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5 things to note when engaging your audience on social media

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In a world where everyone can be “world-famous in 15 minutes”, you would think brands would be quick to pick up on the importance of reacting quickly on social media. Alas, according to John Box (pictured), executive director of Meltwater Asia Pacific, some brands are still guilty of slow reaction when it comes to their communication strategy on social media.Given the wealth of information and data available today, brands and marketers in particular are presented with the mammoth task of sifting through the conversations on social media to spot real-time overall trends that are happening.“One mistake that potentially happens is that marketers get a little bit bogged down by the data so they manually start sifting through the information and start looking at every post and every article, as opposed to looking at the overall trends that might actually be appearing,” he said.Box recommended media monitoring tools for companies to address this issue and keep track of social media.When marketers are overwhelmed by too much information, there is a chance they may underutilise the data that is available to them. This problem may impede a brand’s responsiveness and expediency on social media.Box gave an example of a consumer backlash against Amazon when it did not respond in a timely manner to customers’ queries regarding the rankings of gay and lesbian books on its site.“If they had the proper tools in place to look at that information, they could have quickly responded and given a very personal, authentic and transparent message to diffuse the situation as opposed to looking at the issue and doing a lot of internal work and mining through all that data to figure out what it had done wrong.”Don Anderson, managing director of We Are Social Singapore, agreed that expediency was critical when it came to a social media response.He said: “The inability of some brands to respond effectively and in a timely manner often comes down to their internal set-up. Have they recognised the shift in behaviours around information sharing and consumption?”Low-cost airline Firefly recently came under fire for its lack of responsiveness on social media after a Malaysian comedian posted a complaint about the carrier on his Facebook page.According to Anderson, companies should consider investing in their social media infrastructure – a combination of people, training, tools and planning – to provide the flexibility to respond quickly to situations that call for urgency.“And, above all, are they actually listening and analysing the conversations in social around their brand, competitors and the particular issues at hand?” Anderson said.Nevertheless, brands should not be over-reliant on data and there should be a balanced approach when it comes to putting together a social media strategy. Companies should tap on the training and expertise of their people to create new content that appeals to the masses, Box said.Brands that excel in their social media approach are likely those that are investing in social media solutions and frameworks. Anderson added: “Brands that go to the extent of building ‘digital command’ or ‘social listening’ centres to monitor behaviours of their stakeholders and conversations include names such as AXA Indonesia, MetLife, Intel and MasterCard.”“These brands are using physical assets and digital investments to drive change within their businesses, and instil among their staff – from top to bottom – the need to be ‘always on’ and in step with the conversation and interests of consumers and clients,” Anderson said.Keeping up with the conversation is key for any brand interested in sharpening its social media presence.“Of course these days, what’s said on Twitter, Facebook or blogs is at least as important as what’s said in the newspapers. So our role has evolved to also cover the social media sphere, providing our clients with more of the complete picture which is the news from online news as well as social media,” Box said .Along with this advice, Box shared five tips on how brands could effectively engage on social media.Set small goals and try to achieve themThough there is no dearth of social media channels and platforms, it is important to note that various companies differ in their goals and how they set about to achieve them. The path to a successful social media strategy is often unique to an organisation.For this reason, Box said: “As a marketer, you have to go across the different stakeholders in your company – whether it be the social media team, marketing team, or the C-suite – and think carefully about what it is you’re trying to achieve: Is it to get more likes on Facebook, or more followers on Twitter or to get more engagement with your brand?”A marketer should also rethink the kind of metrics he is going to use when it comes to setting goals. Box advised that a company should steer clear of the more “vanity metrics” which is counting the number of likes a brand has on its pages.“A more viable metric would be more actionable and interactive ones such as monitoring the number of shares, app mentions and retweets on social media.”Start listening to the conversationsThis has to link back with the goals that have been initially set.“Listening is not just about looking at your brand,” Box said.When it comes to shaping a brand’s social media strategy, it is also pertinent to study the talking points in the industry to benchmark the company’s social media strategy against its competitors. Hence, listening to the right conversations, along with having the right tools in place to gather insights, is crucial for a successful social media strategy.Use the right toolsDue to the ever-evolving nature of the social media landscape, it may be difficult for a brand to cut through the large amount of information available. Marketers especially may get bogged down in the data, making it even more challenging to spot overall trends in the market place.For this reason, Box advised that brands should look into investing in media monitoring tools to help them identify and utilise the right platforms to help the brand achieve its goals.“There are so many tools that are out there in the world, there’s almost a new one coming out every single day. You have to be sure the one that you are picking is the best fit with your goals, your brand and what you are looking to achieve.”Another thing to look out for, according to Box, is to select a tool that can scale with the brand as an organisation and move with the times in this rapidly changing media sphere.“It would be good if you can partner with a company which has a large presence and the ability to work directly with the likes of Facebook and Twitter, so if they change their application programme interfaces (API) or the way you can access their data, or whatever the case may be, that you are well placed to get the best out of those channels.” Choosing the wrong partner, he warned, might impede the organisation’s scalability.Select the right peopleThe right infrastructure should include a well-trained team with a range of expertise that is applicable to social media. Because investments in social and digital media are still a fairly new phenomenon, companies should equip its talent with the necessary skills in order to maximise on its return on investment.Box explained: “The social media landscape is something a lot of people are still learning about and it is really good to have the right expertise in place. Whether that’s an agency that you are using or in-house, you have to make sure they have the proper training and expertise and access to the proper tools that you have access to.”Close the feedback loopFor a social media strategy to succeed, it is crucial to close the feedback loop.“After you have listened to the conversations and engaged with your audience and so on, you should be looking at the effectiveness of that,” Box said.For example, brands should review their online initiatives to see if they have met their goals. Moving forward, brands should also be open to making changes to their strategy if a tried and tested methodology did not pan out as expected.“Because there are so many different ways that you can do this and so many different platforms that you can engage across, it’s important not to be afraid to try different platforms to see what yields the best results.“And then again, not being afraid to benchmark against the competition and take good things from what other people in the market place are doing in order to optimise your campaigns based on that.”  

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