At McCauley Marketing Services, we’re not shy about pointing out how valuable social media can be for a business. But even many companies who post regularly forget about the “social” part—Facebook, Twitter, and similar sites aren’t just one-way communication. Interacting with your consumers as well as with other businesses is a great method of customer relationship management and can tell your audience just as much about you as those carefully-worded status updates do. But engaging with other businesses (be they competitors or professionals in similar fields) can be tricky. That’s why we’ve compiled a few tips and guidelines for making other businesses’ social media work for you.
- Mix it up. Follow and interact with a variety of other companies, like professionals who can refer customers to you, businesses who have similar target audiences, and even competitors. This will give you a wide variety of resources to pull from, like interesting posts and articles to share with your followers.
- Keep it civil with your competitors. Whatever you do, never engage in negative interactions online. It may be tempting to respond if, for instance, a competitor’s post presents incorrect or dishonest information, or if they post something inflammatory about you. But by remaining professional and civil, rather than stooping to their level, your audience will realize that you’re the bigger person and will respect you more as a result. The better way to publicize the correct information is to write your own, more accurate post on the subject. This should go without saying, but it’s also never appropriate to be the one instigating an online feud.
- Be selective in what you share. Everything you post on social media impacts your reputation, whether it was directly written by you or not. If another business posts an article or a video that you want to share or re-tweet, always read the full article or watch the full video first. It may include information you don’t necessarily agree with, or it may contain advertising for your competitor.
- Spend time observing. Don’t feel like you need to be consistently interacting with the other companies that you follow on social media. Instead, it’s a great idea to “like” their page or follow them on Twitter and simply watch what they post. Make a note of which hashtags or types of posts work well for your competitors or businesses that have a similar target audience to your own, and keep an eye on any innovative promotions or tactics they use.
- Avoid posting blatantly promotional comments. Commenting on other companies’ posts can be a great way to have your name seen by their audience while also showing your own followers that you’re engaged in the conversations around you, rather than just using social media as a way to sell them something. But consumers can quickly be turned off by blatant self-promotion. For instance, if you’re a dermatology office and your competitor posts an interesting article on their Facebook page about a skin treatment you offer, comment with, “Thanks for sharing this great article!” rather than, “With 30 years of experience, we’ve seen great results in using this product with our patients.” Advertising has its place, which does not include your competitors’ social media pages.
- Respond when other businesses interact with you. Using the example above, let’s say the situation is reversed—you’ve posted an article on your Facebook page, and a competitor has commented and thanked you for sharing it. Even the simple action of “liking” their comment sends the message that you’re a professional who’s more dedicated to helping the community than to beating your competitors. Silence is wide open for others’ interpretation (especially considering that both your followers and your competitor’s followers will see the interaction), and it can easily be seen as an unprofessional or elementary school-like reaction (“I don’t like you so I’m not talking to you”).
- Give credit where credit is due. Imagine that you’re managing the social media for your plastic surgery practice, and another plastic surgeon posts a great infographic that they created. You can either share or re-tweet their post, or you can post the infographic accompanied by something like, “Dr. Smith’s Plastic Surgery shared this great infographic!” Not only does this cover your bases so that it doesn’t look like you’re trying to claim their information as your own, but they may appreciate the kudos enough to reciprocate in the future.
While it may sound like an exaggeration, in this digital age, social media can make or break a company. If you use these sites well by posting wisely and remembering that social media is intended to be social rather than a one-way communication, they can be a cost-effective way to spread the word and build a loyal long-term customer base, but blunders that make you look unprofessional or disrespectful can quickly spread through the grapevine and damage your reputation. To learn more about how McCauley Marketing Services can make your social media work for you, schedule a meeting with us. Or, for more marketing tips, check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.