I took part in a debate last night held by Hot Source. The topic was “What constitutes spam on social media and are there unwritten rules that people and companies should follow?”
It turns out I’m apparently a bit of a purist when it comes to social media engagement. Although I was probably nowhere near as eloquent last night, with many faces and a video camera pointing in my direction, my general opinion, and what I would have said had I not been too busy blushing, is as follows…
Social media is a means of communicating with a variety of social groups. By its very nature – it is social – involving two way conversations.
Therefore, engaging with your audience via social media requires the same skills as you would use in any social environment.
You wouldn’t automate any of your other social interactions. If you were in the pub with friends, would you issue a statement at 7pm, regardless of what the existing conversation was? The danger of scheduling updates is that it shows you’re not listening, let alone engaging in a conversation. I have seen this happen on a brand’s Facebook page, where a customer has taken time to write a rather lengthy, and reasonable complaint – 10 minutes later an automated, light-hearted status update went up from the brand, with no acknowledgement to the customer. In an everyday conversation, to ignore the person talking and then interrupt with an entirely new topic would be the height of rudeness – why would we think it’s ok to do this online?
By listening to the conversation, you have the opportunity to make a genuine contribution, at the right time.
There are distinct dangers with posting the same message automatically across platforms, i.e automatically feeding from Twitter to Linked-In.
1. If you have followers across multiple channels – they could see the same post 4 or 5 times – that’s spam
2. The different platforms have different benefits. Why limit yourself (and your audience) to a 140 character update, when you could provide more information, images, videos via the individual platforms. In traditional advertising, would you simply read out your Direct Mail letter as a radio ad? No, you’d tailor it to the channel.
3. I’ve signed up to Linked-In to connect with other people in my industry and to share industry news. If I wanted to log in and see 17 updates regarding the Chelsea game, I’d have joined a football forum.
It’s obviously a matter of balance, but only ever issuing re-tweets is irrelevant. If I wanted to hear from somebody you are following and have retweeted in the past – I’d be following them.
The reason I follow you is because I care about what you have to say. So re-tweet – but frame it in a way that gives your opinion. And occasionally come up with something original…
I realise that managing social media accounts can be really time-consuming – but who said it should be easy? Just because it’s accessible, it will still take time, resource and had work to really achieve results. To try and get away with not listening, engaging or coming up with unique and relevant copy is lazy marketing.
If you don’t have time to do it, then should you be doing it at all? The fact is, we should be adhering to best practice, and if we don’t have the right amount of resource, then these arguments should be used as a business case for recruiting the right resource. By investing the time, and doing it right, it can only benefit both brands and consumers.