What You Need To Know About Using Social Media

Even if the thought of establishing a social media presence for your company frightens you, it’s time to bite the bullet and jump in.

The goal of business, after all, is to enhance relationships with customers, to bond with them. And that’s precisely what business social media accounts do.

So you’ve taken the plunge into the world of social media: What comes next?4703623633_672d9f52bd_o

“You’re going to want to set some guidelines,” said Garrett Smith of Smith on VoIP, who spoke today at ITEXPO on a panel that explored what every executive needs to know about social media.

How do you respond to customers who wish to socialize with you? Well, you could ignore them. But that’s not polite. You could monitor what’s going on to see what’s being said. Or you can listen to what’s being said and act on that knowledge.

How? By acknowledging comments, responding to them, interacting with users and engaging them. Altogether, these actions let your customers know that there’s someone out there listening to them. By effectively using social media, your company is transformed from a faceless organization into a humanized organization that cares.

Smith said that it’s good to quickly respond to customers who reach out to you. If you can’t respond to them­­ within two to four business hours, you’re likely understaffed and won’t see the full benefits of a cohesive social media strategy.

You should respond, but you shouldn’t respond too much.

“You don’t want it to turn into a public fight,” Smith said, adding companies shouldn’t respond publicly to customers more than twice. After those two responses, they should resort to direct messages on Twitter and emails through Facebook.

Smith said that as you develop your social media strategy, you’re destined to fail with some of the things you do. And that’s okay.

Speaking on the same panel, David Vaughan of TSG Global said that presence is one of the most important things businesses should consider when contemplating their social media strategies.

“If someone tweets about you and you respond 45 days later, you don’t need to have a Twitter account,” he said.

It’s also important to not feed the “trolls”—those people who inject misery everywhere on the Internet for whatever reason—because they’re going to attack you no matter what, Vaughan said.

Phone.com’s Jeremy Watkin was the panel’s third and final participant, and he discussed how social media isn’t all about talking about your own products. Customers talk about—and are interested in—many things that aren’t your products. Since business is inherently social, social media managers should consider asking customers things like if they’re enjoying the weather, where their favorite spot to vacation in is or who they think is going to make the World Series, for example.

“Just talk to them about life sometimes,” Watkin said.

So who should lead your social media campaigns? Not an intern, according to Blair Pleasant of COMMfusion and UCStrategies.com, who moderated the panel discussion.

“I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes,” she said. “Companies think that a young intern is social media savvy. You’ve got to remember you’re going to be representing your company, your brand. You need someone who is really experienced, someone who is really knowledgeable.”

Companies that have yet to create a social media presence should do so immediately. And businesses that have already created that presence shouldn’t rest on their laurels. No matter how old your company’s social media life might be, all businesses stand to benefit from refining their social media strategies.