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I attended Socialbakers' Engage London 2014 conference and heard Sam Wilson, content strategy and social media head at Woolworths in South Africa, give some sage advice on social media management with a small team.

Sam's small team of four predicates a need for teamwork and common sense decision making.

Here are some of the takeaways offering a reminder that good staff working on sound principles can make for an effective social presence.

Engagement can be fun and keep sentiment positive in this customer care channel

Sam gave a few examples of simple tactics to keep the mood light.

Unfinished sentences are great for...

...engagement. Yes, they can be cheesy, but they are unmatched for generating a response.

See below which was posted around the launch of the Flavour Society, a monthly journey through different tastes and smells.

woolworths facebook question for engagement

#badpunwednesday

Fans are invited to take part and the best (worst) is mocked up with a product from one of Woolworths' ranges.

This is fun and generates interest in a product, as you can see in the comments below.

woolworths SA  - bad pun wednesday

Sam's nine lessons to learn on social

1. A brand isn't a person - deal with it.

First person pronouns need to be avoided. No matter what message the brand is trying to get across, it can't be anthropomorphised.

2. The brand is always Goliath; the consumer, David.

Another thing to just accept. The big corporate will always be seen as such, and this needs to inform a realistic approach to social management.

3. Speed is everything.

Whilst Woolworths knows it can improve, as social care is currently only Monday to Friday, nine to five, it is aware speed makes a difference. Enquiries can be handed over to the wider customer care team where appropriate.

Getting a reply out to a customer, even if only 'I'll get back to you on that', is important.

4. One release then split into chunks.

Part of Sam's job is to look through wider content and press releases, highlighting 140 character tranches that can be used in chunks on social media.

5. Use your influencer network.

If influencers are associated with your brand, make sure you use them for greater sharability or to increase reach.

6. Don't feed the trolls or lose your cool.

A common rejoinder for social media managers, but an important one.

7. Be thorough and transparent.

Whilst speed is important, rushing and not fact checking or proofing will make things worse.

8. You don't own the conversation just because you started it.

If you want your audience to talk about handbags, so you ask them about handbags, and they start talking about shoes, you can't say 'sooo, back to handbags'.

You must be prepared to give up control.

9. Be respectful.

Dealing with the passing of Nelson Mandela is a good case in point. In the time leading up to Mandela's death, Woolworth's had been planning an unrelated ad campaign with a choir signing James Brown's 'I Feel Good' within a Woolworths store.

Upon the death of Mandela, this was obviously not going to be appropriate. The company didn't want to get too involved with this news event, as it could appear insincere. However, ultimately though Woolworths isn't a person, it is made up of people and those people thought something should be done to commemorate Mandela. So the video was changed to feature a song from Mandela's tribe.

The result was a popular video with no negative sentiment from Woolworths' audience. The website and social profiles also showed a black banner for Mandiba, and demonstrated that a brand can be respectful without crossing the line into exploitation.

Social and content must be integrated

The social team sits with the content team.

Social feedback on broader trends can be delivered to Woolworths buyers if appropriate, to change the product mix accordingly.

Senior management

Social earns its stripes when dealing with reputational issues. It at this point that senior management truly realise the power of the channel.

Sam said "I wish marketers would have to prove the value of billboards in the street, because to me that's just as difficult or easy as proving the value of social."

Ben Davis

Published 2 May, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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