How you present your business is important. This is especially true for your company's social media, which is where a huge number of your prospective customers will interact with your brand. Political debacles aside, the concept of trying to sell something through social media isn't going away anytime soon. Thriving in these channels will remain a crucial part of any successful marketing and sales campaign.
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There are, of course, an overwhelming number of tools designed to help your business boost its social media presence as much as possible. Whether it's a social media management and analytics tool or integration with a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, there are plenty of options to help your brand shine. But is it enough? Despite hard work and attention to detail, many brands are creating authentic impressions on customers, and they have little to do with fancy analytics software or automated posts. The truth of the matter is that adhering to standard guidelines simply isn't enough. We examined a couple of brands who are going above and beyond the norm when it comes to social marketing and reaping surprising success with that process.
One of the company's many rude tweets.
Where's the Beef?
If there's one brand synonymous with social media buzz these days, it has to be burger chain Wendy's. A little more than a year ago, the fast food giant's Twitter feed looked very much like something you'd expect from a large restaurant company. It had good looking graphics that were sized appropriately for the platform. It had a regular schedule of posts. And it made sure that those posts informed customers about new products and promotions. It was also incredibly boring to read.
That all changed in the beginning of 2017 when the designated author of the Wendy's Twitter account got snippy after user "@NHride" challenged the company's claim of always using fresh beef in their burgers. Rather than respond with some canned PR line about food quality, Wendy's fought back. When the user asked them how they transport raw beef, Wendy's sarcastically asked them "Where do you store cold things that aren't frozen?", and further chided them for "forgetting refrigerators existed." The exchange blew up and was posted on world news outlets. Most companies would shy away from open conflict in a public forum like Twitter, but Wendy's has gone the other way. Since this original exchange, the company has built a business being adversarial to both other companies and users. The account has been perfect fodder for sites like Buzzfeed, where you can read stories like "15 Times The Wendy's Twitter Was the Most Savage".
But while many marketing managers would try to diffuse such conflicts, Wendy's has reaped undeniable success with its strategy. The account currently boasts nearly 2.5 million followers and has even incorporated their edgy demeanor into its Super Bowl ad earlier this year.
What's important to realize here is that a lot of work goes into making a multinational corporation look natural and conversational online. Jimmy Bennett is the senior director of media and social for Wendy's. He told us that the guiding process is both being responsive and authentic. "For us, it's all about fostering relationships with guests through authentic 1:1 interactions," said Bennett. "Our team has different interests so we're able to bring a lot to the table when interacting with fans, whether it be talking about sports, wrestling, movies or other pop culture moments. It's case-by-case, or rather Tweet-by-Tweet."
A few months ago, the Twitter team hosted an "ask me anything" (AMA) on Reddit where they disclosed that the job takes a lot of time. "It is way more than 40 hours a week," said the team when asked about the work schedule. The team also said that the company does all of the , in their words, "impressions, engagements, brand metrics" and "other marketing mumbo jumbo " that you'd expect from a company of that size.
But ultimately, it's the creativity and personality that the company has created that sets it apart. There is no shortage of social media tips both here on PCMag and on other outlets. Making sure you post regularly, pay attention to engagement metrics, and establish key performance indicators (KPIs) are all crucial to your business's social media strategy. But these things on their own aren't always enough. After all, there are many companies bigger than Wendy's whose social media channels don't make much of an impression at all.
You don't have to a wealthy corporation to have great social media. And, unlike the home of the 4 for 4 meal, you don't even have to be snarky. Specimen FMNH PR 2081, otherwise known as Sue, is currently the most complete T-Rex fossil in the world and is a permanent feature at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, IL. The T-Rex is also one of the most charming personalities on Twitter. Sue describes herself as a " murderbird " and posts amusing anecdotes about her life at the museum and memes about the hardships of Mondays. She also posts regularly about her obsession with actor Jeff Goldblum (we'll leave it up to you to spot the connection). The fossil currently has more than 38,000 followers on the platform and has been covered by outlets such as NPR and Time.
Sue is another example of a branding initiative where the organization could have easily set up a sensible, though likely dull account for Sue that might have posted random science facts or discussed upcoming events at the museum. But by injecting a little personality into the account, Sue has engaged people all over the world, giving the museum far more publicity in the process. The Field Museum did not respond to our request for comment, but communications director Brad Dunn told Chicago's CBS affiliate that fun will continue to be a guiding principle. "People are hungry for [science], and they're interested in it, and they realize it actually is part of their lives. That just gives us an opportunity to have fun with it, too," Dunn told the outlet.
Fun vs. Funny
If your business has a social media presence, perhaps you've found yourself struggling to make an impression. You've followed your social media marketing checklist, implemented all the right tools, and made sure you were targeting the right channels. Your brand might have a professional appearance on social media, but it might not be very powerful or interesting.
Businesses might look at what Wendy's and The Field Museum are doing and think that in order to succeed on social media, they have to essentially turn their channels into comedy accounts. Liz Jostes is the owner of Eli Rose Social Media, a small business social media consulting and marketing firm based in Memphis, TN. When we sat down with her for this story, she was quick to establish that this can backfire quickly. "It's really hard to be funny and do it well," said Jostes. "If you don't have the chops, you can't go that way."
With that in mind, you can have fun without trying to be a comedian. She said that in her time working with clients, a little personality goes a long way.
"I think one thing that I see really with businesses of all sizes is that once they start to get a little bit more personal with posts, that tends to resonate well," said Jostes. "It's OK, even if it's a branded business or it is a B2B situation, to use emojis. You can use GIFs."
This is certainly easier said than done, and something that won't happen overnight. But using a friendlier, more personable tone in your postings can make a huge difference in getting your audience's attention. Instead of simply stating "Our office will be closed due to inclement weather", you could say " " Another storm! We will be closed for the day. Stay safe out there." You could put a few storm cloud emojis in there for good measure. Let your customers know there are real human beings on the other end of the computer.
Show That You Care
Perhaps you find cultivating a brand personality to be a challenge. After all, your focus is on running a business, not knowing your way around the emoji keyboard. If this sounds difficult to you, one expert we talked to said that community stewardship is another tactic you can use in your social media.
Chris Vitti is the chief marketing Officer of Synthesio , one of the leading providers of social media analytics tools in the market today. When we spoke with him, he agreed that businesses should still try to make their content more casual.
"You want a professional brand image, but you also want to inject some personality into those channels, said Vitti. "It's really finding that balance between being professional and having a little bit of personality and fun along the way." One interesting thing Vitti suggested, though, is showing corporate responsibility, which he sees as becoming important as more millennials rise up in the workforce.
"I think it's very important, whether you're a mom-and-pop small business or you're a much larger company, to really show the audience that it's about more than just making a profit," said Vitti. "You give back in certain different ways and that might encourage a customer to want to work with you. It might encourage a prospect to want to work with you. And it hopefully will encourage employees to want to be a part of your business as well. "
There are many ways for you and your company to put this into practice. If you run an independent shop, you could, say, sponsor local youth sports in your city. Posting about the team would be a great way to show customers what a great company you are. Are you a tech startup working on the next big app? Terrific programs like Black Girls Code offer free computer science classes to kids throughout the country, are always looking for partners. Announcing and discussing such partnerships make for great social media content. Not only that, but you'd be contributing to a good cause as well.
Be Careful With Engagement
You may have reservations about engaging people on social media. A bad interaction can be seen by everyone, and tarnishing your brand in such a public way can be scary. According to Vitti, however, engagement is important. "Generally speaking, you want engage with both positive and negative comments. It doesn't reflect well on your business to just engage with the positive ones," said Vitti.
With that in mind, he did suggest some guidelines to handling negative comments. "First, I'd recommend a 'respond, don't react' response. For instance, do not go back-and-forth over negative comments. Respond once, and then try to direct the conversation to one-on-one communication," said Vitti. For example, you can simply tell the poster that you appreciate your feedback and that an account manager has emailed them about the issue. With that in mind, you may still make mistakes, or have made a mistake in the past. When a blunder like that comes, Vitti suggests leaving well enough alone. "Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone," said Vitti. Likewise, Jostes also suggested treading carefully. "Consider before you hit the post button if there are other reasonable interpretations to what you are saying," said Jostes. "Obviously, there's always a chance someone can be offended, but social media posts are words only. There's no tone or facial expression that accompanies the words on the screen."