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Some people have a misunderstanding about what is seen and heard through social media. It's happening on two major fronts: personal communications and business communications. Both are completely separate, but the fact that the same basic premise popped up from both angles made picking out this blog topic a no-brainer.
I was talking to a family member who made a surprising statement. "I wish [redacted] was following me on Twitter so I could tell him how I feel about [redacted]."
Now, those of us who use social media often realize the error in this statement. Twitter allows for communication with anyone. Facebook and Google+ can allow for communication with anyone who has their settings open to receive communication from strangers. Many of us have had conversations on social media with celebrities and businesses that weren't following us, but who were open to receiving and responding to these communications.
They don't have to follow you to be listening. More importantly, just because they are following you doesn't mean that they're listening. It's a minor point but we have to get that out of the way before moving on to the business reason for this post...
The second instance of misunderstanding came on the same day. I was talking to a potential client who said that they're not worried too much that their Facebook and Twitter accounts hadn't been updated in a couple of months. "We only have a few followers, anyway. It's not like anyone can see these pages."
I had her show me her website analytics. They, like many websites, had links at the bottom of their homepage to their social profiles. The number of clicks from the page to the social profiles wasn't large, but I pointed out that the people doing the clicking were potential customers. Why would they want potential customers to see a lack of efficiency and follow through? Some people hold Facebook and Twitter as important communication tools and when a business demonstrates a lack of interest in social media, it can speak poorly about the company's willingness to listen to and communicate with their customers.
She quickly understood the point and declared that she would have the links removed immediately.
I literally "facepalmed".
We went to Google and looked up the business by name. Facebook was ranked #3. Twitter was #7. She started frowning.
If you're going to have a social media presence, you must either keep it up to date or declare very clearly that you're not active on social media and offer an alternative method of contact. I've never seen it done before (I always push for option 1, of course) but I have heard of businesses leaving their top post as "This is our Facebook page, but we prefer talking to you directly. Please contact us at..."
It's not ideal, but it's better than letting your social presence be an embarrassment.
As social media continues to expand, understanding that your lack of involvement does not mean that your customers aren't looking at you is a must. When you stick your head in the sand, what are you presenting to people looking at you? Your tail end.