Today we are so connected by technology that location has a narrow effect on careers and business opportunities. An increasing number of people are working from wherever they want, freelancing, telecommuting, and Skyping in for business meetings that in the old school (aka pre-internet) days used to require a physical presence.
According to a 2015 Gallup poll, in the U.S. alone telecommuting has been on the rise since 1995, hitting an all-time high with 37% of U.S. workers telecommuting. This has affected the marketing industry more than any other, with marketing now incorporating so many online tools from SEO to social media to websites.
As blossoming with opportunity as all of this is, it poses new issues, one of the biggest being that people follow brands on social media to be more connected to and informed, but what if the social media manager isn’t physically there all the time, if ever. This is a common phenomenon with multi-location businesses; they have central marketing without the resources to have a dedicated person at each location.
How do we give followers, customers, raving fans and potential customers the best and most authentic social media experience without being present? Here are some tips for building an authentic and helpful presence wherever you may be located.
Don’t Focus on the Location, Focus on the Goal
Many large brands such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell don’t have a Twitter account or Facebook page for each and every location; there’s too many and no matter what the location is the goal is the same: sell people food. How do they sell people food? With content that entertains and informs. That content keeps them top-of-mind and in the conversation on a consistent basis.
The way they control their social media presence is by focusing on that overall goal, not the location. It allows them to build a larger following and harness that power for more engagement, better content and cohesive messaging across the locations.
To set social media goals, don’t go into it with the mindset that because everyone is doing it, you should too. Define exactly what you want to accomplish with a social media presence. Hint: driving immediate sales is not your goal. Sales will be the by-product of accomplishing other goals. Remember, social media is a platform with which people (consumers) absorb content. We don’t absorb content meant to sell us products and services. We soak in content that either entertains us, educates us or both. To set your own goals go to the drawing board and think:
- What about your business attracts people to it?
- Who are your ideal customers and what kinds of things are they entertained by?
- What can you teach them?
Provide the answers to those questions with great content and sales, customers, engagement and raving fans will follow.
Social media scheduling can seem like a great idea, but when you are not physically present at a business you have to be extra careful and aware of things going on in the world and most importantly around the business. One of the biggest examples of failing with planned social media happened the morning after the Batman movie shooting in Colorado, the National Rifle Association tweeted a “Good morning, shooters” message. The message went viral and the NRA underwent a lot of public humiliation and scrutiny. It was a lesson to anyone maintaining a brand page that you must pay attention.
So, maybe you aren’t the NRA and posting messages about politically charged material. You still have to pay attention to the local news, weather and happenings. If you are managing a physical location business and you make a post about what a nice day it is and it’s storming then your business looks uninformed and your social account loses its authenticity.
You can pay better attention by subscribing to Google News Alerts, Google Hot Trends, and any local publications. Make it a habit to follow local publications, not only can you stop something embarrassing from happening, but by paying attention you can also find a lot of inspiration and opportunities for partnerships.
Content Submission Contests
To really harness the power of local customers hold content submission contests. These contests get users engaged, increase your following and best of all gets great content to fill days of social posts with once you repurpose the submissions.
Users get personally vested in these contests and therefore share the content again when it’s repurposed. For example, Starbucks held a White Cup Contest where customers drew designs on a plain cup and submitted the customized art. The contest received more than 4,000 entries in three weeks. According to Statista, in 2015 there were 23,043 Starbucks locations around the world and only one social media account for Starbucks, so this social promotion benefitted all of them from a central location.
Even if you aren’t a worldwide brand you can do this on a smaller scale. Defender Resorts has 8 different resorts throughout Myrtle Beach, they ran a user generated content contest to get quotes and then turned the submissions into images that were later used for Facebook and Twitter posts. Though much smaller scale than Starbucks, it still generated more than 400 entries.
To run a content submission contest brainstorm something creative customers can easily submit that applies to your business’s overall goals. From favorite travel quotes, wellness tips, one-of-a-kind pieces of art, stories, memories, photos and more people are happy and excited to share things. Since they are putting skin in the game, engagement is typically higher if there is a contest buy-in. From a gift certificate to printing the winner (prize is bragging rights) make sure to give them some reason to participate.
There are a lot of ways to hold an online contest, most of which are legal UNLESS they have all three of the following elements; prize (something given away), chance (luck of the draw, AKA no skill or voting) and consideration (entrants providing something to the business holding the contest. If it has all three of those elements, it is a lottery and it is illegal.
So, for content submission contests you can offer a prize and consideration (the content the users are submitting) and choose the winner by any means other than a blind drawing. You can use voting, official judges or any other way that takes the chance out of the contest.
Thankfully if that feels overwhelming and you want to be certain you are operating within the law there are a lot of popular online contest platforms such as Rafflecopter, Giveaway Tool, Offerpop, Promosimple and Votigo.
Meet the Locals
While it might seem easy and cozy to manage social media accounts from the comfort of a central office, managers truly should get to the locations at least of one time to meet the locals, the people running the physical business and the location that it is in.
The employees running the business often have insight, details, and experience that you don’t have. They may not have the desire or skills to make it swoon-worthy social media content, but by learning and experiencing what they have you can combine their knowledge with yours to create the best possible content.
Remember, they are the experts or at least the ones physically there and by having a strong relationship with them they are more likely to help provide you with news, content, photos and insider insight.
Your fresh eyes on the location may inspire a whole slew of content, photos, and contests that weren’t there before. It just makes sense that experiencing every aspect of what you are creating content for leads to better, stronger, more appealing content. That’s what the world wants.
Work the Platform
As stated earlier you can combine some social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest since they are overarching platforms. For other platforms which are location based such as Periscope, Foursquare, and Snapchat you need to work that platform differently.
Unfortunately, sometimes there is no way to get around being fully present on some of these platforms when it knows you aren’t present. In that case, it helps to train the staff at that location to help get involved. If you have a tech-savvy worker at the location, work with them to send out local snapchats or Periscope a live event. If that’s too much of a reach, local staff can at least be trained to snap photos and send them to the social media manager so there’s ongoing, local content coming from that specific location.
Back to Basics
We may have changed the way that we consume content, but the reasons we soak it in like an unlimited sponge has not. If you are stretching for social media content and want to appear present, try taking a stroll through Journalism 101, AKA what makes news “newsworthy.” The same thing that sells shiny magazines and used to sell newspapers is the gasoline to fuel great social media content. Journalism students are taught that there are seven elements to newsworthy content.
Is it relevant to something happening in real-time such as a holiday?
Is it nearby? For example a football player in the Super Bowl is from your small town. That’s the piece of the story people in close proximity to that town will identify with and be interested in.
How does this affect people? People are selfish and don’t care (or have the time to care) unless they can see exactly how this news impacts their life. Example: when Britain made their Brexit, many stories in the U.S. focused on how it affected the U.S., not Britain.
Is it weird, strange or interesting because it’s so unique? This guy filled a bathtub with Coca-Cola and Mentos and it went viral just for being rare and weird.
There either is fighting (like Taylor Swift and Kanye) or it has the potential to cause conflict, such as commenting on politically charged issues. Utilizing posts with content that can cause a conflict is a sure fire way to get engagement from people debating.
There’s certain topics that naturally peak our interest. Puppies, kittens, hilarious memes, relationships, etc naturally get our attention. Examine your content and think “would this interest me personally if I came across it or my friends?”
Anyone well-known or having any importance including politicians, celebrities, athletes or anyone else that large numbers of people can instantly recognize.
Journalists subscribe to the belief that a story should have at least 2-3 of these elements in order for it to be worth writing.
Believe the same thing about your social media content, especially the proximity element. If there’s something going on near one of your locations such as an event, a breaking story, a local celebrity make sure to join that conversation. Post about it. Follow it. Comment on it. Be present – digitally speaking.
Create an Editorial Calendar
It can be easy to forget about a location when you aren’t there. We, naturally, tend to get sucked into our own world and need reminders. Having a schedule of social media content is essential to appearing present when you aren’t. Take a look at Jay Baer’s tips on building and maintaining a successful social media calendar.
Target $$$ In The Game
If you are maintaining either a Facebook page for each location because they are different enough to have separate ones or a central page, plan your content with your advertising spending to maximize results.
According to an April 2015 article in TechCrunch, there are 40 million active Facebook business pages, but only 2 million of these pay for advertising. That leaves a large space for getting ahead of the competition for minimal amounts of money.
You can get the best use out of minimal investment by creating a location based post, that mentions the location in the headline so that it has the proximity element, then pay a few dollars to make sure the post is shown only to customers in that location.
To do this on Facebook, create a post that you make sure has a link (so it creates a larger headline and leads people to your website) and a photo (so it grabs attention). Once you create the post, boost it and target it specifically to the location in which it mentions.
Those specific people will be more vested in and interested in the content because it applies to where they are located. In today’s world where we read articles about new gyms, restaurants and stores opening that are located 2,000 miles away in a big city it’s refreshing when people see something incredibly local in their newsfeed.
Presence Can Be Knowledge, Not Physicality
At the end of the day, yes you can manage social media from anywhere in the world. Having a successful presence is rooted in sharing valuable knowledge and appealing content, not location. By putting in the time, research, and relationships to stay knowledgeable you’ll be able to successfully manage your brand’s social media presence with ease no matter how many locations you may have.