Posts from Harvey the Bernese are my favorite on Instagram. I don’t have a Bernese and I don’t know Harvey’s family. In fact, Harvey lives in the UK and he alternates between running around outside in the mud and sleeping on the family couch. Yet Harvey has more than 12,000 followers on Instagram and receives loving notes from his human fans on a daily basis.
What’s Harvey’s secret to success? His doggie mom does a brilliant job of using fresh, compelling content and hashtags to share Harvey’s story. She posts several times a day, using photos and videos that reveal Harvey’s trials and tribulations, which bring him to life for people around the world. Harvey has achieved social media nirvana: his followers interact with him.
In contrast, when it comes to most B2B social media, it’s a one-way street. Companies fall back on an old model that was made popular during the early days of online job postings called “post and pray.” It didn’t work in the past and it works even less now. It’s the equivalent of opening your refrigerator door and shouting at the vegetables. They have no reason to care, they’re not going to answer you, and you’ve just expended a lot of energy for nothing. Not dialogue nor following or even a conversation is being had.
If you’re sincere about establishing a strong engaging presence on social media – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram – you need to be all-in. Let’s consider what that really means:
It’s easy for Harvey. He’s cute, cuddly (albeit rather large)and funny.Social media was originally designed to be an authentic, personal medium, so Harvey’s one-to-many success makes sense. B2B companies face challenges in establishing their social personas because they’re trying to connect with many and often have multiple business units under a single brand architecture.
The challenge intensifies further as organizations already have a tough time agreeing on how they want to be perceived externally.
Regardless of your organization’s size and complexity, know this: you need to make a decision about your social media persona and commit to it. Your corporate culture, values, and employer brand should be carefully considered. Are you mirthful yet innovative? Serious and protective? These attributes should be infused into your social media visual identity, as well as the content shared.
We’re often asked if it’s OK to “splinter” the brand across different social accounts such as XYZ corporate account vs. XYZ jobs. That makes sense if you’re a large organization involved in high volume hiring. Smaller companies cannot afford to potentially confuse followers with multiple accounts, making one account per channel the way to go.
Having defined who you want to be online, visit the profiles of the companies and individuals you admire most. Create lists of those they follow and follow them as well. Social media is just that and people love to be followed, so odds are you’ll receive a follow back – and others will take notice of this activity and start to follow you as well.
With the basics in place, it’s time to take your social media marketing to the next level. There are a number of platforms available such as HootSuite and SproutSocial that enable you to manage the publishing of your content on a scheduled basis. Isn’t this counter intuitive to our overall premise that you should interact versus publish? It might seem so, but the answer is no. You need foundational content being published on a regular basis from which you and others can interact.
Without one of these platforms in place, team members will be watching the clock to publish content instead of having the benefits of a platform from which activities (and reporting) can be easily aggregated.
Smartphones and videos have made social media channels visually compelling and engaging. So if you decide to merely post text intensive messages morning, noon and night, you will pale in comparison to the competition. It takes only a few moments to post in real-time and show your corporate culture via a quick video of meatloaf day in the company cafeteria or convey your commitment to gender diversity by posting an image from International Women’s Day.
Images and videos aside, what content should you be publishing? Start with company news such as press releases and blog posts. As you build a following, increase the frequency and variety of your content by including job openings, profiles of the leadership team, recognition for key clients and commentary about industry trends. Content shouldn’t be published ad hoc; instead, create a weekly social content calendar to ensure you have a reliable means of accessing what’s been published to your channels.
Adding hashtags to your posts will help people find your content more easily. For example, if you want people to find your job openings, add the hashtag #jobs. Adding hashtags helps categorize your content; however, you can also create fun hashtags that are specific to your company. For example, going back to our meatloaf in the cafeteria example, consider #meatloafmonday as a fun hashtag that underscores your company’s ability to be lighthearted.
Have we gotten to the point where we’re ready to interact yet? Indeed we have. While you can use tools to automate the following of those who follow you, the most authentic means of interacting is to have conversations. Converse with key thought leaders, journalists, analysts and customers via Twitter. Like a customer’s Facebook page and post kudos to them there. Share your favorite thought leader’s post on LinkedIn, adding your own commentary on why it’s important. Better yet, start a special interest group on Facebook or LinkedIn and ask others to join and contribute content. Foster conversations by posing provocative questions others can’t possibly ignore.
Rome wasn’t Built in a Day
Will your company’s popularity ever rival Harvey the Bernese? Definitely not on day one, as great social media profiles take time. If you consider our tips, you’ll be one of the social profiles that others find worth following. There’s a Harvey in every crowd so perhaps the best place to start is with images from your company’s “bring your pet to work” day!
This article was originally published in the April 2017 Sales and Service issue of Excellence Essentials.