Social media procrastination is a two-edged PR problem for business
Large numbers of people in the English-speaking world have doubtless grown up with constant reminders from parents, grandparents and other wise relatives that “procrastination is the thief of time”.
The saying comes from a meditative work by the 18th century English poet, playwright and priest Edward Young – and some 300 years after it was first penned it still holds true in the era of social media.
It’s unbelievably easy to procrastinate with services such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. And in business, that can be a serious problem.
There are two kinds of corporate social media procrastinators:
The former can be dealt with through good management: the latter through personal discipline, specialist recruitment or a decision to outsource.
Businesses should use social media for three key reasons – all driven by the need to attract customers online and physically:
It’s really about reputation management, developing favourable perceptions of the organisation (and occasionally handling the odd crisis) – in essence, another tool in the public relations kit.
Large organisations have it easy if they can support one or more staff members dedicated to the three key processes identified above. But in the SME sector that’s a luxury many businesses simply cannot afford.
Owners of the smallest businesses need to strike a sensible balance with their social media activity, building regular slots into their personal daily schedules to allow for selective scanning of news and comment and time for outbound messaging and response where necessary. Even the most hard-pressed solo entrepreneur should be able to find five or 10 minutes a day to communicate in his way.
Larger businesses in the SME environment may find it more convenient to entrust the social media responsibility to a specialist, such as a public relations consultant with competence in this area and the ability to treat social media as a natural extension of traditional PR tactics. This also helps to ensure consistency of messaging across all communication channels.
The specialist is perhaps also better placed to provide a synopsis of social media trends and track results of a client’s posts. Statistics now available from Twitter, for example, provide considerable insight into daily activity and the performance of individual messages – pointing towards a measurable return on investment in social media.
So the advice to time-starved managers who are lagging in the social media race is simple: make a commitment – today!
If I chose to exchange my keyboard for a ‘for sale’ board – making houses, rather than words, my stock in trade – what thoughts on communication would I take with me to power-up a career in real estate?
It’s not an unreal scenario. An agent friend once tried to lure me into the business – but I preferred working with agents, rather than for them. I did, however, obtain a basic qualification.
So, in case I ever change my mind, here are my communication notes to self. They might give some practising agents food for thought – and help other professions, too.
It’s your shop window, a showcase of properties to attract genuine buyers to your business. It can also help to draw future sellers, too. Add fresh material frequently – bright, clear pictures and honest copy – and ensure everything is optimised for the search engines so that your site appears at least among the first results for the most applicable search terms in your area.
Update your news page (or blog) at least once a week – daily if possible – with a range of articles demonstrating thought leadership, market leadership and the benefits buyers and sellers receive from dealing with you. Comment on local issues: say something of substance, but avoid controversy. Go easy on human interest stories about staff – they may undermine the professional image you should be trying to portray.
Give potential newcomers to your area a head start: tell them everything they need to know about life in your area. Make sure your local information is always fully up to date and that hyperlinks to amenities such as schools, churches, surgeries and other public facilities actually work. And make sure they open in new pages, so that people are more likely to return to your site.
4 Testimonials and case studies
A well-written piece showing how you provided customer service excellence and achieved a great outcome for buyers and sellers can be powerful reference material, giving future customers the confidence to deal through you. Write objectively (as far as possible) to enhance credibility. Focus on the benefits of your service, rather than the features.
5 Attracting visitors
Be aware that the majority of website visitors will be people who are looking to buy or sell in your area now or in the near future. They will look at other agents’ sites, too. You will stand a better chance of longer visits, return visits and ultimately commitment to purchase if your site offers the right stock at the right prices – and is perceived also to demonstrate the best levels of professionalism and usefulness.
The biggest issue is how to drive traffic to your website in the first place – an that is why it is so important to spread your web address (url) as widely as possible. It is also the reason for maintain a high profile on social media.
Because buyers and sellers generally have only a short relationship with you, don’t expect them to make a long terms commitment to following you on Twitter (or any other social channels you use). For the benefit of those who do click the follow button, make sure there’s a stream of posts pointing them to website content that adds value to their experience.
Use your Twitter account also as a source of information for yourself: follow other agents, mortgage brokers and lenders, property developers, builders, local councils, chambers of commerce, schools and other local institutions and, most importantly, local, regional and national news sources – especially property journalists. Build yourself an influential list of contacts that adds to your credibility: encourage people to follow you. Wherever possible and relevant, engage directly with your Twitter followers and use Twitter to announce significant news items.
If you still prefer a print newsletter to distribute door to door, make it relevant to the buyers and sellers you are trying to impress. Let the benefits of dealing through you be apparent from the successes you report on; demonstrate your understanding of the local market through careful comment on trends. Don’t let the main theme of your business be overshadowed by publicity for feats of physical endurance or other charity events – keep their prominence in proportion.
If you have a suitable email for produce an electronic newsletter. Keep it short: headline, picture, one paragraph of tantalising copy – and a link to the full story … on your website.
8 News release
You may still have occasion to issue a news item as a traditional press release to one or more journalists. If so, it should double up as copy for your website, newsletters and Tweets. In fact, write all news pieces as if they are press releases, so that they can be digested easily by all readers. Don’t blow an ‘exclusive’ publicity opportunity by publishing it on your own site before the chosen journalist gets a chance.
Be as creative as each medium allows. Be willing to try new channels, new techniques. Be enthusiastic about every communication opportunity. And if you need help, please get in touch.
Which is the worse example of ignorance: misuse of a fairly simple word or misunderstanding its meaning?
My question arises from an early report of a tragic incident in which a 35-year-old man died as a result of an electric shock at a sports centre.
The incident came to my attention through a news Tweet this morning. It stated the man had been electrocuted and had been taken to the major hospital nearby.
No problem in the language, but perhaps a slight ambiguity on the time of death: was it instantaneous, on the road or at the hospital? Either way, full marks to the newsteam for using ‘electrocution’ to mean ‘death as a result of electricity’.
Another Twitter user, however, suggested the news Tweet could be updated, as he had needed to Google the incident to discover if the man had died. Oh dear – only if the original writer had confused ‘electrocution’ with ‘shock’, as many do.
There was an update, saying police had confirmed that the man who had been electrocuted had died. Withdraw full marks awarded earlier!
If you are using big words in public, get them right!
Am I being pedantic or does this really matter?
Every word has one or more legitimate meanings or uses. Over time, our language is enriched by new vocabulary and fresh meanings. Words are great playthings, too. But we should also strive vigorously to prevent the morphing of mainstream meanings into the erroneous, and even the absurd.
‘Electrocution’ is a relatively young word, neatly combining electricity and execution. Its correct uses relate to both capital punishment and accidental death. It does not mean non-lethal electric shock.
I believe the correct use of words is essential if we are to communicate effectively.
David Goddin was born in the UK and educated in South Africa. He began his career on daily newspapers and trade journals, before moving into public relations consulting. He produced award-winning writing and became an Accredited PR Practitioner, the highest qualification of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa. Since his return to the UK 16 years ago he has also contributed to a number of highly successful PR and marketing communications campaigns for major national and multinational clients. He is currently also President of the Haslemere & District Chamber of Trade & Commerce.