Five Social Media Best Practices
New rules of communicating with customers are emerging. Here are five of the best practices from companies that have grappled with social media.
- Listen and measure
Dr Pepper spent years building its 8.5 million-strong fan base on Facebook. Now, careful tracking and testing with those Facebook users who say they “like” the soft drink helps the brand figure out how to hone its marketing messages.It blasts out two messages daily on its Facebook fan page, and then listens to the fans’ reactions. Using various tools Dr Pepper can measure how many times a message is viewed, how many times it is shared with other Facebook users and what fan responses say.Measuring the social conversation is step one for any brand. “If a company is going to engage in social media, they have to listen and understand the nature of the conversation, the volume and the topics being discussed,” says Susan Etlinger, an analyst at Altimeter Group, an advisory firm in San Mateo, Calif.
- Do market research through Facebook ads
For the past few years, Facebook has allowed companies to target ads based on personal information that users volunteer. Now Facebook ads also can help companies do demographic market research.Language-learning company Rosetta Stone Inc. recently used Facebook’s targeting capabilities to find a new market niche for its services. It knew it had a base of customers that included frequent travelers who were interested in learning languages for practical reasons. But what about people who enjoy the mental challenge? In its Facebook tests, the company tried targeting ads featuring pictures of brains to people interested in Mensa and other aspects of mental fitness. It worked: Some of the ads performed more than three times as well as previous campaigns.
- The boss should tweet
Many companies now have official Twitter handles and Facebook pages for their brands. But it helps set the tone and personality of a brand if the boss weighs in on the conversation personally, says Mark Silva, senior vice president of emerging platforms at marketing agency Anthem Worldwide.Sherry Chris, CEO of Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate LLC, began tweeting in 2007. “I thought it would be much more authentic—although time consuming—to become engaged myself,” she says.Ms. Chris spends two hours each day reading and contributing on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare.
In her first year on Twitter, she thought a lot about whether it was worth the effort. But the doubt faded when she got her first Twitter inquiry from an interested prospective broker.
“That was an aha! moment,” says Ms. Chris. “I knew I was heading in the right direction.”
- Empower all employees to participate
Even the best-tweeting CEO shouldn’t work alone. But bringing in the rest of the company requires a new set of policies.Over the past year, computer maker Dell Inc. has been promoting a program to eventually unleash a wide swath of employees to participate officially in social media.Like many companies, Dell has experimented with different policies for participation in social media. Today, with more than 25,000 different conversations happening across the Web about Dell every day, the company has decided that centralizing social media communication in a single department isn’t practical.
Last August it opened a social-media university for employees across all of its divisions, where they learn the basics of how to use social media. So far, 9,000 employees have taken a course there, and more than 1,000 have completed the four courses that the company requires to be a certified participant in social media.
- Monitor for compliance
Even with a stellar social-media policy and training program, corporate legal departments can get nervous about so many employee conversations happening online. They have good reason: In heavily regulated industries such as banking, laws treat social-media messages the same as email for the purposes of archiving and financial reporting.Recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission has been sending notices to investment advisers who don’t have social-networking policies in place, and has been asking for data on record-retention policies and communications made by advisers through the services.