What We’ve Learned After a Decade of Social Media

By: April Grudier, Vice President of Marketing at TSYS

What’s Still Definite After A Decade of Social Media?

The growth of social media has been among the biggest changes in both business and society generally over the past decade. Ten years ago, Twitter was still getting off the ground, and Facebook hadn’t fully grown to be the all-encompassing platform it is today. These were not yet tools that businesses dedicated much time to.

Fast forward a decade, and there may be no better way to communicate with customers than through social media. Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the social media platforms are now completely indispensable, and businesses that forgo these tools risk harming their relationship with customers.

Of course, there’s no single reason these networks are so helpful to businesses. It’s a mixture of “all of the above” – customer service, brand awareness, relationship nurturing, on and on. Yet despite this importance, more than a decade into the social media era, there is very little that’s definite and written in stone in terms of social best practices. But there are a few general philosophies of social media use that every brand can live by.

Offer Content That’s Interesting To Your Customer
Bear in mind: “interesting content” does not have to be deeply clever or amusing. In the early years of social media, too many CEOs asked how they could go viral as if there were some formula, and it led to a lot of cringe-worthy social feeds sent out to a few dozen followers. These days, most of us realize that trying to imitate the famous Wendy’s Twitter feed will not work for a local small business. It’s best to stick to your own brand.

That said, people who follow you on Twitter are interested in more than just barebones, infrequent updates. Varied content keeps your customers engaged, and there are plenty of options. You can, for instance, promote blogs and infographics that teach customers about your industry and products. Show them customer testimonials that highlight not only your product, but your clients as well. Keep them updated on the latest news in your industry, so they have context about broader issues than merely your products.

Many businesses research their audiences to discover valuable insights and create personas that facilitate social media campaigns and other content. Connect your content in subtle ways to interests and hobbies – if your persona has an interest in history, for instance, write about the history of your industry or a particular technology you sell, and see if it resonates and increases engagement. Whatever you’re doing, make sure it has appeal to whoever you want to be reading.

Engage To Show Your Customers Your Respect
One danger for many companies who do not often post on social media is that their feeds – especially on Facebook – may quickly become little more than a graveyard of customer complaints. That creates a public-facing image that misrepresents your real customer response. After all, very few customers ever come to your profile to say, “Great job!” But if customers only post complaints on your Facebook page, which is a perfectly normal pace for any company to see complaints, that’s all people will see when they look you up on Facebook.

There are two things to consider here. First, ensure that you’re posting your own content, too, so that customer complaints don’t take over your page.

Second, make sure you actively engage with these customers and respond to their problems. Help them to solve any issues, and ensure that you’re working actively—at least partially publicly—to help their situation. People like to see that previous complaints have been acknowledged, so that they know this is a responsive, responsible company.

Many companies just try to quite literally hide customer complaints on Facebook, but this is a dangerous tactic. Customers interpret it as you hiding something about your product, and it often makes them more irritated. Of course, some trolls may stumble onto your page, and at that point you can delete or block their posts. But for any customer making a “good faith” complaint, make sure you let both them and the rest of your audience know you are always doing your best to resolve any issues.

Be Present
It may sound like a motto for meditation, but it’s perhaps the most crucial aspect of social media: at the very least, just have it, check it, and respond. But even for companies with fully developed social media personas, there are still crucial tasks at play here. If you have a social media manager, do you have someone who can act as a backup if that manager is out? Do they know the proper channels to go through to resolve a customer complaint? What if that employee left the company —would you be prepared to put an interim solution in place until you hired a new social media manager?

If the answer to any of these is no, that’s a huge problem. Social media flare-ups can happen anytime, and the small spark can grow into a big fire if left unchecked. Customers who get no response get angry fast, and it doesn’t matter if the other 364 days of the year you checked your account all the time—if you miss it the one time a customer is getting angry, it can seriously hurt your brand.

So make sure you’re checking your account frequently, and make sure you have multiple people versed in doing so.

A Decade In, We’re All Still Learning, So Keep Testing
There is no one right way to do social media. As soon as someone discovers the best possible call to action, it loses its effectiveness after widespread use. As soon as someone discovers a unique way to tweet (emoji use comes to mind), it loses its novelty after tons of copycat tweets. As soon as everyone decides video is the path to social success, people begin to doubt the metrics.

So what’s more important than anything else is learning, testing, evolving and adapting. Remember that there are social media giants who you can both emulate and learn from. Follow brands that you admire to learn the trends in social media at large, and watch your competitors’ feeds for the newest trends in your industry specifically. Learn about all the latest platforms to keep pace with your customers and stay one step ahead of your competitors.

But the main lesson, after all these years, may be this: there are very few hard-and-fast, forever rules for social media, which we’ve all now learned after so many years of doing this. But there are a few guiding principles that should help you do your best, and we hope we’ve covered a few of these sensible ideas here.