Social media advice is wide, varied and poorly distributed. It’s really rather common to hear snippets of wisdom such as:
- Keep your social media presence secret
- Keep your personal and professional online presence separate
- Transparency is the new currency
- Executive team members shouldn’t Twitter
- Social media is the future of corporate communications
- Create separate accounts for business and personal
The reality is a lot simpler, thankfully. I’m pretty sure the fear around social media is propagated by social media and digital agencies who are doing nothing more than touting their services.
Social media is just another channel of communication, and much of it goes ignored. For example, it’s estimated that Facebook updates on Company pages reach just 6% of followers. True, if you Tweet something contentious and it gets picked up then it could cause a ruckus (isn’t that why you pay those social media agencies a retainer, to fix these reputation problems? Ed)
But really, unless you are a mass murderer, or engaged in a morally toxic business (banker fixing LIBOR rates?) then there is a lot to be said for being open. You are also not likely to be on radar of too many people and, much like most business networks, it’s use is a little ad-hoc.
One of the leaders of the free world, in terms of technology, design and coolness is Tim Cook. He’s the CEO of Apple and worked under the seminal Steve Jobs so pretty high-profile and he’s on Twitter … he follows 40 people, tweets about personal stuff and with around 400,000 followers doesn’t even rank in the top 10,000 accounts (Katy Perry and Justin Bieber have over 50,000,000 each).
The corporate world is catching on, with an estimated 75% of (real, not holding) companies now on Twitter and active in the last 30 days.
On a personal level
People relate to people so not having any kind of social media profile is suspicious. In fact, in todays society is just freaky and will radically reduce trust. But avoid pictures of illegal activity, choose your friends wisely and be authentic. The only thing worse than a fake profile is, erm, a fake person. Natch!
On a corporate level
Whilst corporates have a (planned) identity, the reality is the identity os defined by the people who work there. I’ve sat in meetings with financial institutions who want to portray themselves as “radical” and “hip” when they were the most conservative organisation in the UK. This doesn’t work. It’s not PR.
What does work is a transparent approach to social media that’s responsive, human and consistent. Maybe you need to hire a good social media consultancy (hint hint).
Social media is not an island
Lastly, social media is part of a wider communications strategy, and includes video (Youtube, Vimeo, Vine & Facebook), blogging, forums and email. Treat it as a broadcast media and you’ll be ignored, dive in and interact and you’ll get engagement.
By Penny Driscoll
Head of Social Media & Reputation Management