This past weekend, the U.S. Army posed a question on Twitter, “How has serving impacted you?” Their Twitter blew up generating 16,375 likes, 9,055 retweets and more than 12,000 comments. The stories were stunning in their raw honesty. Many detailed heartbreaking first person accounts of PTSD, suicides, sexual assault and case blunders by Veteran’s Affairs. Two days after this hit the news cycle, the Army posted an update thanking those who shared their stories and posted information for the Veterans Crisis hotline.
It was another excellent reminder of the power of social media and need to be thoughtful about your communications. Each post poses a potential risk to your brand. Clearly, the Army was looking for feel good stories of service. If they had anticipated the backlash, they would have instead populated their feed with only pre-produced positive stories that encouraged Americans to thank a Soldier. It would have been appropriate content for the Memorial Day Holiday. Instead, they opened a dialogue on how America treats her Service members and for some, the true price of service. It is an important conversation, but probably not what the Army had planned to have over social media this weekend.
We spend a lot of time talking with people about talking to other people. Specifically, how to build your brand and connect with your audience on social media. It can be overwhelming and even scary to try to decide which channel is right for you and what you want to say. Social media can be intimidating. It shouldn’t be. Social is social. You must always remember that you’re talking with real people. Real people are empowered by sharing their feelings through a computer screen. It’s easier to anonymously bare your soul when it’s not a face-to-face conversation.
The first thing we tell our clients is to take a deep breath and remember that you are in control of your brand and your messaging. The three big rules when it comes to engaging on social media is:
1) Be genuine.
2) Be honest.
3) Be responsive.
And if there’s a number four it would be this:
4) Be thoughtful.
This is the one where people don’t spend enough time. Think about your business. Who are your customers? What do you want to tell them? What is the content that you want to share? Is social media the best way to share it? If a post blows up or turns negative do you know how to handle it? Are you prepared to be honest and responsive? Do you have the time to stay on top of your feed and engage with people?
Believe it or not, social media has been around for a long time. Some historians credit the telegraph as the first social media in the 1840s for its ability to connect people with short messages around the country. Certainly, AOL dominated the 1990s with instant messenger and news weblinks across their homepage. Without a doubt, Facebook, for all its faults remains the world’s largest social media platform. But should your business be on it? Maybe not. In fact, everyone doesn’t need to be on Facebook. Shocking? I know. But, it’s true. Think about it. You go to your dry cleaner a couple of times a month – but will you ever visit their Facebook page? With nearly 2.3 billion global users there is a ton of people sharing content on Facebook. [For perspective Facebook has 23 times as many viewers as the Super Bowl.] People consistently say that they go on to Facebook to watch cat videos. Why do you go on social media? What posts do you engage with?
If you’ve decided that yes, you want to invest the time in creating content and building a relationship on social media, then Hurrah! Good for you! Now, you need to decide which channels are right for your organization.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Reddit, LinkedIn, Line, and Snapchat are the biggest vehicles for social media content. According to Pew Research, in 2018, Facebook and YouTube reached more American adults than any other channel. Drilling down deeper, Pew found that younger Americans (18-24) are using multiple platforms frequently throughout the day. These young adults tend to be heavy visual social consumers spending most of their time on Snapchat and Instagram. Twitter is another channel that reaches across demographic users.
Once you decide the channels, you need to invest time in producing thoughtful content that works with your overarching communications strategy. Make sure that messages and content are consistent with your brand, your organization, your products and services. Remember that social media is about serving your community. Social provides global engagement in real time. If things go off track, address it immediately. To paraphrase the Army’s longtime brand campaign, use your social communications to be all you can be.
Brand & Buzz is a full-service strategic communications firm. We focus on solutions and deliver results. Our boutique firm is made up of experts in communications, branding, executive coaching, public relations, fundraising, video production, and website design. Everyone is unique. Our programs are too.