by Joyce Thian, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire Canada
Earlier this month, the who’s who of the Canadian newspaper industry came together at the annual INK+BEYOND conference and trade show, hosted by Newspapers Canada and the Canadian Association of Journalists. For two full days, delegates representing news publications from across the country heard from distinguished industry leaders, learned about the latest innovations in news media, and had the chance to connect and network with peers and other partners in the heart of downtown Ottawa, Canada.
Within a fully packed program that strove to cover every aspect of the newspaper business, one of the stand-out sessions of the conference was a breakout social media workshop led by Mandy Jenkins of Digital First Media.
Although Jenkins was speaking specifically to newspaper publishers, editors, and journalists looking to better connect with their readers online, her advice on how to “maximize your social media” would be well incorporated into any brand’s social media strategy.
(If at this time you’re thinking to yourself that you still don’t quite believe in the practical power or perhaps measureable usefulness of social media within the context of your company’s PR, marketing, or customer service efforts, do consider some of the many illuminating stats supporting user-brand engagement vis-à-vis social media. As Jenkins puts it, “All of us need to keep social media in mind. [Social media] has changed the way our audience does everything.”).
So without further ado, here are 13 dos and don’ts for brands looking to leverage social media, as inspired by Mandy Jenkins’ workshop at INK+BEYOND 2013:
- DO start with research. Have a look at what your peers or competitors are doing. What do you see that you like, or don’t like? This will help you get a better idea of what you want to do with your own social media usage.
- DON’T be afraid to show a little personality. Brands can have distinct personas and personalities, so why shouldn’t these carry over into your social media efforts?
- DO think about your voice. Jenkins recommended asking yourself these questions to help define what type of voice you might want to adopt: “How conversational should I be? What tone is right for my content? What tone is right for my audience? Am I a friend, authority, or something in between?”
- DON’T just broadcast. “You are not an RSS feed,” Jenkins told delegates in attendance. This applies as much to brands as it does to news organizations. Don’t waste your 140 characters just regurgitating “a headline and a link”; streams should have replies and retweets, resembling real conversations.
- DO focus on your audience. There’s a reason social media is called social media. “Follow the people you are interacting with, people who reply and share your stories,” Jenkins said. “These are the movers and shakers in your community.”
- DON’T get into fights. This one should be self explanatory.
- DO share your audience’s joy. Retweet happy followers, Like your fans’ posts, Storify positive feedback—these are all invaluable social interactions.
- DON’T be afraid of social advertising but do be upfront when identifying sponsored tweets and updates.
- DO go where the people are. Tap into existing communities, instead of trying to build one out of thin air, and compliment and contribute to what is already out there.
- DO encourage sharing. Make it as easy and intuitive as possible for your followers to share your content, such as product news or event announcements, with their peers. Here at Business Wire, we put social media buttons in highly visible spots and incorporate share icons into all press releases and individual multimedia assets.
- DON’T try to hide your mistakes. When (not if) you make an honest mistake—because who hasn’t—be open and transparent about it and quickly follow up with a correction. Don’t try to pretend it didn’t happen. “The cover up is worse than the crime,” Jenkins advises.
- DO get your (social media) priorities straight. You can’t be everywhere all at once and you don’t have to be, Jenkins says. “It’s great to experiment but there are a lot of places you can be dividing your time. See what works for your brand and your audience and be good at it.”
- DON’T sell yourself short. Sometimes, a small audience of highly involved and well-invested users is much better than a big audience that only cares half as much. “Quality of engagement is what really matters.”
In the end, whether you decide to follow all or just some of these guidelines, there is at least one more caveat worth bearing in mind: When it comes to social media, you can’t just “set it and forget it.” At best, such a strategy (or lack thereof) would render your efforts (or lack thereof) completely pointless. At worst, you could be maximizing your social media missteps instead. And now you know. Good hunting.