I hate to admit this, but I have seen the birth of many services in the last 20 years that I thought had no chance of making it. I could not at the time understand the utility of services such as short message services or picture sharing.
I realize now that “utility” was the wrong metric. The correct measure was emotion. I finally recognized the feeling that short messages gave me. It was that same secret thrill of passing notes back in high school. It was a feeling of inclusion that, in my opinion, is the emotional hook of social media. The service platforms make the pathways for the messages easy and accessible.
Emotion is the essence of marketing. When people resonate a product strongly with an emotion, you are building a powerful brand.
So what does this have to do social media?
Social media is a means to engage with your customers. It can build and strengthen customer relationships and get immediate feedback. Build the connection of the emotion, build the brand.
- Measure your brand value by following yourself on social media.
- Measure your competitors’ brands by following their activities (branding, market share, performance).
- Follow industry events, conferences.
- Follow campaign effectiveness and reach.
- Follow industry influencers and connect with their followers for more reach.
That is the “why” of social media.
The “what” is how are you managing it, especially in a crisis?
Social media ignored is social media out of control
One of the most famous cases of social media fail was back in late January 2013.
The problem was not a public crisis, at least not at first, but an internal crisis that went very public.
Entertainment giant HMV was downsizing and had that morning released 60 employees at the corporate headquarters. During the meeting and throughout the day, the intern in charge of social media tweeted out messages that probably wasn’t the intention of the company:
“We’re tweeting live from HR where we’re all being fired! Exciting!! #hmvXFactorFiring,”
Protecting social media, policy
The solution to this risk is to develop the proper policy to address and mitigate this internal risk in the same way you would protect corporate data and IT systems.
- Access control – In the same way you wouldn’t allow outsiders access to your local network, you need a central control to the access of your social media program. Single sign-on technologies give administrators simultaneous control of employees’ access to common systems and specialized systems such as social media accounts.
- Central control – Everyone is aware of the existence of phishing fraud. The most common example is when the fraudsters mimic a bank or other institution and attempt to acquire sensitive information, such as usernames and passwords. There are some cases when the brand identity is hijacked as a joke, a spoof, or through malicious intent.
But what about the confusion from well-meaning, but uncoordinated messages from several sources (departments, employees, user-groups, etc.) over many social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)?
The risk is the potential of an uncontrolled, confusing message that could damage the corporate image or the value of a specific brand.
The solution is to seek out an enterprise social media management system that will coordinate inputs and distribute through social media channels.
- Input approval layer – Another key safety measure is the final approval of messages. It is appropriate to delegate content generation to specialists such as in house bloggers. It is also useful to give a channel to all employees as there may be some fantastic ideas or insights for content.
But, the final approval for the content release should reside with a single person or two whose responsibility is to protect the brand and keep all messages on point and aligned.
- Confidentiality agreement – There should be, at least, a section in an employee handout that expresses the policy and expectation of non-disclosure and confidentiality. The people directly responsible for social media should have a more detailed document as they carry the highest level of responsibility.
- Response content policy – How do your employees respond to negative, abusive, or derogatory comments on social media?
If the negative comments are from an employee, you have a personnel issue that needs addressing. The policy should be to bring it to management’s attention.
If the comments are from customers, a positive and timely response is important. Direct contact if possible is an important first step, if possible. As it is social media, it is a chance for the company to display customer care and a responsive tone. There has to be a direct channel to convey the issue to customer service.
Regardless of the source, I definitely recommend that you avoid an aggressive, negative tone. This isn’t a prison movie where you have to prove your street cred by getting into a fight with the biggest guy on your first day in “the yard”. Negative criticism, whether deserved or not, is the hallmark of the Internet and has been since the days of dial-up modem and user bulletin boards (ask your grandfather what I mean).
Humor, an active response, and blocking social media trolls are your best measures for developing a positive social presence throughout all your social channels.
Social media is an important tool in the brand building and customer interaction. If you have to ask, it is a marketing function or your communications team, but it has lateral ties to customer services and IT for functional management.
Use an enterprise level social media management system to control content and user access. The management system will mitigate the internal risks of content control and hijacking of social media accounts.
You need develop a corporate social media policy to express expectations and responsibilities to the employees. The first line of defense of disgruntled employees will always be “I didn’t know, nobody told me that.”
A solid social media program will also be key to any corporate crisis. First, it will give the company direct access to the public to directly address a problem or accusation. If the problem is a “one day problem”, meaning the issue can be resolved in one day or one news cycle, it gives the company the chance to quickly give its message. Second, you can cycle the issue beyond the pubic view.
Additionally, positive social media releases can be used to push to lower in the time stream and beyond the view of casual readers that missed the original posting(s).
Why dwell on the past if the problem is solved?