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Perception vs. Reality in the World of Social Media

By John Patrick Lopez, Lopez Foods – As consumer appetites for information increases, this naturally translates to agriculture and the food we eat. Social media can help organizations, businesses or people communicate important information relating to industry. However, social media also can be your biggest headache if you’re not prepared to handle the consequences that can come along with it.

By John Patrick Lopez, Lopez Foods

As consumer appetites for information increases, this naturally translates to agriculture and the food we eat.

Social media can help organizations, businesses or people communicate important information relating to industry. However, social media also can be your biggest headache if you’re not prepared to handle the consequences that can come along with it.

I don’t profess to be a social media expert, but as I continue to watch how the mainstream media craves the next big story or headline, we all must be prepared to handle our own issues as they arise.

Social media can be your strongest ally or biggest foe, and the size of your organization, business or effort doesn’t matter. The world of social media is lightning fast, and you can find yourself drowning quickly.

Therefore, here are a few things to take into consideration when deciding how to navigate within this digital platform.

Tell your story yourself

Your message is paramount. What do you want people to know about your company or cause?

Be clear, honest and to the point. Most people don’t have time for long lengthy messages. They want to know who you are, what you do and what you stand for. And, if you don’t do this, someone else will do it for you — usually in a negative way, whether intentional or accidental.

That’s the beginning of perception superseding reality — and where you can find yourself having to go on the offensive if not careful.

Listen to your clients

We depend on consumers buying the products we produce or supporters giving financially to our causes. So when there is a complaint or when rumors start, we must be prepared.

Some people have a legitimate concern, while others simply need something to complain about. Be prepared to respond quickly via a sales team, customer service department or through someone with public relations experience.

You also must be mindful of when NOT to respond. The last thing you want to do is get caught up in an opinion battle.

Remember, your overall message is paramount, and there are many ways to get your point across. Many great messages get lost in the communication.

Consider your audience

Social media means many different things to many people. Some think it’s a single website on the Internet; others think it isthe Internet. Some think it is texting. And others think social media is sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Then, there are bloggers.

All of this means your message can get lost depending on your target demographic. Depending on what you’re selling, what your cause is or what you’re potentially responding to, connecting with your audience can be very complex.

How and where you communicate should depend on the age and gender of your target audience. Remember that as popular as Facebook is today, it is quickly becoming the site that “my parents use” and hence uncool.

Look to what’s next in communicating — such as TikTok and Snapchat — with younger age groups but not at the expense of ignoring your core audience.

Message connection and relevance

Once you successfully reach your audience, make sure your message correctly resonates with them. For instance, if your product or cause appeals to both baby boomers and millennials, ensure you’re communicating via the correct media streams.

Research has shown that 20-somethings are spending more and more time in front of digital screens (phones, laptops, tablets, etc.) while baby boomers traditionally respond to print, radio and TV.

Conducting focus groups to gauge the outreach and effectiveness of your messaging can be useful but expensive. Consider it an investment in helping your business grow.

The name of the game in using social media is exposure. Understand how it fits into your business plan. Some organizations need it to grow, others need it to sustain, and some need it to change course or fix problems. But, the bottom line is that we all use it and need it.

The core of how successful social media can be for you is trust. If you are trusted, consumers will come to you and interact freely. If you lose that trust, people stop visiting, which forces you to go to them and try to win them back.

Transparency, honesty and consistency should help you utilize social media more effectively by allowing you to stay focused on providing the products or services people want now and into the future.