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Wed 2 Jul 2014 10:31 AM

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Back to basics: Dos and don’ts of social media

Fatima El Malki, social media manager at Active Public Relations, takes us back to the foundations of social media, and offers a few staples of what to do and what not to do

Back to basics: Dos and don’ts of social media

As a small or medium business, you might get recommendations from your colleagues, employees or circle of friends and family to ‘advertise’ your business through Facebook and Twitter.

As the digital sphere continuously evolves and further develops itself through new technologies, how are SMEs supposed to keep up with these changes? How would they know what the best social media strategy is for their business?

So many question, so little time, because before you know it – there’s another social platform knocking on your door, ready to be introduced to your target audiences.

The first hurdle for start-ups is questioning whether they should be active on social media.

Some typical comments and questions asked by many small business owners include: “It will take me too much time”, “who’s going to handle it, I sure can’t”, “what do we do if we get negative comments – do we just delete them?” and “do I have to post every day?!”

Get over this first step as the answer will always be “yes”. Yes, you do have to be active on social media. Your client behaviour has changed in the past decade; they do not purchase certain products or services in person anymore. Moreover, the smartphone penetration in the UAE is currently a little over 70 percent according to the TRA (Telecommunications Regulatory Authority). This trend continues to grow and consumers slowly, but surely are adapting their behaviour by making more and more use of their mobile devices, social media apps to get what they want.

We’ve accepted that social media will not disappear out of the blue and that it is in fact a cost-effective marketing tool to use. Now we’ve surpassed that first hurdle, we need to go back to the basics. Here is a recap of the major social media do’s and don’ts to be aware of when executing your social media strategy:

Join the social media platforms your business needs

DO: Depending on what services or products you offer to your target audience, you will need to determine whether there is an added value to be active on certain social media platforms. With extensive research on your target audience and their online behaviour, you will soon know which platforms your audience frequents and therefore which platforms to utilise.

DON’T: A serious don’t in social media is to create an account on every single social platform you can imagine, just to be able to tick the boxes. Being present on social media goes beyond being active on all platforms. Is your audience interested in receiving news from your company on Instagram? Or would they rather just view this on Twitter? Does a news outlet really need to update their Facebook timeline with every single article they publish? Or is Twitter a more appropriate platform to share this type of content with your audience? These are questions you will need to ask before signing up to any social platform. Determine whether you will be able to share appropriate content according to the purpose of the platforms and are willing to engage with your audience. Note that when your audience is not willing to engage with you on a particular platform you are selling your business in the wrong market place.

Establish a tone of voice

DO: Once you’ve determined on which platforms you need to be active on, you will have to establish a tone of voice. Will you be addressing your audience in a formal or an informal manner? It all depends on the type of company you are and the tone of voice your audience is accustomed to receiving from your business.

DON’T: If you’re a B2C company with a young audience, you might want to throw industry jargon out of the window and address the youth with the kind of language they’re used to – but please, refrain from overly popular slang words, no one is waiting for a brand that talks like a dad trying to keep up with the young ones. Same goes for the other way around, if you’re a B2B company with a mature audience and the services or products you’re selling are communicated in a formal way, you will have to do the same thing on social media. Your content and captions should portray the image your audience is used to, in a formal way.

Engage, engage, and …engage

DO: One of the main objectives to be on social media is to be able to reach your client and develop a relationship with them. After establishing the right tone of voice, you will have to create the right type of content that will motivate your audience to engage and hopefully share it with their friends and families.

Once they do engage; ask questions, commenting, suggesting new ideas etc. you will have to keep the conversation going. Dr.Phil said that communication is key to keeping a marriage alive. The same goes for a client relationship. Brands should show appreciation to their ‘following’ and engage with them in ways that the audience will be left with the impression they’re actually talking to a human being.

DON’T: A big no-no is to go the ‘sneaky route’ on social media. Many start-ups begin with a Facebook account and connect their Twitter feed to that same account, so when they post something on Facebook, it is automatically posted on their Twitter timeline. It’s a social media faux-pas. It’s a serious don’t, because when your followers on Twitter do reply to you on that platform, you will have no idea they did and their questions will be left unanswered. If you’re joining social media, do it well, don’t be lazy.

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