Sinking Your Teeth Into Twitter and Facebook

Aug 11, 2009 9:42 PM  By

You’ve got your company on Twitter, you set up a Facebook page, and think you’re reaching your customers in a whole new way.

But do you really know what you’re doing with social media? Or are you just on Twitter and doing Facebook because the boss told you to do it because the competition is doing it?

“You really need to have some sort of goal in mind, other than the CEO expecting you to have an online presence,” Lou Weiss, chief marketing officer of The Vitamin Shoppe, said last week during a session at eTail 2009 in Baltimore.

If you’ve yet to embrace social media, that’s okay; Weiss said there’s no reason to go rushing in.

Weiss said a great way to start off is to go in as a consumer. Go ahead and create Facebook and Twitter accounts and get a feel for how a consumer uses those platforms. Become friends with merchants on Facebook and follow them on Twitter and get an idea what they are doing in those spaces.

“You really need to understand that Facebook is distinct from Twitter,” Weiss said. “You’re not going to communicate with customers in Facebook the same way you’re going to on Twitter.”

Take Facebook, for example. Weiss asked the attendees if they have that one friend who posts photos of his or her dog every day. The friend that makes you cringe every morning when you check your news feed because you know it’s going to be loaded with dog pictures.

You don’t want your company to be that dog-picture poster, Weiss said. So pacing how often you post to your page is key.

“I think even the most passionate fans out there don’t want to hear from me every day on Facebook,” Weiss said.

Once you figure out the intricacies of the social media platforms, you need a plan. What is the goal of your Facebook page? How are you going to use Twitter to interact with your customers?

For example, is your Facebook page going to be a place your customers go to learn about your products and services, or will you use Twitter to distribute coupon codes?

And are you ready to hear back from your customers? Because that is what consumers will do.

“If you give your customer a megaphone, they will use it to shout at you – in public,” warned Weiss. “If you’re going to be squeamish about having your customers yell at you publicly, then social media is not for you.”

That means you need to make sure that whoever is handling your social media presence knows how to handle people in a professional way, even if it means seeking coworkers for advice before any knee-jerk reactions.

Such was the case with a post to Vitamin Shoppe’s Facebook page. The poster complained about Vitamin Shoppe’s promotion of a product that contained corn syrup, and said he was going to sue the merchant for offering something that may be part of the cause of childhood obesity.

After a team meeting, Weiss said they the Merchant was able to reply, and not worry about pulling product from its shelves.

“We let the poster know that some customers prefer the product that contains corn syrup,” Weiss said. “And that there were like products that did not contain corn syrup.”