Identify the message goal
It is counterproductive to create social media messages that do not have a specific goal. Furthermore, social media message goals should reflect the organization’s overall mission. Message goals can include increasing brand awareness, creating a favorable perception of an organization, and convincing the audience to buy a product. The goal should be clearly articulated in the content. Also, select the social media platform that would be the most effective in accomplishing the message goal. Each social media tool has specific characteristics and audiences, which will affect whether the message goals are achieved.
Identify the target audience
Similar to public relations writing, social media messages need to be targeted. After identifying the key audience, examine what they’re talking about: their interests, attitudes, and beliefs. Social media content should reflect audience analysis research findings. As you tailor the content of the message to this audience, do not exaggerate attempts to be interesting or relevant. Because social media messages are audience centered, they’re not necessarily grounded in what you personally think is appealing.
The lack of attention to audience analysis can have serious consequences. One example is IHOP’s Twitter controversy in 2015. In an attempt to reach a young audience and produce attention-grabbing content, IHOP tweeted about its pancakes, making a provocative comment that compared them to a woman with small breasts: “Flat but has a GREAT personality.” Audiences quickly reacted with outrage, causing the company to issue an apology.
A more recent example can be found in the case of social media influencer, Logan Paul, who was the center of a public outcry in response to a video he posted while on a trip to Japan. Paul specifically filmed his visit to Aokigahara, a forest and location known for its high suicide rates. The video appeared to show the body of a deceased individual. He posted the video on his YouTube channel and clips of it later surfaced on Twitter, gaining more than 100,000 retweets and a swift negative response from the public. Although Paul apologized for the insensitive nature of the video and temporarily suspended his vlog, the negative impact of this crisis on his reputation largely remained. Some companies even pulled their advertisements from his YouTube Channel.
These mishaps demonstrate the need for careful message and audience analysis. They also reinforce the point that although you may react favorably to a message, your target audience may not.
Identify the organization’s social media approach
Communication choices should reflect organizational strategies. Wilson et al. (2011) identified four general ways in which companies use social media. They are determined by the “company’s tolerance for uncertain outcomes and the level of results sought” (para. 2).
The “predictive practitioner” approach uses caution when sending out social media messages. Instead of launching a social media strategy that involves all departments in a company, only a specific department (example: marketing or human resources) uses its social media platforms. This allows more control of social media messaging and guarantees some level of certainty in accomplishing the stated objectives.
The “creative experimenter” approach accepts uncertainty and deploys small social media “experiments” to learn and improve overall business functions. Sometimes, businesses will take to Facebook or Twitter to receive feedback on products or business practices from internal (example: employees) or external (example: customers) audiences. The overall goal is to listen and learn from interactions; therefore, unpredictable results are accepted.
The “social media champion” approach takes strategies to a more advanced level. A designated team is in charge of the organization’s overall social media presence. The team also creates an official social media policy and guidelines for the organization. Larger social media projects typically use this strategy. Unlike the predictive practitioner strategy, this approach does not confine social media use to a particular department and considers social media messages across various functions.
The “social media transformer” strategy targets both internal and external audiences by launching large-scale projects that involve multiple departments. As with the social media champion approach, a team is devoted to planning, creating, and launching the organization’s social media projects. However, these projects are usually larger and more advanced than those using the social media champion approach. This strategy specifically considers how social media can influence business strategy, brand, and culture.
Organizations can use multiple approaches when designing a social media message. What is important is that they carefully consider their approach before posting any content to social media platforms.