Australians now spend an astonishing 25% of our time online on social media, according to the 2014 iSentia Social Media Influencer Survey (the ‘Survey’). Social media is now not only a forum for sharing photos and connecting with friends, but also a way to engage with companies, products, services, news and opinions.
Most companies by now have realised the importance of engaging in social media, thanks to well-documented incidents such as Qantas in 2010 only discovering there was an engine explosion in one of its planes via Twitter.
While this remains a more extreme example, it is undeniable that social media is fast becoming the number one information source in today’s world. Indeed, 89 per cent of Australian journalists believe that social media spreads news faster than traditional channels such as newspapers, radio and television, according to the Survey.
So what can companies and organisations do to ensure a better ROI on their social media activity?
- Invest in social media. Many companies will claim they are social-media savvy but fail to make available the resources to do it properly. If you’re not monitoring or engaging, you’re denying your company valuable market information. And if you’re in the business of advocacy, you’re missing out on an effective platform to promote your messages. Social media is unique in its ability to create a direct online conduit to stakeholders, and in this increasingly digital world, it’s the new way of doing business.
- Choose the right platform. With myriad social media channels on offer, the choice can be overwhelming. Amongst marketing and communications professionals, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are broadly considered to be the most useful channels 1 , though Instagram is proving an increasingly popular forum for sharing images (think property companies posting images of new housing projects). Twitter is generally regarded as the political and business world’s preferred platform, while Facebook tends to offer a ‘catch-all’ option for companies and organisations wanting a social media presence with a softer edge.
- Research your competitors. It is important to take the time to observe how your competitors are engaging on social media, which hashtags they are using, and who they follow or like. Analyse their content and what is attracting the most interest online. There are numerous social media tools out there to help you analyse your market, including Rival IQ or LikeAlyzer.
- Tailor content to your audience. Make sure you identify who your target audience is. If you’re aiming for widespread exposure, avoid resorting to industry jargon. Keep in mind also that 40% of Australian journalists now consider social media very important to their work 2 so ensure you highlight relevant news angles where they exist. Original written content is still considered the most important form of content on social media, though imagery and video content are increasingly effective, particularly as 93% of the most engaged posts on Facebook are images 3.
- Post content that is engaging. The golden rule of social media is that it is social – it requires interaction between users. If all you do is share or retweet links, your followers will lose interest. Your posts should ideally create an action, outcome or response from your audience, whether that be clicking, commenting, sharing or liking. And don’t forget to take note of who engages with you. They could end up as potential customers or clients.
Social media is a rapidly developing field that is constantly changing and improving, but at its most fundamental, it’s about communication. The basics of what to say, how to say it, when to say it, where to say it and who to say it to, still apply. And when in doubt, just take note of the social media policy of The New York Times. Eschewing any formal guidelines, The New York Times advises its journalists to simply be thoughtful and use common sense – a valuable lesson for all social media users.
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