Social media has become both a new frontier for brands and old news in the span of less than two decades. This leaves many companies wondering where they fit in when it comes to interacting with their customers online. If you do not have a dedicated marketing team, it can be a bit daunting to choose a social media platform—especially if you do not personally use it and already understand the culture … and then what happens if there is a shift to an even newer platform?
SPOILER ALERT: the solution is to understand your brand, know where and how your customers prefer to communicate, and to have a good grasp of what your team can reasonably do in addition to their other marketing or service duties.
Choosing a Platform
You can make some basic assumptions, like Facebook is generally a good option for business-to-consumer brands (B2C) and LinkedIn is a better option for business-to-business brands (B2B), but the best option for your brand is kind of personal. There is no need to be on every single form of social media unless each one is a great fit for your company, and you have the resources to do them all well.
That said, it is always a good idea to claim your brand’s name on every platform—even the ones you do not intend to use—so that if there is a change in your strategy, you have easy access to your brand’s name on that platform and you are not stuck with something ridiculous, like “Joe’sTrashService27.”
As you begin your social media strategy development, make sure you understand who you are as a brand. This is where your Brand Positioning and Brand Promise become important. If you need a reminder, see “Burritos and Branding: Communication Leads to Differentiation” in the May 2019 edition of Waste Advantage Magazine. If you already have that information outlined, take it a step further and ask yourself the following: if your brand was a person, what kinds of social media would s/he use? List a couple of answers and rank them according to priority and your team’s capabilities. For example, YouTube might be a great option, but if you do not have the skills to produce quality videos, then it may need to rank lower on your list of priorities—or this could be a strategy that you explore with the help of an outside marketing agency.
Finding Your Audience
Evaluate the platforms your customer demographics prefer to use. Different age ranges have different platform trends. Gender is another differentiator in social media behavior. Remember that the decision maker is not always the one who is named as the account holder on your list of customers. Some households may register for service under the husband’s name, but it may actually be the wife who chooses the service provider or initiates contact with your company. Examine your most loyal customer demographics and compare them to the current statistics of the social media platforms you are considering. The word “current” is important here: the statistics change as groups age. Your customer demographics will change, too. Choose social media platforms to fit your demographics now but keep your eyes on the next upcoming generation and where they like to congregate so that you can adopt that form of social media early. Adding new platforms will most likely require a different version of your social media strategy. Content that works well on Facebook does not automatically work as well on Instagram—the latter being a highly visual platform.
Next, find your competitors’ social media accounts. The intent is not to copy your competitors, but to understand what they are doing so that you are able to differentiate your brand by leveraging your strengths against their weaknesses—especially if you will end up occupying the same forms of social media. List the platforms they use and analyze their strengths and weaknesses on each one. A SWOT chart can be useful here. You will not have access to all the metrics they use, but you will be able to see the likes and comments they receive and make some judgements on their technique. This information may help you narrow your choice of social media and refine your strategy. If the competition is after the same demographic and they are using a certain social media platform, you may be missing out on opportunity to compete for customers if you do not use it, too. Take the opportunity to look for inspiration outside of the trash world. Are there brands you admire or consider similar to your brand even if they are in a different industry? Consider what it is you like about those brands and their social media and weave it into your strategy.
Playing to Your Strengths
If you do not have the luxury of a dedicated marketing team or access to a marketing agency, you may have to make some tough choices when it comes to social media. Do you have the time to dedicate to posting? You should login daily and preferably stay logged in to monitor things and interact in real time. If that does not fit your time constraints, can you commit to logging in at least three times a week to queue some upcoming posts and interact with fans?
Do you have the skills to make the content—and the types of content specific to the platform you would like to have? If not, do you have the budget to have this content made elsewhere? This may help you narrow your choices. Speaking of budget, do some research on the cost of advertising on the platforms you would like to use. Producing and posting content on your profile is important to educate potential customers about your brand, but posts alone may not drive leads. You will want to develop some targeted advertising to help build the traffic to your profile and generate potential leads for your sales team. I recall one company that was convinced setting up a Snapchat geofilter was the way to go. Unfortunately, not only was their target demographic not on Snapchat (their demographic’s grandchildren were!), but they did not have a budget to accomplish the broad geofilter they desired. They ended up finding some success with sponsored posts on other platforms.
Behind the Scenes
As you dive into social media, make sure you are prepared to handle customer service through the spaces you intend to occupy. Customers love to use social media to efficiently handle service issues. Would you rather wait on the phone listening to scratchy-sounding hold music or get your question answered in moments through chat? Here is the catch: your social media is online 24/7, which means customers may message you at odd hours. You need to consider how you want to handle that. There are some options, like setting up automated responses or posting the hours you will be online to answer questions, but you should have a plan for off-hours and holidays. You will also want to educate your customer relations team on how to handle social media interactions and ensure that they are taking those inquiries as seriously as phone calls. Help them understand the language and culture of your chosen platforms and ensure that they continue to represent the brand according to your wishes.
Involving your employees in the company’s social media pages can be helpful for growing your brand, increasing interactions and handling customers—but it is not without risk. Consider the following: a customer posts on your page about how your driver missed her pick up yet again and your driver comments on this post from his personal account saying that if she paid her bills, he would not have to skip her house. That may be true, but the brand itself would not respond to the post like that and your employees should not be responding to posts unless they have been approved to do so and trained on your company’s customer service expectations. Savvy brands avoid these issues by introducing a Social Media Policy to their staff. This document typically outlines how employees identify themselves online, which employees have the authority to speak on behalf of the company, and who to notify if they are not authorized to respond to an issue but they witness something that should be addressed immediately. The document encourages interaction with your brand’s social media and invites employees to share photos and other good news, but also identifies safety points like never using cell phones while driving or getting permission to take photos of happy customers. The intent of the Social Media Policy is to limit your risk, provide your employees with education on appropriate use of social media, and provide yourself with recourse if something negative occurs.
The most successful brands can leverage social media to take advantage of trends because they have done the work in advance to develop the right social strategy, protect their brand and ensure customers always have a positive interaction with the company.
This article was written by Jessica Shrout for the July 2019 issue of Waste Advantage Magazine.