How to avoid Dead Social Media Syndrome

How to avoid Dead Social Media Syndrome
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
SStein

The death of social mediaA quirky little news item today caught my eye: A newly-announced Twitter app called LivesOn will allow people to keep tweeting after they die. It promises to scan the content of your Twitter feed, and to continue posting links and status updates that fit the algorithm.

If this strikes you as more than a little bit creepy, you’re not the only one. But it also occurs to me that much of what we read today on social media channels is so formulaic, robotic and dry that it may as well have been written by a dead person.

Corporate blogs, Facebook pages, YouTube videos and Twitter feeds can easily fall into the trap of being boring and lifeless. There are many reasons for this, but the consequence is usually the same: Nobody wants to read them. It’s called “social” media for a reason. When was the last time you went to a party and enjoyed spending time chatting with the on-message corporate drone in the corner? Yeah, me neither.

So if you’re wondering why your social media efforts aren’t generating the interest or buzz that you expected, here are some tips to avoid “Dead Social Media Syndrome”:

In-source community management

It can be tempting to outsource the role of community manager —  the person who sits on Facebook and Twitter and posts updates — to an intern or a gun-for-hire. Resist that temptation. Some of the most successful corporate social media accounts are run directly by the company President, CEO or other prominent public face. If that’s not realistic (and don’t underestimate the time commitment), then choose trusted employees with sufficient experience and expertise in social, PR and communications. Nobody knows your brand like the people who live and breathe it on a daily basis.

Have a sense of humour and play to your audience

The White House’s recent response to a petition by Star Wars fans who wanted the government to commit to building a Death Star is a perfect example. Instead of issuing a dry government communiqué, White House official Paul Shawcross used quirky, tongue-in-cheek humour and science fiction references to wink to fans while still maintaining the government’s position. By all means, respect your brand guidelines and stay on message, but don’t be afraid to have a personality. People want to interact with humans, not corporations.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

It may be tempting to launch corporate accounts on every social media channel and network that you can think of. But be realistic about the time, effort and resources that it will require to keep all of those communities active and up to date. The only thing worse than having no Facebook page at all is having a Facebook page that hasn’t had any new posts since 2011. Judiciously select the social channels most important to your brand, and remember that it’s okay to participate in existing communities instead of always feeling like you need to build your own.

Don’t set out to create something viral

A viral campaign, by its very definition, cannot be created on purpose in a sterile corporate boardroom. If your content goes viral, it’s likely a happy accident — a combination of being in the right place at the right time with just the right amount of weirdness. That doesn’t mean, of course, that you can’t set out to create social content that will be widely shared and disseminated. But if you brief your agency with the instructions “make it go viral” and the agency agrees, run, don’t walk, out of there.

Write for humans, not for search engines

It can be tempting to structure your blog post like a recipe, measuring out keyword density and headline structure like sugar or baking powder. While it’s good to know and follow SEO best practices as much as possible, remember that you’re writing for people. Remember that the search engines are chasing the eyeballs, just like you are. Great content is more likely to be read, shared and commented upon; consequently, it will rise to the top of the rankings. Before you hit publish, ask yourself “would I want to read this?”

Think global; act local

If your social media efforts have been exclusively focused at the brand level, you’ve been ignoring your front lines. Your local stores, offices and service areas are where you have the best opportunity to build community at the local level. At a bare minimum, you should be managing the accuracy of your local listings in channels like Google+ Local (Google Maps) and all the data providers that feed into them. But if you’re not focusing on local check-ins, reviews, ratings, promotions, service comments and community events, now’s the time to start. The advent of Facebook Graph Search is going to make local-level engagement all the more important, since local child-level pages that are “liked” or interacted with by people’s friends are the ones that will rise to the top of the search rankings.

Don’t wait for rigor mortis to set in. If your social channels are on life support, it’s time to resuscitate them. Remember, nobody wants to interact with social media zombies.

Sari Stein, Digital Strategic Planner