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July 17, 2018

Are There Better Ways For Businesses To Post On Facebook And Twitter?

By Mike Hampson, owner, Helicopter Links.

(San Diego, California, USA): Companies can post anything on their Facebook and Twitter accounts which means there's a full range of social media posts by businesses, from not posting anything at all, to not posting posts on a regular basis, to posting confusing and unintelligible posts, and finally - to posting well thought posts which provide enough information for people to understand the post. Should businesses create their own social media standards? I think the answer is yes.

Then another questions is this, is it appropriate for a business to use the same method of posting that private individuals use to post items? That's for your company to decide. While posting informally might work for some businesses, in my book, I would not post on social media for a business, using the same method as as private person post items on social media pages.

Is there is a better way to communicate on social media for business? I say yes. Why? Because if the business offers a high quality products, then shouldn't their social media posts have a professional look and feel to their posts as well?

How is this done? For starters...

  • I think that recognizing that we are living in a globally connected world by the internet, is the first step to making better social media posts. How many countries are in the world? About 196. Remember, some people live in territories, islands or ships!
  • Do you assume that all your social media followers know your company's location (city, state/province, country), products, services and employees intimately? I hope you don't think this!
  • Let people know which of the 196 countries your main office is located. Meaning this, start each post with your country of origin. For example: India: or Germany: or Brazil:
  • How many languages do people speak? There are thousands, so remember, there are people viewing your social media posts who don't speak your same language, as their first language.
  • Do you think that people who live in other countries know your own culture's slang phrases? Maybe. Maybe not.
  • Develop your own social media posting standards to ensure that each post has clear and concise communication for people in every country.
  • If you always include a picture or graphic for each of your product or services posts with a link to the web page where the product is offered, the picture or graphic explains visually what is going on and the link helps the customer to easily purchase it or find out more information about your product or service.
  • Assume people don't know the acronyms you know. In most cases, I would avoid acronyms like the plague. Why? The next time you want to use an acronym, please look up the acronym on the Acronym Finder website (www.acronymfinder.com) and see how many meanings the acronym has. Now that you realize there are many companies and organizations using the same acronym, do you see the possibility for confusion? Typing a few extra key strokes to spell out words, can reduce confusion!
  • Make an annual calendar. Either make a one page table in Microsoft Word (or a similar program) for the entire year (January through December) on the top column headers, items to post, in the very left column) or use a monthly calendar. How you plan the year is up to you.
  • Not sure you have enough to post about your company? Here is a small list of things that any company, small or large can start posting about.
  • Decide what products, product groups and/or services which will be posted each week or month.
  • Post articles about your company, or post articles or blog posts which are on your company's website.
  • Post your phone number, email address and website on a regular basis. Make it easy for current customers and new customers to contact your company!
  • Post pictures of your company's office and plant.
  • Post pictures of new employees, interns, regular employees, etc.
  • Post pictures of the weather outside your office or pictures of the city or town where your office is located.
  • Post articles about the products you make.
  • Post coupons.
  • Post discounts for former customers, to gain back their business.
  • Post your phone number and website and invite customers and potential customers, to call you with questions or to place orders.
  • Post information about the history of your company.
  • Post information about the history of a product or service and how it has been improved over the years.
  • If you want, you can post a "Good morning" post. Or a "Have a good weekend" post.
  • Post about each trade show you will be attending. Include your booth number and pictures of the trade show. Start posting this several months before the trade show.
  • You will not have a booth at a trade show but you'll be attending the trade show? No problem, post pictures of the trade show you are attending.
  • Make special graphics for each holiday in your country. If you are clever, you only post holidays which are recognized internationally by many countries.
  • Once you begin to make a list of things you can post about your company, on social media, you'll have many items to post throughout the year.
  • For each post, make a record of the text you use and date it. That way, if you post Product A each month, you can copy and paste the same text for your next post, without having to reinvent the wheel.
  • When planning your social media posts for the year, using graphics, photos, well thought out text with links and then your posts can seen as professionally made and not as an after thought.
  • And there's more! For Facebook and Twitter, using hash tags (#) next to important words in your industry will help people find your posts. (For example: #helicopter, #helicopterrepair, #helicopterservice),
  • For Twitter, using the @ sign with an associated Twitter handle (for example: @helicopterlinks) will alert that company or person that you are tweeting about them.

Why is does this article seem so serious about "social media?" What's the big deal? There are several reasons.

  • Social media is another face of your company. Your social media posts are being seen your customers, former customers, potential customers, your competition, the media, a person whose never heard of your company, stock holders (maybe?), your CEO, your own employees, suppliers, the rest of your industry and fans of your business. Is it important how others see your business? I hope so!
  • Social media is self-publishing and your company can control the entire message of your posts without the interference from media editors, reporters and other writers who are not employed by your company.
  • You decide whether your company is going to provide clear communication to your social media followers or not.
  • It's also like that saying, "Anyone can play baseball but only a few can play it well." Does your business provide goods and services off the cuff? No? Are your products and services planned with excruciating detail and care? Yes? Then I hope your business or organization will think that Facebook and Twitter posts cannot be written off the cuff, as well.

I hope I have you thinking. Yes? No?

Before social media, information was distributed to the public and to customers through a limited number of ways including media outlets (such as newspapers, TV, radio, magazines, industry magazines), company newsletters, company events, trade shows, catalogs, mailing lists, business flyers, websites, email blasts, sales people, customer service and books.

According to one online article1, the internet was available to the public as of August 6, 1991. Of course, most people didn't even know what the internet was on that date. It took maybe 3 to 4 years (or more?) after that, for the general public and businesses to become aware of the internet and start using it.

Before the internet was being used by many people (mid-1990s), the only way to receive information from a helicopter manufacturer was by subscribing to helicopter magazines, being a customer, being an employee or being on their mailing list (if they had a mailing list).

YouTube was started in 2005, and Facebook and Twitter became available to the public in 2006. That's how new social media is.

And before social media, if a helicopter manufacturer was to announce a new helicopter or the first test flight of a helicopter, they could get the information to the public only through industry magazines, customer email blasts and industry trade shows.

However, now with social media, companies can post something on social media before they even alert the media. It doesn't seem quite fair to the helicopter magazines (and the rest of the media), does it? But communication has changed and social media has opened a pandora's box.

Today, I think many of us might need to be reminded that those of us who have access to computers and to the internet are extremely fortunate. I think it's very easy to forget there are still billions of people, who don't have access to the internet. One website states that "as of June 2017, 51% of the world's population has internet access."2

(As of July 1, 2018, it is estimated that Earth has over 7.5 billion people.3)

In my opinion, a company's marketing department (for a small company, the social media person) needs to be well coordinated with the pulse of the company, have a good dash of finesse, good timing and excellent communication skills to make social media work well.

In addition, before social media, if a customer wanted to complain to a company, the only option was to call the business, write a letter, send an email or complain to the government. Now with social media you can immediately make public comments on a company's social media posts, which anyone can see, whether it's a legitimate complaint or not. And companies now have the option to block any and all negative comments on their social media platforms.

If one thinks about the long history of print since the Gutenberg printing press (a little over 500 years now) and how print and publishing know-how has affected our society, this knowledge, I believe, can help a company's or organization's social media posts. Now add to the fact that the general public has had the internet and websites for over 20 years and have had social media for about 12 years. By using all this information, I think one can see the importance of the person posting for a company on social media. A task not taken lightly.

How about some more suggestions to consider before posting on social media?

  • Who is reading your posts? Customers, former customers (you can try to gain former customers business back), new customers, potential customers, new people in the industry, your own employees and future employees. Who else? Your competitors, reporters, investigative journalists, fans, the government and more.
  • Remember: Most people want to feel like they are part of the club. When writing posts, if you keep in mind that your social media followers don't have the same intimate knowledge about your own company, your posts will be easier to understand by the greatest number of people - worldwide.
  • As I stated earlier, starting all social media posts with the country of the origin of your company (or the country of origin concerning the topic of the post), then people will then know a little more about your post and more likely feel they are part of "your club" because they have a better understanding of your social media post.
  • When you are posting an event, post the dates, month, year, city, state/provence, country, name of the event, venue and website.
  • Note: Remember to post the website for your event. Why do I keep saying this? Because I continue to see many major organizations posting about a special speaker for their conference or trade show and they are not posting their event website.
  • Are you concerned about customer service? Do you want every opportunity to make a sale? Then add your website and office phone number to your posts, when appropriate. Which could be all your posts!
  • Again, if you are featuring a certain product or service on a social media post, then post the link which goes directly to that product or service.
  • Are your post relevant to your company and the industry you belong to?
  • Remember, in your graphics, there is always enough room to add your website and company phone number.

It's easy for miscommunication to occur. For example, when I'm talking in person with friends or coworkers, and we are talking about items in the news, a restaurant, or any other subject, it's easy for miscommunication to occur. The same is true on social media. If your posts are vague, there will certainly be confusion from your social media followers. Remember, if you can have miscommunication from people you are talking with face to face, there is more of a chance that miscommunication can take place with social media posts.

Using Exaggeration In Posts

  • Using words that are exaggerating the point, in my opinion, is unprofessional. I'd even go so far as saying that using exaggeration is lying. For instance, when people are describing photographs, I'd say that about 99% of the time, I would avoid the use of these words: Amazing picture, Spectacular shot (really?), Best view ever, Epic shot (or pic, picture, photo), Wow, No words (wrong, we have plenty of words), Simply amazing shot, Awesome pic, Super shot, Super awesome photo, OMG what a great shot and Perfect shot (Really? There is a perfect shot?).
  • To me, it's better to use more descriptive words to describe a photo. (Example, instead of saying, "Wow, incredible picture," state what's actually taking place such as, "Here's a Bell 407 in the remote area of Chipewyan Lake, in Alberta, Canada in 2014.")
  • I've seen one Twitter administrator who almost constantly claims most of the pictures they post are incredible "shots" and ironically, when the same Twitter administrator posts a high quality professionally taken photo, they don't even comment on the skill of the photographer!
  • Instead of saying shot or pic, simply use the word: picture, photo or photograph. Is typing four (4) additional characters "ture" (picture) a too difficult task for one's fingers? Is "pic" a translatable word?
  • On a slightly different note, using the "caption this photo" post, to me, is old and not interesting anymore. In fact, I've seen several occasions where a certain Twitter administrator (with thousands of followers) regularly asks to "caption this photo" and there are usually no comments. Something to think about.

Using Slang Or Corporate Speak In Posts

  • I would never use the phrases such as "Mush-watch", "Must-see", "Must-read", "Reach out", "A win-win situation", "Buy-in", "Go-To" and "Think outside the box" type phrases. These are all corporate speak phrases which many people don't understand. Why confuse the message when you don't have to?
  • As stated an article from the "The Guardian" about the danger of corporate speak, "Bureaucratese is a maddeningly viral kind of unspeak engineered to deflect blame, complicate simple ideas, obscure problems, and perpetuate power relations." The article4 is titled: "10 of the worst examples of management-speak" and found here online: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/apr/25/top-10-worst-management-speak
  • Corporate speak, corporate jargon or management speak is any word or phrase that people usually can't understand, is sometimes dictatorial in nature or is inappropriate because it has a sexual undertone with the phrase. (for example, "Reaching out"). Using corporate speak, or using any words or phrases which do not explain your message in an easy to understand way, is a failure of that person, management or corporation in the ability to communicate with others. In writing, it's also a failure of not being able to write.
  • For example, instead of saying, "We are reaching out to all of you today to take this survey," simply say, "We have a survey for our customers and the due date is XX month, XX date and XXXX year." I'm not sure why the sexually charged phrase "Reaching out" seems to be so popular in today's world, when many people are trying to stop sexual harassment in the work place.
  • If a person actually reaches out and touches someone in the office, in almost all cases, that is sexual harassment. So why are people using the words, "I'm reaching out to you today?", when it's easier and more accurate to say, "I'm calling you today" or "I'm emailing you today" or "I am here to drop off this sales sample for your boss."
  • Instead of saying "Shout out", simply say what you mean. "Congratulations to...," "We support XYZ non-profit organization," or "We appreciate XYZ company because of...."



Some Final Ideas And Resources:

Your Social Media Followers Most Likely Don't Your Company As Well As You Think They Do: I think when most social media administrators create a post, they are writing with the mind set that their loyal followers sought out their company or organization and their followers have intimate knowledge of their company. I'm not sure this is a good assumption. Why? The trend I'm seeing is that less and less "loyal followers" are "sharing" or "retweeting" social media posts. Why is this? I don't know for sure but I have several guesses. 1) People are following too many businesses and organizations, 2) The social media posts might be confusing. Therefore, ignored. and 3) The posts are not worthy of "sharing" or "retweeting."

Case in point. I just recently checked a major helicopter corporation's Twitter page. They have over 98,000 Twitter followers. Their last 10 tweets had these retweet numbers: 13, 4, 6, 10, 28, 9, 24, 30, 19 and 0. The big question is this. Why are their retweets so horrifyingly low? Is what they are posting, not relevant? Are they not posting compelling tweets? Do they have a lot of followers who really aren't interested in their company? There were no links on 9 out of the 10 tweets I reviewed. The tweet with the link had 24 retweets. Are people following too many people and companies on Twitter, and the majority of their followers are missing their tweets? To me, these low retweet numbers are shockingly low figures and one can make the argument that social media is not that effective for this business, for whatever reason. Or maybe they are happy with their social media numbers? Who knows?

Tip For Getting People To Retweet Your Posts In The Helicopter Industry. 1) Create a post with well written text that almost everyone can understand, 2) Include a link to the subject of the post and finally, 3) Post a well taken photo of your helicopter, helicopters, helicopter product by itself, a helicopter product being made in a factory, or a helicopter product that is attached or is used inside a helicopter. (If a trade show, post an overall photo of the floor of the trade show from a taken from a high vantage point which includes helicopters in the photo.) These types of posts, in my opinion, will hopefully get more "shares" or "retweets".

Using Acronyms. Try to remember to avoid acronyms as much as possible. Why create confusion? There is a time and place for everything but in general, you'll reduce confusion by typing out words instead of their acronyms. Use the website Acronym Finder (www.acronymfinder.com) to see how many companies and organizations use the acronym you want to desperately type.

Suggested Reading: If you are writing and publishing anything, anywhere, I recommend purchasing the book, "The MAC is not a Typewriter" by Robin Williams. (No relation to the comedian/actor.) For graphic designers, I also recommend the books, "The Non-Designer's Design Book" and "The Non-Designer's Type Book" which are both written by the same author above, Robin Williams.

Training: I think it's key that employers pay to have their employees trained in social media, graphic design and things of this nature. There is an excellent website www.lynda.com which is a for-pay website which have thousands of on-demand videos on how to use Twitter, Facebook, Word, Excel, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and many other software programs.

I would also recommend that social media administrators research articles online for some of the most effective ways to post on social media. I've read several articles about how to post on social media and I disagree with some of their suggestions. However, when researching better methods to use social media, it's like anything else. You'll take the advice you like, ignore the advice you don't like and possibly change your mind when you find good advice which you never thought about.

Social Media Settings: There are also many Facebook and Twitter settings which allow social media administrators to customize how you interact with people. I'd always recommend that a for-profit company allow direct messages to their social media accounts to allow easy communication. I would recommend researching articles on understanding the various social media settings and how to best use them for your company.

In Summary: I think one of the biggest keys for any social media administrator is this: Know that there are 196 countries in the world, (and that people are also living in territories, islands and ships), people speak a variety of languages living in variety of cultures, your follows might know common slang or phrases you use and that many of your followers don't know your company as well as you think they do.

I hope this article helps and I hope you send out relevant, clear and concise communication through social media!

-End article.



References:

1 - "20 years ago today, the World Wide Web opened to the public" by Martin Bryant, August 6, 2011.

www.thenextweb.com/insider/2011/08/06/20-years-ago-today-the-world-wide-web-opened-to-the-public

2 - "Global Internet usage" Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Internet_usage

3 - "US and World Population Clock" per the US Census Bureau: www.census.gov/popclock

4 - "10 of the worst examples of management-speak" article on The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/apr/25/top-10-worst-management-speak

5 - "Acronym Finder" website: www.acronymfinder.com

6 - "The MAC is not a Typewriter", "The Non-Designer's Design Book" and "The Non-Designer's Type Book". All three books are written by Robin Williams (not the actor).

7 - "Lynda.com" website: www.lynda.com

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