Lucas Coe Managing Director for PR99. We're an Integrated PR agency just north of Birmingham, we service national and international brands dealing with their PR. We try to take a modern approach to PR, so we not only deal with editorials and getting press coverage for our clients, but we also manage their digital presence, and social media is a big part of that.
How and why did you get started in social media?
Essentially, it's because you can't manage a brand's reputation without being on social media now. It's impossible to do that, so our approach is very much to embrace social media on behalf of the brands we represent and try and establish a tangible relationship between people and the brand itself. And social media's the fastest way to do that.
What do you believe the benefits of using social media for business?
Really it depends on how you view it. We view it as a way of establishing brand loyalty, instead of selling things to people constantly. We take a very long term approach to social media, so we tell our clients not to think about selling something tomorrow on social media, but think of winning over a person who's loyal to your brand for the next ten years. If you manage to share the right content and information, it's a very powerful way to make a brand important in a person's life.
What do you think are common mistakes business owners make when building brand awareness on social media?
I think one of two things. Not having a presence at all, just tossing something up every couple of days that nobody tends to read, that's quite common. But the other big mistake for those that get involved with social media is expecting business-changing results overnight. Social media takes a long time to get right. If you're starting and want to build an audience through social media, you need to stick with it through the long term. So a big mistake most business owners can make is expecting to see incredible results within a couple of weeks, when you need to be at it for months before you get anything meaningful from it.
What qualities do you think social media managers should have?
They've just got to be good with people. That's the main criteria, because what you need to do in social media is, instead of just selling something all the time, you need to actually talk and start conversations with customers or whoever you're wanting to interact with. And I think that along with that intuition of how to deal with people, they need to be able to write well. They need to have a good standard of English and really understand the values of the brand they're working for. That's what we look for in social media managers.
How do Business owners know if their social media campaign is working?
That depends entirely on the client and on what type of brand they're working for. For instance, if it's a big corporate blue chip company, their social media account might be entirely dedicated to dealing with inquiries or complaints. You take airlines or housing companies, that's what their feed is, essentially just answering customers' questions. Whereas if you're a smaller brand it might just be trying to generate some interest in the industry about a certain product or service. So really the metrics of success depend on what type of brand you're servicing, so it's important to agree on that up front with the client you're working with and clarify what the goals are and who they're trying to reach.
How do you see social media evolving over the next 5 years …what do you hope to see?
I think paid social media is going to be massive. In fact, it's kind of coming into the conversation now really. We allocate budgets for paid Facebook advertising and some sponsored tweets. That's becoming a powerful way to talk to new or prospective customers for brands, so that's going to be huge. So is video. We try to make sure that the clients we work with are tapping into emerging social networks like Instagram, Vine, that sort of thing. If they've got visual products that they're selling, those types of platform are really perfect for them.
If you could share one best practice about using social media to grow a business, what would it be?
Don't try to sell too much. I think that's the mistake that too many small to medium sized businesses make, they just want to sell to people with a link. Just be genuine and talk to people, be willing to share information, and realize that it takes some time for people to become loyal to a brand. Social media is really the quickest way to build a customer base if you do it properly. It's all about talking and the conversation, and that's the approach business owners need to take.