Like Me? Follow Me.
I've just spent the week looking after the I-COM Twitter account, for the first time in a couple of years. When I say 'looking after' I actually mean desperately trying to get some of the accounts we follow to engage with us the way the individuals I follow with my personal account do and the way our B2C clients get engagement off the people they follow. This effort has been to little or no avail, unfortunately.
What I've found bears out the complaints of our social media team which is to say - businesses still don't understand that Twitter is not a broadcast platform, it's a conversational medium. I'm actually amazed that of the roughly 1,100 Twitter accounts we follow, only, maybe 10% are doing anything remotely social. The rest appear to be using entirely automated feeds.
In one instance (@OxfordWeddings, I'm looking at you), the auto-tweets actually seem to be on a loop. Twice I've tweeted at the account, once in a joking response to a joking tweet and was ignored, and once to ask about the autofeed - neither elicited a response. I'm not the only one having that problem, either. Consider that a massive social media #FAIL at the most basic rule of etiquette - not responding to people asking you direct questions.
Eventually I unfollowed the account because there was an awful lot of nonsensical tweeting but no engagement. So there's no point for us, as a business, to follow the account. It's just drowning out those people tweeting something more meaningful.
In another instance, I witnessed a solicitor (@JaredFaulkner, what are you thinking?!) actually tweeting the equivalent of "If you've had an accident or injury that wasn't your fault..." Seriously - advertising, and cliched advertising at that? Again - a massive social media #FAIL. People don't go onto social media to be marketed at, they go on to talk to their friends.
Businesses need to understand that social media, for the most part, even for B2B companies, is not a direct means to sales but as a support channel to access your customers, get to understand their needs and back up your other marketing campaigns - had a news story or are you running a promotion? That's something to tweet about - but only if you're also being social as well.
Social media can be a great way to help your SEO efforts in terms of generating citations, interest and links - especially if you have really useful content to share. It can also be a great way to supplement your traditional PR efforts; plus it's great customer service channel. If people know they can access you on Twitter, LinkedIn (or Facebook, although this isn't traditionally a good B2B channel) they'll feel more comfortable about engaging your services, knowing they can always get a swift reply. If, however, you're using social media, but you don't respond because no human being is paying attention to the account, this is actually worse than not being there at all - customers and potential customers will think you're simply not interested.
What we would recommend is to always make your social media accounts about people - the people in your organisation and the people to whom you provide services (or want to provide services) - at all times. Don't focus on what your message is as a business, but on what interests your customers and your target market. What content can you share that will be useful to them in some way? What conversations are pertinent to them? What helps them and their businesses out the most?
It can take time to find those conversations and to strike the right balance, but when you do, your business will most certainly feel the benefit.