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“If you really want to know about business, you should refer to Scott Steinberg.” -Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group

Social Media Marketing: How to Find Your Corporate Voice

It’s important for organizations nowadays to leverage social networking tools and content marketing channels, but it’s just as imperative for brands to have a distinctive voice when doing so. But how can you find your company’s voice? As part of our bestselling book The Business Etiquette Bible, we had the chance to speak with several leading experts about this topic.

For example: Mary Renouf, director of social marketing at T-Mobile, engages with customers across the spectrum, and possesses intimate knowledge of just what it takes to develop a successful presence on social media sites. Here are her favorite tips on establish and evolving an engaging personality for your brand across online communications channels:

How do you create a compelling corporate voice on social media accounts without sounding unprofessional?

For my brand, I focus on making sure that every message we post checks off some of our key criteria. Is it fun and imaginative? Is it energetic and enthusiastic? Does it draw attention with cool and exciting details? Your tone drives how the consumer interacts with you. Speak to them as individuals, in a way that everyone understands.

How do you create engaging content with regard to social media channels that users will want to seek out and share?

My goal is always to make sure the content is inviting, interactive and accessible. We ask lots of questions, we reference popular culture, and most importantly, we deliver small, bite-size content frequently. I think the biggest thing you can do is encourage people to interact with you – ask them to share the news, start a debate and keep it fresh, and never ignore a conversation they start with you. If you’re engaging with your consumers frequently, they will be receptive to your posts that clearly have a brand objective.  Creating a two-way communications strategy actually drives your consumers to want to help you push out your message is crucial. They want to hear things from you first, so they will often seek out the brand page to get information – therefore accomplishing internal initiatives.

How do brands figure in with social marketing personality and tone of voice, as businesses typically have stringent corporate guidelines?

Always know your tone of voice, always know your Rules of Engagement, and make sure your posts stick to that. Have a standard messaging cadence and make sure you supervise it – it can always be modified if you’re keeping tabs on how well it’s working. Social marketing campaigns are based on the idea that you are continuously optimizing – and oftentimes on the fly. You never know when a specific piece of content will land you a trending topic or one of your highest engagement rates ever – but be prepared to capitalize on it. Have a second post with further information ready to go – re-tweet or share a specific post from a consumer that further legitimizes your post.

Should the same corporate personality presented in other mediums be the same you present in social media?

I think people tend to expect a slightly different tone on social mediums. This is where they are most comfortable engaging with you – so you have to be prepared to engage back. If you have standard replies for common questions, that’s fine. But you also have to be prepared for the next question. If you’re willing to engage with a consumer, you have to be willing to engage to a point where they leave the community having a good experience.  And most importantly, social is a great place to “be real” – this is where your fans can tolerate a typo, and they understand your app might not work 100% of the time. You always strive for perfection, but if ever there was a customer who is ready to take you as you are – that’s your social consumer.

What are some of the most common mistakes corporations make with regard to social media and social communications?

The most common mistakes are too frequent communications, too few communications or too “branded” communications. Finding the cadence that works well for your brand and your consumers is key. Some brands can post all day long, and their fans want to hear from them. Other brands have little value in posts that occur more than once a week. It’s a fine balance and it takes some practice: Ultimately, I think brands need to be more willing to test the waters.

Another common mistake is thinking that everyone of your fans is coming to your page every day, or following every tweet you make. You have to look at social as if it’s Grand Central Station – you can stand in the middle and yell, and people who are interested in what you say might stop and listen, others are going to pass you by, some will be annoyed and others will stop and participate. You have to account for that when you plan your messaging. Make it bite-size, make it interesting and make it relevant.

How do you make sure every customer has a voice in the conversation when engaging in social dialogue?

Be prepared to address questions, comments and concerns. Be responsive, don’t wait a week before you answer. Be sure to address people in your responses if they’ve asked a very specific question. Even if the best you can do is to direct them to a customer support person, at least you’ve acknowledged them and made them feel as though they were heard.

Another great tactic for brands is to create an ambassador program. Find those people who are engaging with your brand frequently, those that have a clear passion for your company.  Reward them by giving them information first, allowing them to test your new products and letting them provide input into your campaign. Then ask them to help answer questions they see on the page and have them serve as advisors to new fans. Just make sure they identify themselves as ambassadors and not employees.

What are the most frequent mistakes corporations make with regard to social media crisis situations, and what would be a better way to use these channels or respond?

The first mistake is in not having a crisis management policy. Without that, you don’t know how to respond, how quickly to respond, how frequently to respond and what your follow-up process is. Set a plan and make sure legal, PR, business operations, marketing and all other key stakeholders sign-off. Have contacts for these situations. Nobody wants to have to deal with a crisis, but being prepared for it always makes it easier.

Another mistake is in assuming that your entire community knows about your crisis. If you’re going to respond to an incident, make sure you are clear about what the incident is and how people can learn more. A lot of people who follow you may have no idea what’s going on with your brand, so your communications must be clear at every level of the crisis management plan.

What are your top rules for social media success?

  1. Surprise and delight – spontaneously reward your engaged fans.
  2. Police any ‘bullying’ between fans on a social media channel.
  3. Don’t ignore conversations.
  4. Be the first to break news (but break it even if you’re not).

For more, be sure to pick up your copy of The Business Etiquette Bible today!

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