May 21, 2009...1:31 pm

16 Boring but Important Ways to Make Your Business More Social

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Social media engagement doesn’t always have to be fun, but it should be customer-centric. Rather than trying to be the life of every party on every social network, simply think about what customers and community stake-holders want from you and over deliver.

Boring but Important

  1. Make sure your website is easy to navigate in a variety of browsers including different types of mobile browsers.
  2. Build a mobile application that makes transactions easier. Mobile apps improve the speed with which people can access your site and his/her account or profile information since it lives on the phone — no more waiting for mobile browsers to load pages.
  3. Make contact information readily accessible on your website without having to search and click on too many links. Include email addresses and direct phone numbers. Walled gardens and information silos are so last century.
  4. Add a resources page to your website with shareable and embeddable (not just downloadable) company logos for journalists and bloggers to use in their stories about you.
  5. Track the most popular search terms and places on your site and make those elements more prominent. Give the people what they want.
  6. Visit the real world once in awhile. For example, if you make toilet paper, don’t appoint someone to talk to me about toilet paper on Twitter (please don’t do this!). Instead, maybe become an official sponsor at an entertainment venue — make your product available to use and appoint on-site staff to ensure that it never runs out.
  7. Make it as easy to opt-out as it is to opt-in. Show a little confidence — besides, you’ll get better metrics.
  8. Stop pitching media about you, You, YOU all the time. Monitor your feedback for interesting stories and pitch THEM to the media. Be willing to be an auxiliary component of the story and turn the spotlight on your most passionate customers.
  9. Don’t ignore search. Learn how to properly tag your content so it can easily found by people already in pursuit of what you have to offer.
  10. Make your site more accessible to special populations. Check out Glenda Watson Hyatt’s presentation on making your blog more accessible. There’s nothing boring about this presentation, but it may be the most important thing I’ve seen all year.  P.S. It turns out good SEO also improves accessibility for special populations online. Bonus!
  11. Get rid of voicemail. Sounds radical, eh? Central Bank, headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky has a company-wide ban on the use of voicemail. This ensures that somebody is always available to answer the phone.
  12. Add a social media newsroom or interactive press room (what you call it is your business) to your website. Optimize your press releases for search and add multimedia elements that can be shared and embedded (not just downloaded). Make sure the items can be found as part of an overall press release as well as a la carte. DO NOT just list a bunch of links to old releases — or even worse, PDFs of old releases.
  13. Create an internal newsletter that shares external news with the people inside your organization. So often, the people working for a company are last to hear news about their company. Whether the coverage is positive or negative, there are several benefits of having a well-informed workforce.
  14. Bring down your firewall. Studies actually indicate that employees who communicate on social networks are more productive than those who don’t. More than just goofing off, social networks offer employees a shortcut to communication with important contacts.
  15. Bring down the silos. The social media ethos is all about giving everyone a voice. Rigid power structures that distance those on the front lines from those at the top of the organization create bottle necks of productivity and ensure inefficiency.
  16. Be nice: Clean up your messes, apologize when you’re wrong and listen to feedback even when it hurts.

What else?

Am I missing anything? What other boring but important things can you add to this list to help businesses be more social?

Photo by Scott Ableman

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  • I wouldn’t call your tips boring at all. They help you properly communicate with the social media community, which can be fun in itself. As a former PR rep, I love your suggestion about embedded files. Much more convenient than pdfs. I’m going to have to work on that!

    • MLDina,

      Definitely! I understand the desirability of PDFs from the company’s point of view (they can’t be easily altered, it’s much easier to upload to the web, etc.) but they’re such a pain to grab information from or pull a direct quote. My thinking is that PR should focus on making it easier to use information about the company. PDFs are not very friendly to the user and are often completely invisible when it comes to search.

      Thanks for the comment — glad you found something useful listed here!

  • these are the kind of tips everyone needs to be reminded of from time to time.

    Another tip I’d add would be to offer something of value. (to go along with your example) Create a white paper on proper refilling techniques (or something else relevant). It’ll get people to your site and, if relevant enough be passed around socially.

    • ThatGuySteve,

      I’m also a fan of providing a white paper or an ebook. That can do a lot to generate traffic to your site, but it can also be leveraged to garner media attention as well as position a company representative as a speaker/thought leader. Thanks for the reminder!

  • I like the internal angle- seems so many people ignore the internal and only focus on the external. Inside your company is where some of your strongest evangelists exist.

    • Brandon,

      So true! Friends and family are also the first to go to the proverbial horse’s mouth. A lot of misconceptions could be remedied if companies sought to raise internal awareness by leveraging external channels.

  • Stuart Foster

    “Get rid of voicemail. Sounds radical, eh? Central Bank, headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky has a company-wide ban on the use of voicemail. This ensures that somebody is always available to answer the phone.”

    Wow, this could be interesting. But it would be amazing if a system was devised to actually pull this off. I still find it amazing when someone answers the phone on the other end. (That’s Shannon’s real number in her blog btw.)

    • Stuart,

      Heh. Thanks for reminding everyone. If I get any heavy breathers on the other line, I know who to blame ;-)

  • Accessibility and willingness to be a vehicle for the delivery of other people’s success: Exactly! The more success, the more success.

  • Franchise Whale

    Very insightful. Boring can be great when it comes to details. I love number nine!

  • Very excellent points that are great reminders or valuable insight to everyone.

    #6 is my favorite. It’s so easy to do, but so difficult to convince clients (and myself, sometimes) to do it. The impact it makes is tremendous, though, when it happens.

    Thank you for sharing.

  • If most organizations just did #1, 2 and 4 we’d be in a much better place. Absolute table stakes though, in my mind.

    As a PR pro, I gotta say I love #8 and I’ve tried to abide by that axiom whenever possible during the course of my career. Sometimes it’s tough, but in the end that strategy can pay off HUGE for your clients/organization down the road.

    And of course #16 is one collectively we all need to get better at–not just brands. Imagine if we all admitted our faults and listened to our detractors–and our champions–each day, every day. What kind of world would that be?

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  • Adam Pieniazek

    @14 is huge. When I was still in corporate cubicle country, I’d spend a decent amount of my time trying to figure out ways around the firewall. Not to waste time but because it represented a problem that I wanted to use my creativity to solve.

    What’s funny is the company left open because otherwise there would be riots when Red Sox games were happening and we couldn’t get updates. Why is it OK to passively view sports scores (which can take up a lot of time constantly hitting refresh) but not actively network?

    I think the real issue is that many large corporations don’t look for creative individuals, but rather workers they can mold and force into very specific roles. They don’t want people to think outside the box because then they’ll bust down those walls and escape!

  • Jeah great “boring tips”. Firewall down and be nice ‘even when it hurts’ is just the right way to say it. good post, good job!

  • Accessibility and willingness to be a vehicle for the delivery of other people’s success: Exactly! The more success, the more success.

  • Your “boring” tips definitely weren’t so boring. If you want your company to be more social you have to facilitate it and make it easy for your audience to be social with you.

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  • Good tips. I’m also a fan of adding pictures of the people that work at a company to the website. I think people like seeing pictures of the people they may contact or work with.

  • Shannon,

    Great list! I’m working on a few of the things you talk about – something specifically mobile (maybe an iphone app – Things to Do in Chicago that uses GPS) and making it easier to contact us. But, I’m not sure what you mean by embedded files. Is it putting info into a post so it can be copied and pasted?

    And fantastic ideas from your commenters – a white paper on toilet paper! and the Red Sox Riots.

  • Promotional Products

    I can’t really think of anything that you missed. I especially am partial to #6, stay in the real world is something that is necessary, yet often overlooked. Business owners still need to be focused about being a human who is available to their clients, we can’t always have a digital presence and forget about traditional customer service methods and face to face interaction with customers.

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