5 ways hiding your social presence hurts you

Being on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites doesn’t help if customers can’t find you.

It’s 2011. Brands (or their representatives) are blogging, they’re tweeting, they’re Facebooking, they’re Foursquaring—in short, they’re joining the party. All signs point to the fact that they “get” it.

They understand the place social media has in their marketing efforts and the importance of giving customers the content they want, when and where they want it. And that’s great. Or you think it is until you hear that 56 percent of Fortune 50s are still hiding their social media activity.

What gives?

Over at Ad Age, B.L. Ochman shares some rather disheartening statistics about how forthcoming big brands are (or aren’t) with their social media involvement. It looks something like this:

  • 44 percent of Fortune 50 companies display homepage social media links
  • 40 percent display a Twitter icon
  • 30 percent display Facebook icons
  • 4 percent display blog links

I’ve got to say, it feels a little like they’re deliberately hiding from us. As much fun as it is to pick on big brands (mostly because they deserve it), they’re not alone. We’re often being introduced to small and mid-size businesses that make the same mistake. They dedicate resources to social media and then banish these accounts to their inside pages (if at all) so you need a master’s degree in Internet Stalking to find them.

I understand the fear, but it has to stop. Below are five reasons you must stop hiding your social media accounts today.

1. Your fear is not a shield

Hey, I get it. There’s a huge difference between starting a blog and actually telling people you’ve started a blog. They might read it! It invites people to join the conversation. It brings more eyes to what you’re doing, more pressure to make it great, and it opens up more of an opportunity for someone to tell you you’re doing it wrong and to call you a flying idiot. But you need to get over that. As we talked about here once before, ignoring social media makes you mute, not invisible.

If you’re lucky, people are talking about you anyway. By engaging in the conversation and telling people you’re engaging, it gives you a place to house conversations and a place for them to get to know you better. You’ve already decided this is important, or you wouldn’t have entered social media in the first place. So stop being shy, and introduce yourself to your new friends.

2. You can’t leverage a bridge you haven’t built

A lot of bloggers and social media experts spend time talking about the value behind social media. How it’s one of the fastest-growing tools to generate leads, that it rocks for customer support, that it can pull you out of a disaster—but it can only do those things if you’ve built it up first.

Your Twitter account can only benefit your company if customers know they should be following you for updates, promotions and important news. In order for these tools to work, people need to be tuned into them. That starts with your making the tools as prominent on your site as you can and yelling from the rooftops that they exist.

3. Customers want to be in control

More than ever, customers want to engage with your brand on their terms. Not everyone wants to make time to visit your website every day. If you’re being forward thinking enough to give them other options, make sure they know they exist. Let them know they can get your blog posts via RSS, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Let them know you house discussions on LinkedIn or that that’s where they can go when you’re hiring. By highlighting your social media accounts, you give customers tools they need to interact with you on their terms. People like that. Don’t hide it.

4. Showing us all your cards builds trust

When I land on the Petco site and I see immediate links to connect with the company on Twitter, Facebook and their blog—I trust them more. I trust that this isn’t a faceless corporate behemoth and that, if I have a problem with my order, I’ll be able to get in touch with someone who cares about me and I won’t be routed through 18 different channels until I end up pulling my hair out.

It also helps me to become more familiar with the brand and see that their messaging is the same, regardless of the platform. It shows that they’re confident in what they’re doing and they’re willing to show off their social media face. It tells me that they care more about me than their shareholders or legal department do. All of these things help to build my trust level with their brand. None of this would be possible if they were hiding the links to these accounts.

5. You help your own search engine optimization

My boss would smack me if I didn’t at least pretend to care that by building up these social media accounts you improve your rank in the search engines, helping you assert more dominance and to control what’s ranking for your brand. By linking your accounts from your homepage (and from one another) you make them all stronger. You may not care much about this right now, but you may the next time an unflattering news article makes its way up the ranks and you have nothing with which to counter it.

If you’re engaging in social media, you’re doing it because you know it’s important. So stop thinking of these accounts like red-headed stepchildren, and start showing them off.

What does it mean to stop hiding your brand in social media? It means:

  • Linking your social media accounts from your homepage and from other prominent places on your website.
  • Including links to your social media accounts from email newsletters.
  • Displaying your latest blog posts from your homepage.
  • Putting your Twitter handle and Facebook URL on your business card and other promotional materials.
  • Cross-promote your accounts whenever it makes sense.

Your customers are looking for these accounts. Put them front and center.

Lisa Barone is the Chief Branding Officer of Outspoken Media. She’s also very active on Twitter, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

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