Tips on using social media in business communications news
By Sudakshina Bhattacharjee
25 May 2013

We've all learnt about the need for clarity in communications. More so now, when social media communications has gained sufficient ground to become an accepted medium of effective communications.

So, now, whether we send an email, register with an online subscription service, access in-house software or intranet programs, or carry out general business transactions globally, we need to frame what we write with suitable brevity and speed. Lose either of them, and we risk losing our audience.

That is because social media communications has  created a phenomenal change in the way we must now relearn to communicate, whether personally or professionally, since social media differs from traditional media in many ways such as reach, frequency, and immediacy.

Nielsen reports internet users continue to spend more time with social media sites than any other type of site.

Its worth keeping in mind social media communications is all about interactions among people whom we don't know through creating, sharing, and exchanging information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.

While there are many businesses (usually corporate giants) who have grasped the idea of how to use social media i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. there are many others who are trying to figure how to use social media for the purposes of business communications.

So, here are my Top 10 Tips for you to do just that!

  • Communiacations beyond borders: Before the days of the internet and social media, businesses were limited to market their products and services to the territorial borders of their country. Not so now though! If you are on Facebook, for example, why not put up your product / service on a Facebook Page and then share the hyperlink to it with your friends and contacts on your personal account! Yes, it's really that simple!
  • Instant feedback: Once you have got your content on to a Facebook Page, get people to 'Like' the page and encourage them to give you feedback. This can be via questions in posts you put up, links, polls and surveys.
  • Humour: Offer informative insights, or even anecdotes, about events that go on within your organisation. But do be careful about intercultural values you do not want to offend your audience who could well be your customers, or potential customers.
  • Be positive!: Try to keep as much of your promotional content whether they are tweets on Twitter, LinkedIn updates or Facebook posts as positive as possible. If you do not have anything positive to say; please do not prevaricate or say something out of context. Trust is far more crucial in the online world as recipients (who you may never get to know) can just drop you dead from their networks, without giving you a chance to redeem yourself later.
  • Be interactive: There is a huge difference in between being active updaters ie those who only upload promotional content and do nothing else - and interactive updaters ie those who upload promotional content but also respond to the feedback as much as possible.Depending on the volume, of course; if you have a massive amount of comments and queries to reply to, filter the ones which need an individual response and compose a general post addressing everyone, thanking them for their feedback and explaining what they can expect from you and your business next.
  • Be There!: Think of it this way. When you take the time to provide feedback on a product / service / business which you have used or invested in, do not you feel nice when your feedback gets a response? Does it not make you feel special? Of course it does! So, if you apply this approach to your target audience, you are bound to have more loyal customers. 
  • Small talk: The very name 'Twitter' conjures up visions of tuneful little melodies of birdsong. For professional purposes, tweets should be short, sweet / sharp (depending on context) and simple, ie the meaning of what you are saying needs to be clear. Otherwise, the point is lost, as it has been seen that tweets which end up too long are often not read at all.
  • Mind your language!: All social media brings new language and meanings. For example, Facebook has introduced new terms, like 'Unfriend' (i.e. to remove a Friend from your contacts list) and 'Unlike' (ie to not like, thereby actually meaning 'dislike'). Similarly, Twitter has 'tweets' and 'Direct Messages' (i.e. personal messages between two followers) and Linked uses the term 'Headline' to imply your professional designation- not the front page news! So, it is important to use these terms correctly so as to not cause confusion or embarrassment.
  • What jargon?: If you are using LinkedIn Groups, you are highly likely to be networking with like-minded professionals who are aware of the specific professional terminology ie jargon that you use. In such instances, using jargon is fine. However, if you are reaching to your audience in general, please be very mindful of what jargon you use and if you have to use it, then you may want to provide a very brief explanation of what it means. This shows two things: a) You are being as clear as possible and b) You care and do not want to alienate any members of your audience who happen to not know about it.
  • Be balanced!: Get the tone right. You do not want to be so formal that you bore your audience and neither do you want to be so informal that your audience stops taking you seriously enough. Be judicious with what you post!

Typical anecdotes of misunderstood communications via social media:

While using social media for business communications is not that hard, it can be easy to get misunderstood!  Check out these examples:-

While some may be able get what this tweet means, for the uninitiated, this could be a big pickle!: ''Cum to C our fab xhibition @ colaba, s.mumbai on 14 june 13!''

Some Facebook posts can be plain dull: ''Click here to see our new Spring / Summer range"

And you find this LinkedIn Headline intriguing? ''XYZ Das, ICTprof, Kolkata''

While brevity is indeed key to writing promotional content for social media, keeping it so brief as to leave people unable to understand also needs to be thought through.

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Tips on using social media in business communications