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When you think of “social media”, what are the first words that come to mind?

Facebook?

Twitter?

Instagram?

…Cat videos? All would be, of course, correct.

The issue with this is that if you’re a business owner, you can’t use social media in the way that, say, an employee might use it. You can’t post controversial content without first considering if it will hurt your business. Content goes viral fairly quickly these days – you can’t risk your livelihood simply because you think President Trump is a doofus or a brilliant man (both sides will get you flak from those who are a little more vocal about the man in the Oval Office).

Using social media for business-minded people takes on more of a sophisticated role, one that can be used to promote one’s departmental mission. If you’re the owner, it’s promoting all aspects of your business. If you’re the head of marketing, then it’s promoting the company’s products and services. Sales? Pay-Per-Click (PPC) and Google Ads are your best friend.

Social media marketing expands beyond the scope of the typical “9-5” business hours – your company’s brand has no walls, no time limit, and no definite control as to what people say about it behind closed doors. However, you do have the power over one thing: influencing and growing your social media following.

No matter your position at your company, your published words and content matter. For example, if you work as a barista at your local coffee shop and share a funny video of a five-year old ordering a latte (as if he needs it), that not only shares laughs among those who interacted with the post but it subconsciously promotes that company’s brand (and for the record, hilarious videos have the best response rate in terms of traffic conversions, because the mind associates pleasure with that brand).

That video might even go viral…so don’t post something you wouldn’t want your mother to see.

Statistics have shown that the majority of public opinion is shaped by social media, not just the quality of a brand. For instance, look at President Trump. Half of the Internet hates him, and the other half loves him. Those halves aren’t equal, however – it seems more people openly disagree with his policies, business decisions, and hairdo than those who support him (on the internet, that is). Albeit, humans get pretty stupid when they take all of their information from social media and puke it back out to whoever will listen, but it doesn’t deter the fact that this is where they form opinions.

This has enormous impact for you, if you’re a business owner. You cannot let yourself form opinions from Facebook and then regurgitate them back onto your network’s Newsfeed. Every action you take on social media now takes on the form of a business decision – even if you feel you’re just representing yourself, you’re really not. You ARE your business, and should therefore always act as such.

If you’re an employee of the company that you work for, heed this warning: do NOT post content that berates a coworker, your manager, the company, or even the industry you work in. It’s alright to express discontent, but I personally recommend staying away from negative content altogether. No one likes it, people will comment on it, and then someone might have to deal with it – which means you may no longer have a job, and have issues becoming employed again in your industry. It’s happened to countless, clueless employees who had a moment of mental density and anger and ended up flushing their careers down the social media toilet (and subsequently rage about it on Reddit).

In short, use social media responsibly, and to your benefit. Think of every word you type as a written investment in your future. Who knows – that next cat video could lead to a million-dollar deal for your business.