Social media may arguably be one of the greatest—and the most uncontrolled—advances to ever hit the communications industry. On one hand, it creates an entirely new way to interact in real time with individual consumers. On the other, it presents an opportunity for information to spiral out of control. However, it would be a mistake to avoid social media simply due to fears of spreading the wrong type of information. It would also be a mistake to approach a brand’s social networking efforts without a clear understanding of online interactions and how to manage them.
In some cases, social interaction can result in great organic buzz from brand loyalists, such as this witty consumer-made Audi ad following the recent Olympic opening ceremony. However, it can also result in negative chatter that a company is not prepared for, as some big companies have realized when their Olympic hashtags were hijacked by brand critics. Companies must be aware that the social media world is usually operating on Murphy’s Law, and they should learn to expect the unexpected.
Brainstorm potential reactions. When operating in social media, you know that, at some point, someone is going to say something less than positive, so prepare for that in advance. This can begin with a company deciding how much “stomach” it has for off-message buzz and then simply developing a general company-approved architecture for responding or managing social media. It will be invaluable to have a prepared game plan when the internet starts gaining speed, so you can know when to respond quickly and when to let the internet settle back down on its own.
Interact with consumers regularly. If a brand is rarely active on social media, consumers will notice. It is more conspicuous to have an inactive page than to have none at all. More importantly, it will draw attention to any negative event that occurs in the social realm because there is no established social clout for the brand. Also keep in mind that the social media world is crowded, so make your interactions exciting. Avoid repeating posts and make an effort to interact with consumers (positive and negative) regularly.
Confront negative comments (over a legitimate concern). If Twitter is suddenly flooded with tweets to one specific brand over a justifiable issue, silence by the brand is only an affirmation that the comments are correct. Don’t be afraid to apologize—in fact, truthful, sincere apologies when an organization falters are generally the best option. This takes us back to the importance of a prepared game plan. A company should reply to concerns in a diplomatic, and not defensive, manner. Of course, there are people who may try to start unfounded negative chatter about a specific brand. In such cases, no response is likely the best response as long as the brand closely monitors the situation to ensure it doesn’t gain traction.
Social media can really help a brand or organization build buzz, but, just as with traditional media relations efforts, engaging in social media means an organization has to relinquish some of its control over the message, which is why it’s so important to have a plan for sharing and responding to content on Facebook, Twitter, or even the company website.
At Pollock Communications, we specialize in building awareness for food, health and wellness clients and we know that maintaining strong social and traditional media relationships is crucial to delivering stellar results for our clients. For more information on how we can help build your social media strategy, contact us.