Socially acceptable behaviour

Anne Wickham, 23 August 2013
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I have a dear friend whose personal mantra is “If you can, you must!”. I do not believe this is the case with social media. Social media can be fantastic, opening doors and markets and creating the kinds of relationships marketers have until now only dreamed of, but only if your approach is well planned and resourced, and executed in concert with your broader business and communication strategies.

Done poorly, social media is a sure fire way to make your organisation look uneducated, irritating, cheap, awkward, self-absorbed or downright incompetent. Sending out rubbish via social media is worse – far worse – than not being involved in social media at all. So given that social media is all about having conversations, how do you make sure you’re not just talking rubbish? Here are five questions to ask:

1 Why are we doing this?

If you don’t know the purpose of your social media engagement stop right now. You must also be realistic about what can be achieved by social media alone. For example, if your business goal is to increase brand loyalty, then you’ll need to do a whole lot more than just run a competition that requires people to “like” you on Facebook. My kids will eat pumpkin if I bribe them but they’ll never have anything nice to say about it.

2 Is this engagement relevant, timely and tailored to our customers and audiences?

Would you like to receive an email from your bank, insurer, or supermarket saying “Happy Monday!”? This has no place in social media either. Likewise, no one wants a torrent of technical information, or feeds of random content.

3 Does this reflect our brand?

Social media is as much about creating and reinforcing impressions as it is about sharing information. Poor spelling and grammar is rife in social media and it’s not a good look. Every social media post should clear the same quality hurdles as a direct mail piece. For example, ‘authentic’ photos are fine, but dodgy images that look like there was no one at your event or random shots of PR team members are of no interest to your customers.

4 Do we really want to know what people think of us?

Make no mistake – you cannot control what other people say about you. If you want them to say nice things then you need to deliver excellent products, services, experiences and have unscrupulous business practices. Then your reputation will virtually take care of itself. In addition, when you get negative feedback via social media, you must have processes in place that respond appropriately and the courage to act on big, and brewing issues quickly.

5 What are we really saying?

The best way to see whether an organisation is social media savvy is by taking a look at what they’ve put out across different mediums over the past few months. What impressions do you form based on their content as a whole? Are they are a thought leader? Are they interesting? Are they cool, or mysterious or quirky? Or just all over the shop? My take out? I reckon that most senior executives understand social media, but they see so much rubbish that the downside for their brand and reputation is too hard to get past.

Business communication via social media must always have something in it for the punters as well as your business. It’s not all about you. If you want to get your CEO over the line, build the business case, start small and be smart.

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