Social Media – how to make it work for you!

18th February, 2013

I recently wrote a blog about my lack of enthusiasm for social media, which prompted quite a few people asking me how I, someone that works as a communications professional, could possible by against it.  My response was that it was exactly because I work as a communications professional that I had my reservations, since, as I have said before, I am very cautious about the messages that our clients send out to the public and if there is no control over what is being said, then there is always potential for trouble.

If you have seen the English news recently, you will have heard about the damage that has been caused to a company called HMV – a very big, established UK company that has just gone under, but that is trying to be rescued.  When the receivers went in and made loads of people redundant, what did those people do?  Immediately start posting as many horrible things about HMV that they could come up with on all of their social media sites (including HMV’s own), with the result that the company may, now, collapse altogether.

Maybe it is due to HMV, maybe it is just that many of the bigger companies are starting to get worried anyway, but in the last two weeks we have had three different requests for proposals to manage clients’ social media sites, and, in particular, advise on crisis management.  So if you are not already thinking about how to deal with your own sites, here are a few tips on how to make it work for you, without causing a whole bunch of problems:

(a)    Treat your social media like you treat the rest of your marketing materials; as I have said before, you wouldn’t let just anyone draft your brochure and then send it to print without first checking it, so do the same with your Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in and other sites

(b)   Make sure that the messages that are put out on your sites are consistent with the messages that you are putting out elsewhere; have you followed anyone on Facebook recently and thought that they appear to be a completely different person to the one that you know (I know I have and if I had known, I might have thought twice about being their friend!)… would you want people thinking that about your service or product?

(c)    Be careful about the way the text is worded on Facebook or Twitter in particular – we recently reviewed a client’s Facebook site and saw that the social media manager had been posting a lot of questions – for example, ‘we have just brought out a new product – once you have tried it let us know what you think of it’ – now, to my mind that is asking for trouble…..and sure enough, in this particular case, after a few rave reviews along came one that rubbished it.    Better would have been to keep it simple and leave the invitation out!

(d)   Limit the number of people that can access your social media sites on your behalf and make sure that you guard the passwords and so on carefully (at HMV, just about anyone and everyone was able to get onto the company site and post a lot of damaging information).  Be careful, too, about who you ‘befriend’.

(e)   Monitor your sites on a daily (or more) basis, and be sure to have a methodology in place if something starts to kick off – i.e. a crisis management plan.

(f)     Consider adding a clause into your employment contracts that, for example, imposes a fine on the employee if they post something negative about your company (of course you can’t control what their friends say about you,  and it might be difficult to enforce, but at least it puts them on notice…..!).

Need I go on?  Social media is an amazing invention and something that everyone in marketing needs to know about and understand…. But, as with everything relating to marketing, treat with a bit of caution, and don’t let just anyone do it!