As social media madness continues to progress, the phenomenon has acquired a bit of a reputation. Companies operating in highly regulated industries like the energy industry often perceive social media as more of a risk than a strategic asset, with its dynamic and fluid nature seeming like more of a legal or PR nightmare waiting to happen. However, energy companies need not fear. Like most presumed reputations, not all the assumptions are exactly accurate, and with a thorough strategic plan, companies can harness the power of social media to attract, compel and have conversations with their audience.
Understanding social media and its challenges is essential to conducting yourself appropriately and not wasting valuable time and resources. Read on to ensure you don’t fall victim to some of the most common social media fallacies.
1 – It is not free. Yes, the download and sign-up are free, but that’s where the gravy train ends. In order to use social media properly and for the best return on any investment you will need to devote something integral into it – some time. No one ever got into shape with a gym membership by not showing up to put in the work. You will get out what you put in.
And as we all know, time equals money. Businesses which think they can just sign up, post a cookie-cutter post once in a while and expect miracles to happen are bound to be faced with a social media-tinged reality check when they realize their number of likes and followers are consistently staying in the single digits. Each social media platform has best practices associated with it, and it is important to familiarize yourself with them before embarking on your social media mission. Posting spam to Facebook, not interacting with other users consistently on Twitter, posting the same pictures of you equipment working on Linkedin simply due to a shortage on time, are all social media faux-pas that businesses should tenaciously steer clear of.
2 – It is not just a marketing and advertising tool. Social media is a method of communication, a tool which enables us to connect with humans from all walks of life, humans whom business giants would have previously not been able to reach directly on such a large, yet still intimate scale. Human connection is a breeding ground for loyalty—the holy grail of branding. Human beings want to be acknowledged, validated and seen. Social media is a bridge between your business and its customers, and it’s not a second or third-degree connection, it’s a direct overpass. GoPro, a wildly successful manufacturer of action cameras, is an example of using social media to build connections with its customers, and thus, brand loyalty. By using the photo-sharing app Instagram, GoPro shares daily pictures with its 9.7 million followers, submitted to it by consumers who have taken their photo with the GoPro camera. This user-generated content is completely free for GoPro, allows it to recognize and celebrate individual customers, while still promoting its business and product in an authentic manner.
3 – Contrary to popular belief, your business should not utilize any and all social media platforms available. There are currently dozens of social media apps offered to businesses, but social media is another case of quality versus quantity. When writing the social media strategy for your business, decide which platforms or apps are the most in line with what products or services you are offering. For example, a landscaping company may decide to target Instagram and Houzz (an online community which shares architecture, interior design and decorating, landscape design and home improvement) as these apps will allow the company to share photos of their work. Twitter, which is based on short, 140 character messages, is likely not a medium the landscaping company should focus it’s time, efforts, and money on, and instead stick to apps which are comprised of more visual content.
4 – You’re using Twitter, Facebook is your friend, and you even have Instagram and Linkedin running somewhat smoothly – shouldn’t you be good to go? Unfortunately, you will likely never be completely free to rest on your laurels. Social media is constantly evolving and spawning new, unique platforms, primed for businesses to realize their potential power. In addition to the above social media platforms, energy companies will also want to use platforms that are focused on their specific target audience. In Canada, in particular, EnergyNow.ca is one of those platforms that not only delivers energy industry news, data and events on a daily basis, but their platform also strategically markets the products and services of energy companies as well…very effectively.
Currently, the mobile app Snapchat is cited as being the fastest growing social media platform, with over 100 million active users, and increasing at a rate of 8 per cent, while other platforms have remained stagnant, such as Twitter, which has not grown in number of users since 2014, according to a survey from Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. If you, like many, are lost on how to effectively use the app, which allows users to share photos and videos which can either “self-destruct” after ten seconds or be pinned to their “story”, which disappears after 24 hours, simply do your research. Keeping up to date on the social media trends and emerging technologies will allow your business to get an edge on the new platforms and with that, create a link to the growing audience of millennials, if that’s who you’re targeting.
The bottom line is that social media has taken on this fluffy reputation, a reputation which precedes it as being easy to manage and needing little time or effort in order to maintain. Of course, you could treat your business’s social channels with those kind of kid-gloves, or you could recognize that these platforms are a direct link to your customer that should be strategically handled with the utmost professionalism and care. As an energy company, you need not be afraid. By understanding common misconceptions and taking advantage of social media, you can successfully take advantage of opportunities and possibilities that other channels cannot offer.