The main aspect behind being a social media professional is understanding the social channels and knowing how best to convey a brand’s message through these platforms. The second half of that rough definition, however, tends to be overlooked. Social media specialists who post on behalf of brands have to know the brand and the industry as accurately as possible, and sometimes have to learn it on the fly. What makes it more interesting is that most of us are juggling the accounts of several brands that are in completely different industries. So, how do you learn it?
Right now, I manage the social pages of a snowplow company, a bowling ball company and a couple of golf course turf clients. When I started at EPIC Creative® in March, I knew a lot about golf, a little about bowling and almost nothing about snowplows. Let’s take the snowplow client for example: as I gradually took on the brand’s social responsibilities, I needed to learn fast. Sure, I knew how the social space worked, but I still needed to know the nuts and bolts of how the industry worked. I found several key steps that took me from the clueless new guy to not-quite expert in 2 months, and these steps can be applied to nearly any new client.
- Learn the Products
This is an ongoing process, but it has to start right away. You won’t know all the serial numbers and applications of every product, and you won’t need to. However, you do need to dive into manuals, websites, and forums in order to find out everything you can about the company and products you’re marketing.
- Learn the Audience
This is a pillar of any type of marketing. In my example, I asked questions of my coworkers, perused the social channels and found that snowplow drivers are mostly men who live in the Midwest and Northeast. They’re blue-collar-type people who tend to own their own snow removal business, and many of them work in landscaping in the off-season. The demographics don’t paint the whole picture, though. However, learning what they like to see and how they interact on social media takes a little longer. Some communities are business-focused, and some are just looking for a good laugh. This information helps form your content strategy.
- Learn the Voice
The other half of the content strategy equation is the famous “brand voice.” Deciding what the brand voice “should be” is a different story, but the key point when you’re introduced to a new social account is to find out what the voice is and stick to it. Some social accounts are edgy and fun (which I recommend for the social space), but others are zeroed in on business and customer service. My snowplow client is a healthy mix of both. Content and tone is mostly straightforward, but the aforementioned blue-collar male audience doesn’t mind a funny photo every once in a while.
- Immerse Yourself
If you can, get some first-hand experience with the product, or take a tour of the factory. For some products, that won’t be possible, but if it’s in the cards, there’s nothing that helps you learn faster than real-world experience. Recently, I had the chance to tour the snowplow company’s manufacturing facility. Aside from providing photo opportunities and content ideas, it gave me a better understanding of the company as a whole and how it functions. That’s crucial when representing the brand in social media.
- Don’t Hesitate to Ask
This final step is a twofer. Firstly, don’t be afraid to ask the client for clarification on a product feature or a customer question. Don’t badger them with every little thought – just be sure to do your homework. However, asking ahead of time is a lot better than posting inaccurate information or misleading a customer. Secondly, don’t hesitate to ask the fans what they want. Too many people feel social media needs to be an elaborate cat-and-mouse game between brands and fans. Sometimes it can be as simple as asking a question. Crowdsourcing content is also a great way to involve the fan base and get fresh, original ideas.
Even after a few months of representing this particular brand, I don’t know all the customer stories, and I certainly don’t know all there is to know about snowplows. I’m far from it. The hard working people at the snowplow factory have forgotten more about plows than I’ll ever know. The point is to always keep learning, researching and trying things to figure out how best to represent the brand. At EPIC Creative, our social business has grown substantially in the last few years, thanks in no small part to our ability to learn a brand’s industry, finely-tune its voice and capitalize on opportunities to reach people in the social space. We know that portraying the brand in an accurate, engaging way is the name of the game, and knowing as much as possible makes the “game” a lot easier to play. Learning the ropes won’t happen over night, but you should make an effort to get closer each and every day.