You only need to use social media every now and then to get a taste for how different companies and individuals communicate through Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Each one is different, and each account has varying success – So what makes some companies rocket to social media success whilst others put in maximum effort and simply flounder?

That question raises another – how much social media success is simply because the brand or individual is famous?  The sceptical among us will likely believe that brand power has a huge baring on social media success – for example, let’s say you post a witty observation that is pure gold; you get 2 retweets and a reply, Rihanna on the other hand, tweets a single word and gets more interaction than you could ever hope to achieve. It’s true this might work for brands too; let’s say, in the case of what a huge company like McDonalds shares on Facebook compared to what a small business shares.

But let’s ignore brand power for a moment; let’s think about how businesses grow their social media without other factors like advertising and brand awareness affecting things. How does a brand invigorate their social media from scratch? Do they hire a ‘Social Media Expert’, or someone with no experience but a great personality.

The Social Media Expert knows about Facebook algorithms, they know photos share X% better than text, they read reddit every morning to catch up with the latest memes… but then their actually execution of social activity might have an awkward, forced feel. No matter what the social media blogging experts say, is that picture of a funny cat really going to engage your customers, just because it worked in another case study?

Maybe it’s better to hire someone who just makes you laugh. Someone who naturally loves your industry (in their free time too!), someone who can integrate with your customers and fans like a social butterfly.

In the face of disaster the Social Media Expert might know to address all complaints, but there might be a better candidate out there who can turn a disaster into a triumph, with funny replies and a light-hearted approach. Let’s take a look at some examples!

Great Natural Social Media

Sticky Walnut Chester notes an opportunity for fun and challenges other chefs to a Yorkshire pudding bake off. You can tell this social media account isn’t scripted. A great social media manager should be spontaneous and entertaining, meaning there’s more chance of people getting involved and sharing your activity.

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Any we’re big fans of O2’s social media – their twitter reminds us that there’s actually a person receiving the abuse of social media trolls when a company comes under attack. Their humorous response had their social media featured across the internet:

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Bad Example of Social Media – When Companies Get it Wrong

Who could forget the McDonalds Twitter fail? It should have been textbook perfect, with a hashtag campaign designed to highlight happy experiences as McDonalds – sadly, their social media manager (although probably highly paid and very experienced), got this very wrong.

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Another recent disaster was on the Facebook page of the Shed, Bath. We’ve seen a few examples where customers have left bad reviews, and the company has offered a joke-y reply in return. Sometimes it really works, especially if it’s obviously a difficult customer – there’s no harm in defending your business. Sadly this social media manager lacked any tact, and their harsh, insulting retort to quite a polite and seemingly honest review led to plenty of backlash. The customer commented that the cakes on display didn’t look adequately shielded from sneezes and the like, here was The Shed’s response:

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With the right tone The Shed might have been able to avoid a social media disaster, but sadly in this case, their tone sounded more like a child having a tantrum.

So it seems apparent that you have to have a few important qualities aside from technical knowledge when it comes to social media. You need to be tough enough to take criticism and sometimes even abuse on the chin, you need the calm demeanour of a bomb disposal expert so you can skirt around potentially devastating situations, you need to be on the ball, cheery and interactive, and you need to be quick on your toes, and able to put in the first word in a great social opportunity (remember the Oreo Superbowl Blackout response?).

Is it All About Time?

You might have the perfect person for your social media in-house – maybe your director or PR person is interesting and knowledgeable about the brand, and would make the perfect social manager. But that’s no good if they only have 10 minutes at lunch to dedicate, right?

Social media is now more accessible than ever, you only need to flick through the apps on your phone whilst on public transport, whilst eating your dinner or waiting for a phone call.

But, does someone who only nips on in intervals have a good knowledge of your online community and culture? It’ll do your brand no good to be ‘late to the party’. Let’s say a responsive meme appears thanks to something in the news. If you don’t spot it until later that night, you’ve lost your opportunity to capitalise. Let’s say Reddit is talking about something fascinating in your industry at lunchtime – you can’t come along two hours later and contribute, as you’ve missed out on the perfect time for a potentially viral comment.

Trends come and go online, and if you’re not part of the conversation as it happens, you’re the outsider trying to get your voice heard.

Is Age a Factor?

Now more than ever people are hiring young apprentices to manage their social media – they’re cheap, energetic and interested in the latest trends, so they’re perfect for your social media right?

Not necessarily. If they don’t understand your target market, there’s no point having a young person just to discuss trends on your social media – if you’re selling something to pensioners, what do they care about the latest funny video or viral song?

What’s much more important is that your social media manager can understand your target market, integrate with them and engage with them.

That doesn’t mean a young person can’t do the social media for a brand for pensioners! But it does mean they’ll have to be interested in at least some of the same things.

Do Popular People Naturally Gain Following and Interest?

As we said at the start of this article, celebrities and big brands like Apple will always have a few zombie-like followers who hang off every word they say, even when boring, but will social media users be more attracted to follow and interact with someone who is naturally popular? Someone who can talk with anyone easily, someone who attracts people to them with a magnetic personality?

We think it certainly helps. ‘Social’ is the name of the game after all.

Is Lifestyle a Factor?

Have you ever started a blog? Have you ever looked on at other people’s blog’s enviously because they’re rich enough to go to the latest restaurants every day, travel the world and buy whatever they want? It certainly makes more intriguing social media and blog posts. Same applies to your social media manager. If you hire one and make them sit behind a desk all day, what have they really got that’s shareworthy?

Maybe your social media manager should be out there meeting your clients, visiting trade shows and events, providing live and instant content from things your market is interested in. If you’re a fashion company, get someone tweeting from the front row of London Fashion Week!

Remember the ‘Dream Job’ competition run by the Australian Tourism board? The winner got to be custodian of a private island, in exchange for blogging and social media. That’s a lifestyle people are willing to follow!

Are Looks a Factor?

We can’t deny that some of the top bloggers are on par with supermodels. Is that why they’re so successful? It’s a likely factor. We’re a vain society, and we covet products and things that beautiful, successful people have. We hope to attain their lifestyle, and so many of us follow these people with fascination.

Looks are a factor, but the key take away point here is that you want to create a lifestyle or product that is aspirational for your target market and followers. If you have a vintage dress to sell don’t just put it on a mannequin and take an Instagram picture, put it on a vintage model and get her out at an event with you, or ask a blogger to do a ‘takeover’ of your social media.

Not all followers want to see a ‘perfect’ model though, that’s why it’s important to know your target market and thing in terms of aspiration, not perfection. Your target market might want to see real women of all shapes and sizes, and in the end that is what will help you be more successful on social media. Listen to what your customers want, and you’ll get it right.

Key Takeaway Points

  • Technical knowledge and damage control training is essential!
  • Your social media manager should know your market well, or preferably, be a part of it.
  • Joking with your customers is fine, so is disagreeing with them, but don’t insult them.
  • Composure is essential.
  • A good social media marketer is responsive and takes on a chatty, friendly tone.
  • Don’t dictate your social media manager’s script or schedule, a natural response is much more important!
  • Create visual social media that plays to your customer’s aspirations.