Making jokes, actively selling products, chasing opinions, are all things you should avoid as a B2B social media marketer.
Or are they?
It’s fair to say that activities such as these are regarded as risk-taking behaviour when it comes to B2B social media, and so are avoided for fear of landing your organisation in hot water. But, by avoiding some of the potential pitfalls of social media, many businesses are failing to realise the benefits of this enormously powerful tool — opportunities to engage, impress and make the most of your social media following. Of course it’s never a good idea to invade threads and conversations on social media to try and sell your products, but here at HN we’ve chosen the top three risks you should take on social media — and how to take them as safely as possible.
Get your audience’s attention — don’t talk about yourself
“That content isn’t about us, so why are we posting it? We want our audience to hear about us, not about trivia and current events!”
A common complaint, but think — would you normally talk only about yourself in conversation? Social media isn’t like advertising, or an email, where the focus is all on you — it’s a tool to have conversations with your audience, so you have to talk about stuff that interests them. Of course, you want your organisation to be of interest to your audience, but realistically you won’t be the only thing that lights a fire in your audience’s belly. In fact, some of our clients devote as much as 80% of their social media time to talking about relevant events and topics that will interest their audience. It helps them become established as a good place to go for information, which at the same time increases the visibility of the content they do put out about themselves.
How to stay safe:
• Scan content before posting to make sure it isn’t from a competitor’s website, or badly written (otherwise people may associate the bad writing with you).
• Always try to mention your sources – it can widen your audience, and makes it clear you are not trying to pass off someone else’s content as your own.
Win them over with your sense of humour
“We can’t post that, even though it’s funny — what if someone finds it offensive?”
There’s no escaping it — injecting humour into your social media can backfire (does anyone remember this example from KLM?) Get it right, though, and your audience will respect you for it, and you can sometimes get a big spike in your engagement. If someone tries to engage with your brand in an amusing way, then by ignoring them you could come off as stuffy or lacking a sense of humour, which could be more damaging than having said something.
How to stay safe:
• Understand your audience’s sense of humour — if they don’t get the joke, then there’s no point!
• Test any potential humour you intend to post with people both inside and outside your organisation, to get an objective view on whether it could be misinterpreted or just isn’t funny.
• Avoid controversial jokes — there’s just too much potential for someone to get upset. If your mother wouldn’t approve, it’s probably safest not to hit ‘send’.
Put your audience to work — interact with your followers
“Best not to talk to our audience — I don’t want to see our company maligned all over social media!”
Your followers are the lifeblood of your social communities, so if you don’t engage with them you’ll never be able to properly leverage the power they have to offer your organisation as a source of insight, feedback and brand-building opportunities. It can be a scary thought that people can say what they like about your brand, but giving them that freedom — and responding appropriately if they choose to say something negative — will win you the approval of your followers.
How to stay safe:
• Monitor your channels so that you can respond to engagement in a timely fashion — nobody likes to be left hanging.
• Word any questions you plan on asking your followers carefully, to minimise the opportunity for negative comments (test your posts with the same group you tested your jokes with if you’re unsure).
• If you do come in for some criticism, handle it honestly, proactively and without delay. Your followers will notice and respect you for it.
• Avoid getting embroiled in online slanging matches though — if someone won’t respond to reason, you can always report them to an administrator.
It would be wrong to say that, just by following these tips, you’ll automatically be safe from any negative experiences on social media. It takes practice and experience to get a feel for what risks you can take and which ones to avoid for your organisation. If your social media channels already have a well-established voice, then you may also want to think carefully about how you take these risks — especially with humour, if your brand isn’t normally one to crack a joke. But, by following these tips, you can reduce the chances of a social media disaster while getting the most out of your social media presence.
Have you taken risks on your social media? How did it go? Let us know in the comments section, or on our Twitter feed @hnmarketing – it would be great to hear from you!