10 missed opportunities on social media


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Much has been said and written about social media and the way on how best to use the new medium is still being written. That’s okay, though: fifty years after the invention of television, we’re still looking for ways to increase its impact. The search for improvement will never end, and a good thing too.

In this article I’d like to zoom in on a few facts that are causing more and more companies to miss out on genuine opportunities. Just consider the list a source of inspiration in taking a closer look at your own work to determine how you can improve your results.

1. Eliminate the human factor, introduce the process

The initial users of social media in companies were all very enthusiastic and their boundless energy made them instantly successful with the general public. The first webcare successes were all built on the strong shoulders of a small group of enthusiasts. Once the number of interactions rises dramatically, this approach no longer works and webcare is turned into a process. This is often the point where all human enthusiasm is drained and replaced with a functional process. The funny part is that, somehow, customers instantly pick up on this. The enthusiasm tapers off and pretty soon they’re just going through the motions. Efficiency is important, of course it is, but you can’t make customers feel they are talking to a robot. The human factor will always outweigh the functional aspect. The challenge lies in finding a way to safeguard the human aspect in social media because this is the only way of establishing an emotional connection with the consumer.

2. Failing to capitalize on real-time marketing opportunities

Companies draw up their content plan and then they execute it. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it also results in a certain rigidity. Not a week goes by that a new opportunity doesn’t present itself. Remember what happened with KLM and e-commerce player Coolblue? When a consumer bought a pair of blue pants and wondered whether they were KLM blue or Coolblue blue, both companies immediately jumped on the wagon. It turned out to be Coolblue blue and today you can buy those pants in the Coolblue fan shop. It’s just one of those fun opportunities that come along from time to time. Most organizations lack the right mindset or the flexibility to act on these opportunities and more’s the pity because this is the type of initiative that shows you’re keeping track of current affairs. Far too few companies react in real-time to make the most of sudden opportunities that may arise.

3. VIP treatment

If someone with more than 10,000 followers tweets a comment on a company then that company often cramps up. A negative tweet in particular can spark off a chain reaction in the boardroom. The same remark has an entirely different effect when made by someone with just 100 followers. The same goes for webcare. Companies with a limited webcare capacity will sometimes be inclined to offer better and faster service to customers with a large online following. At first sight this reaction makes sense: the wider the online reach, the more potential damage to the company image… or so you would think. In my opinion this is a short-sighted view. Someone with 100 followers might be the CEO of a large company, or that person could be married to someone with 150,000 followers. Let’s not pigeon-hole people based on their online profile. Don’t invent VIP treatments for people with a strong online presence but instead try to treat all your customers the same. Favoring public figures with a VIP treatment offers more drawbacks than advantages nowadays.

4. Too boring or too much fun

I think some companies make a conscious decision to be boring. Some content is so serious that I can’t imagine anyone wanting to read it. Certain sectors (financial, B2B…) are known to lack the courage to think outside the box. Unfortunately for them, no one is interested in boring and unimaginative content. It’s a lost investment.

Then there’s the other end of the spectrum. Some companies make all their content about entertainment, regardless of the sector they are in. This type of content is secretly aimed at generating as many likes and reactions as possible, and we all know entertainment content is ideally suited to that purpose.

Neither approach is ideal. Content should tell a company’s story; content on a company’s core activities as well as other company-related tidbits. Content on your company’s vision and the people who work there. Content has fulfilled its purpose when it inspires people and you can do that without entertainment. Sharing innovative expertise and insights is just one of the alternatives to reach the same objective.

5. Content marketing without impact on the company profits

Content marketing often lacks commitment. Content posted on social networks without a link to a dedicated page rarely achieves maximum impact. Compare it to fishing without a hook. You throw juicy bait into the stream and the fish swim by, swallow the bait and think “I like”. Then they swim off in search of the next prey. You need a hook for content marketing to have the proper impact. The hook is getting hold of relevant customer data or luring people to a place with commercial potential. The odds of getting hold of that data or inspiring people to go looking for your commercial offer are much better if the content is on your own blog.

6. Text instead of (moving) images

Our favorite mode of communication harks back to caveman days. People don’t read online, they watch stuff. Viewing things requires a different format than reading: reading involves text whereas viewing requires pictures and video. Video will become increasingly important. Companies are often afraid of using video because they think videos are long and expensive. The success of YouTube proves that young people prefer to watch short videos. The advent of Vine has made us realize that a video should not exceed 6 seconds. A story that can’t be told in 6 seconds is too complex. Companies have to invest in new formats that guarantee their investments in content will produce the effect they’re aiming for. The first order of business is to invest less in copy in favor of design.

7. Thinking the online world and the offline world are two entirely separate things

Many still assume there’s a group of online people and a group of offline people. Sometimes it even seems as if these two groups could never meet. Companies often offer better service on Twitter and Facebook than they do via mail or on the telephone. The reasoning behind this is that the service on social networks should be superior because the world is watching. This is true, but only in part: simply because a customer calls or mails a company this doesn’t necessarily mean he or she doesn’t have a Facebook or Twitter account. The two worlds are undeniably connected and organizations must strive to keep their policy across all channels as consistent as possible. If they don’t, the consumer is bound to bring it to their attention sooner or later.

8. “I’m sorry” and “thank you” are still the hardest words

We all make mistakes and we all receive praise. The way we handle them helps determine how others see us online. Offering a sincere apology remains a vital part of a healthy conversation. People like companies with a certain degree of humility. An apology also makes the customer more willing to engage in conversation.

Saying thank you also comes with the territory. Companies should acknowledge the compliments their customers make. Show people their feedback is appreciated and you’re much more likely to get even more praise in the future.

9. Balancing quantity against quality

We shouldn’t overanalyze our actions on social media. We sometimes dwell too long on the number of messages and the topic in question. Of course it’s a good thing to plot a strategy but once that’s been decided, the main thing is to try different things to find out what works and what doesn’t. Some companies produce too little content with the excuse that quality beats quantity. In reality, though, those companies will find it hard to build a wide reach. There is a strong correlation between the frequency with which content is placed online and your company’s reach, unless your content is usually of inferior quality. The challenge in today’s society is to score on both levels. It takes more than just good content; you need lots of good content.

10. Attaching too much importance to social media

Finally, we should always place the importance of social media in the proper perspective. There’s no lack of articles on PR crises but in reality, they’ve only dragged a handful of companies under. These things usually blow over. As fantastic as they are, social media are not the whole story. The overall impact of digitization on society is much more important. In the future, trends like self-service, the collaborative economy and data driven marketing may have a bigger impact on the company profits than social networks in themselves.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steven Van Belleghem
Steven Van Belleghem is inspirator at B-Conversational. He is an inspirator, a coach and gives strategic advice to help companies better understand the world of conversations, social media and digital marketing. In 2010, he published his first book The Conversation Manager, which became a management literature bestseller and was awarded with the Marketing Literature Prize. In 2012, The Conversation Company was published. Steven is also part time Marketing Professor at the Vlerick Management School. He is a former managing partner of the innovative research agency InSites Consulting.


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