet at least three to five times a day, but what’s more important is the quality and value of your tweets. Low-quality sharing won’t lead to much interaction. On average, top brands posted once per day on Facebook. If you post more than twice per day, you will typically lose engagement.

You only tweet or share posts about your business.

It’s not all about YOU. Your followers want you to be a resource for industry information, trending topics and every now and then they like to know what’s going on in your company, but they don’t always want to know about every single webinar, article or event. It’s good to show you are a real, successful business, but also illustrate your value as a resource that continually interacts with its followers.

You’re commonplace and uninteresting.

Just as writers have a unique style and voice, brands should have a unique voice that their audience understands and relates to. Form your unique voice based on your culture, community and conversation.

You repeat yourself, you’re totally automated and you repeat yourself.

Automation can help productivity and efficiency, but when it comes to social media, it can seem spammy, impersonal and excessive. Don’t tweet or share the same article multiple times a day or even multiple times a week. A helpful article can be shared multiple times for larger exposure, but spread out your coverage dates.

Avoiding these mistakes will help you build a strong online community that believes in your brand, considers you an essential resource and enjoys interacting with you.

How Can One Little #Symbol Go So Wrong?

Okay, I’m going to vent for just a minute about the degradation of my beloved English language.

I gripe every year when a host of new “words” are added to the dictionary. I do not agree that “selfie,” “squee” or “srsly” are actual words. Srsly? SERIOUSLY, Oxford English Dictionary? If only you could see my computer screen right now, you’d see all the little red squiggly lines under these so-called “words.”

As much as I loathe that, there is one thing that drives me crazier than almost anything else (almost anything else: the blanket usage of the Oxford comma is still No. 1 on my list of ridiculous things) – and that’s the misuse of hashtags and the fact that they’re infiltrating our communication.

We’ve all done it – used a hashtag on Twitter or Facebook to not describe or sort news (the reason hashtags were created in the first place), but to instead, make yourself look like you get this whole Internet thing. “Look ma! I can write the pound sign in front of phrases! My friends will think I’m the #bee’sknees!”

As they were originally intended – to sort news or topics and make it easy for readers to follow along with those subjects on Twitter – hashtags can be quite useful. Businesses can make great use of hashtags to promote specific products or events, or news topics that are relevant to the organization’s followers.

But past that, we must draw the line. No more using hashtag phrases in conversations! No more lazy or cutesy writing! Instead of giving me 12 hashtags to try to figure out what in the world you’re talking about, dig down deep and use actual words, phrases and sentences to describe what you are doing and how it makes you feel.

You are not too good for the English language.

Here is a funny little clip from "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" and special guest Justin Timberlake that personifies what might happen if we let this kind of nonsense continue.

Social Media Appeal

Social media has become a daily habit or necessity for most people. We feel the need to be plugged into Facebook, Twitter or some other site 24/7 to stay connected with the world around us, but do you trust the social media sites that you use?

You probably answered "no" to that question. A recent study done by E-Score found that people are less likely to trust social media brands and are twice as likely to trust traditional media brands (broadcast, cable and print).

This survey also produced other interesting data, including insights into online dating sites. Two online dating sites, eHarmony and Match.com, were among the highest ranked social media sites in terms of awareness, but they had the lowest appeal. E-Score says that this indicates “consumers’ displeasure with the process of using social media to find a companion.”

E-Score also found that the use of Twitter and Facebook seemed to be more out of habit or necessity since they are highly recognized and have a high number of monthly unique visitors, but have low appeal.

With people losing appeal for social media sites, could we be seeing the downfall of social media? Or will a new player come into the mix to keep social media from dying?

Reporting Truth is More Important Than Speed

When you work as a reporter at a small community newspaper, you learn early on that making a mistake – grammatical, factual or otherwise – will typically earn you a public flogging by way of scathing letter to the editor. So, you double- and triple-check your facts before printing.

But, something has happened in this 24/7 news cycle and Twitter-as-news cycle. Accuracy and truth in reporting has become less important than being the first to break a story.

I was shocked to observe it happening during the immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. For example: The name of the shooter most news outlets had been using all day was the wrong name (it was the shooter’s brother). The first victim – the shooter’s mother – wasn’t, in fact, a teacher at that school. At one point there was a second shooter, and then there wasn’t.

Bad information. Just plain wrong. But it was out there and people were repeating it. Re-tweeting it.

It seems history is repeating itself with the Boston Marathon attack.

Shortly after the blasts, one news outlet said 17 people were killed. We all know that the actual number is three. Another outlet reported that a Saudi national was in custody and being guarded at a local hospital as a suspect. It turns out the innocent man was held down by frantic people in the crowd who thought he’d had something to do with it. He was never in police custody as a suspect; just recovering at a local hospital, like so many others.

Then, two days after the bombings, news outlets and social media erupted that a suspect had been arrested. An hour later: No arrests. It wasn’t until the Boston Police Department and FBI confirmed there had been no arrest made in the attack that the claims died down.

It dawned on me during the early moments of the Boston Marathon attack that as news consumers, we’re all part of the problem. We all want the information as quickly as possible. We re-tweet and share on Facebook the moment things are announced, whether or not stories contain a credible source. An “unnamed” or “unofficial” source does not count as credible, people.

Like so many Americans, Sandy Hook will always be on my heart. As a journalist, my mind will also linger on the shooter’s brother, who not only lost his family and has to live with the pain his brother caused, but whose name was vilified for the better part of a day, despite his innocence.

In the future, do your own fact-checking and wait for a named source. Contact the news outlet to let them know you value accuracy over rapidity.

It’s time to demand better.

Tricky Social Media Rules on Whistleblowing

The California Chamber's HR Watchdog Blog delivers this complicated tale, explaining a potential victim can even be fired for improperly using social media to document undesirable behavior.

A tech company, SendGrid, recently fired a female employee, Adria Richards, who used Twitter to complain about sexual jokes made by male employees from a different company.

During a conference in San Francisco, Richards tweeted that it was “Not cool” that the men were making inappropriate sexual jokes. She used her phone to take a picture of the men sitting behind her and then used Twitter to post the picture.

One of the men in the photo was terminated by his employer, San-Francisco based PlayHaven.

But Richards also found herself in the middle of a social media storm and was ultimately fired by her employer. SendGrid CEO Jim Franklin blogged that Richards was not fired because she reported offensive conduct, but because of how she reported it – using Twitter to post photographs and “publicly shaming” the offenders.

Franklin also went on to say that Richard’s actions caused division amongst the developer community that Richards serves as part of her job and that she can no longer be effective.

But this is what often happens when an employee complains of inappropriate conduct: A complaint is made, which may create division at work and with customers; people may take sides. Regardless of such division and the ultimate outcome of any investigation, the employee is supposed to be protected from retaliation for complaining of harassment or discrimination.

This situation poses difficult questions: Can an employee complain in any manner he/she sees fit? Airing information across social media platforms and posting pictures of co-workers, customers or collaborators?

The law provides strong protections for those who complain about harassment or discrimination. As demonstrated by recent decisions by the National Labor Relations Board, the law also protects employees who engage in concerted activity with other employees to improve their working conditions — which may include employees complaining to each other over social media.

CEOs Just Saying No to Social Media

Social media may be taking much of the rest of the world by storm, but Fortune 500 CEOs are not quite ready to take the personal plunge in most cases. Bulldog Reporter has the story:

The 2012 Fortune 500 Social CEO Index was created (by Domo and CEO.com) to investigate the social media habits of leading CEOs. It found that while CEOs lagged far behind the general population in terms of overall social media participation, they are more active on one social network — LinkedIn — than the general public. When it comes to specific social networks, LinkedIn was by far the most popular among Fortune 500 CEOs, with 26 percent on the network, compared to just 20.15 percent of the U.S. general public.

But on other major social networks, including Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, the presence of Fortune 500 CEOs was minimal at best, with only 7.6 percent on Facebook, 4 percent on Twitter, and less than 1 percent on Google Plus. By contrast, more than 50 percent of the U.S. population uses Facebook and 34 percent uses Twitter.

"The results came as a surprise considering that social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are part of the daily fabric of life," said Josh James, Domo founder and CEO, in a news release. "We really expected to see more social engagement from CEOs, especially since the benefits of social media are no longer just wishful thinking."

Others findings from the study:

  • 70 percent of CEOs have no presence on social networks

  • Among the 20 Fortune 500 CEOs who have opened Twitter accounts, five have never tweeted

  • Rupert Murdoch of News Corp, with 249,00 followers, is now the most-followed Fortune 500 CEO, surpassing HP’s Meg Whitman who was in the number one spot when the survey was taken

  • 10 Fortune 500 CEOs have more than 500 LinkedIn connections, while 36 CEOs have 1 LinkedIn connection or none

  • Six Fortune 500 CEOs contribute to blogs, and only one of the six CEOs, John Mackey of Whole Foods, maintains his own blog

5 Social Media Lessons for Small Businesses

The popular site, Mashable, offers five lessons for small businesses to consider while trying to navigate the tricky waters of social media.

1. Social Isn’t the Place for the Hard Sell
This might be the most difficult lesson for the small business owner. After all, we don’t have large marketing budgets to waste. Every dollar must count and we’ve been trained to close every potential sale. However, the social universe requires a subtler approach. This means no BUY ME buttons or blatant promotional copy.

In fact, if your social media strategy is just about marketing or sales, then you’re not approaching it right. Yes, you can use social media for marketing and you can increase your sales figures from it, but it can’t be your focus 100% of the time. As a general rule of thumb, only 5% to 10% of your social media activity (i.e. status updates or tweets) should be self-promotional.

Social media is all about building relationships and growing trust. This means answering questions, providing helpful information, and serving as a trusted resource. These activities should grow your bottom line, but it can be a slower, more nuanced, and potentially more fruitful journey than you’be come to expect. For this reason, it’s important to realize that social media shouldn’t replace all your other traditional marketing practices. It’s okay to ask for the sale, just not in social channels.

2. Social Isn’t About Self-Promotion
You know how painful it is to be stuck at a cocktail party, talking to that self-absorbed person who only talks about him or herself. Small businesses need to treat social media like a cocktail party among friends. To be liked, you’ve got to be gracious, genuinely interested in others, and not dominate the conversation.

What does this mean? Make it easy for people to leave comments on your blog. Engage with everyone who posts on your wall (within reason). Share great content from others in the industry. Ask questions and encourage participation. And most importantly, recognize that sometimes it’s better to talk less and listen more.

3. You Don’t Have to be Everywhere
There are two facts to keep in mind when it comes to social media and small business. First, there will always be a new network to get involved with. Secondly, a small business owner has a limited amount of time and money to devote to social media.

Fortunately, doing social media well doesn’t mean you need to be anywhere and everywhere. Instead, it’s about choosing one or two of the most relevant and effective channels for reaching your customers and focusing on them.

Remember that a neglected social media presence will reflect poorly on your business. It’s actually better to not have an account if you don’t have the time and resources to actively manage it and participate.

4. You Don’t Have to Keep up With the Big Brands
If you’re running a small business, you know there’s a big difference between your budget and that of Virgin America or Starbucks. That’s OK. Your small business doesn’t need to try to keep up with these big brands — particularly when it comes to contests and campaigns.

Creating giveaways and contests is one of the most effective ways to generate new likes and improve overall engagement. But small businesses often feel the pressure to offer flashy prizes that are well beyond their budget.

For example, for your small business, don’t give away a bunch of iPads if that’s not what you can afford. Instead, consider giving away one of your company’s services. It’s definitely not the sexiest prize and won’t generate widespread interest, but it’s more budget friendly and everyone who participates is sure to be interested in what your company does.

5. Social Media isn’t “Free”
Sure, you don’t have to spend a dime to join Facebook, create a Twitter account, or start a blog. That’s great news for the small business. However, social media is far from free once you factor in the blood, sweat, and tears it demands. Social media requires constant commitment, from keeping fresh content on your accounts to engaging your community.

Unless you consider your time (or the time of your employees) worthless, then there’s a significant cost involved with social media. For example, if it takes one employee approximately ten hours a week to manage social media accounts, you can assign a hard cost to the effort. The key takeaway is any small business owner needs to understand the numbers behind every campaign, and that means factoring in everyone’s time and effort.
 

Is Social Media Changing Your Work Life for the Better?

In the July/August issue of the Indiana Chamber’s BizVoice magazine® we look at the impact of social media on business.

To do that properly, we’d like to hear from Hoosier companies on what they’re doing and what they see as the benefits of their social media activities.

Maybe you reach customers via a blog, Facebook or Twitter. Or it’s more of an internal tool to communicate with your employees. Perhaps you even have a person dedicated to social media. Basically, if your company consistently uses social media in some way to impact the business, we would appreciate you getting in touch!

Companies of all industries and sizes are welcome.

Please e-mail Rebecca at rpatrick@indianachamber.com.

Advice for Employers and Employees About Social Media Use

Every week, it seems like there’s another story or controversy surrounding a business and its use of social media. Whether it’s an ill-advised Tweet, improperly disciplining an employee for social media use or an employee venting irresponsibly, the gray area in this arena seems to be spreading like a (computer) virus. Ragan.com offers some tips on what you should consider when it comes to social media use. Keeping these concepts in mind may keep you out of trouble in the future:

1. Training and communication about corporate social media policies are essential: Some companies have no social media policy, but most have come to recognize that existing communication policies are insufficient to protect employers and employees from the nuances and unique risks of social media. Other organizations have a policy but fail to educate employees on the risks and ramifications of their actions in social media; this is almost as dangerous as having no policy at all.

Simply put, your employees—particularly younger ones who are social natives—are ill equipped to understand the corporate, regulatory, and legal risks of their social media activities. If you are not reinforcing to them what is expected, what will get them and the company in trouble, and the consequences of mistakes, your brand is accepting needless risks, and you are not doing your employees any favors.

2. Give employees every opportunity to vent in private and appropriate channels: Nothing a company does will prevent some employees from turning to social media to voice complaints, because social media sharing is second nature to too many people. Nevertheless, that should not prevent companies from trying to prevent as many social media problems as possible.

The answer is not to prevent social media access at work—employees all carry their social networks in their pockets or purses nowadays—but instead to furnish multiple ways for employees to share feedback within the company.

This includes passive solutions, such as offering intranet forums where employees may discuss concerns, and proactive solutions, such as organized employee gatherings and groups to collect feedback. The best solution is nothing new: strong, active, open, and engaged leadership that listens to employees.

3. Do not ask for candidates’ or employees’ passwords: Asking for employees’ and candidates’ social media passwords is problematic for several reasons. First, doing so might expose you to information that the person is in a protected group, which could then open the company up to a discrimination claim. Also, your organization could suffer a blow to its reputation if a candidate or employee discloses the practice.

In hiring situations, you might lose a qualified candidate concerned that your organization demonstrates a hostile and distrustful relationship with employees. Finally, this practice requires employees to violate Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which states, "You will not share your password… let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account."

Some assert there are legal risks to asking employees and job candidates for their passwords. I am not a lawyer and cannot advise you on the legality of checking social media for information on candidates, but asking for passwords is a dangerous and risky policy.

If you’d like more information on this topic, the Indiana Chamber offers the Indiana Employer’s Guide to Monitoring Electronic Technology in the Workplace – 3rd Edition (authored by attorneys from Ogletree Deakins).

Social Media and Politics: Nebraska Awkwardness Edition

PR Daily has this troubling Twitter anecdote from the Nebraska Senate Primary. The details follow, but one candidate is basically accused of trying to "follow" his opponent’s daughter on Twitter. Sounds creepy at first, but in his defense, he delegates Twitter management to an aide. But it makes for an interesting exchange:

Talk about an awkward debate moment.

During a debate in Nebraska last week, one Republican Senate candidate, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, accused his opponent, state Treasurer Don Stenberg, of being “creepy” for following his 14-year-old daughter on Twitter.

Bruning unleashed this salvo:

“Let me ask you this, Don. This Sunday, my daughter walks in, and says, ‘Don Stenberg’s trying to follow me on Twitter.’ My daughter’s 14-years-old. Now you tell me: I’d like to know, why does a 62-year-old man want to follow a 14-year-old girl on Twitter? I’d really like to know. She said, ‘Dad, that’s kind of creepy.’"

In return, Mr. Stenberg said the following:

“Quite honestly, I don’t do my own Twitter. Dan Parsons does it for me. We’ve got thousands and thousands of folks, and as soon as we get done here, I’ll call Dan and make sure that’s taken off. I don’t think it’s appropriate.”

That’s not a bad verbal response, but note his body language. His vocal delivery is much less sure than it was in his previous answer, and his post-answer body language reveals obvious anger. It’s hard to tell whether his ire is directed at his opponent or at his aide who requested to follow Bruning’s daughter; either way, his annoyance is obvious.

He lost control of the moment—and as a result, he lost the exchange

In these situations, maintaining control is critical. Stenberg’s approach of running toward the charge (“I don’t think it’s appropriate”) was a good one. But he should have delivered that line (or my suggested lines below) with full confidence:

“Jon, I agree with you. Children should not be fodder in political campaigns, and this is the first I’m hearing that one of my campaign aides tried to follow your daughter on Twitter. As soon as this debate ends, I’m going to have a conversation with my staff and make sure nothing like that ever happens again.”

Once he successfully finished running toward the charge, he could have taken the opportunity to counter-attack:

“But you know, Jon, I’m disappointed in you. Instead of speaking to me privately about this, one father to another, you opted to use this situation as an opportunity to score cheap political points. That’s exactly the kind of political stunt voters are sick of, and as far as I’m concerned, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.”