We all know the power of social media. Its evolution has made it an essential and powerful tool for connection, news-gathering and engagement. You have a direct outlet to connect with customers, brand champions and prospects about everything from products and content to customer service. But while it’s an asset for your business, there can be challenges. Social media is nimble and has the ability to produce content at a moment’s notice. To succeed, your brand must be rooted in a solid strategy and execution to help you hone in on the overall purpose and definition of each social channel.
Defining your social media strategy will help to eliminate the “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach and avoid potential miscues that can create nightmares. But beyond strategy, every post should follow 5 Best Practices below to ensure the content you develop reflects positively on your brand and resonates with your audience. Use these basic, time-tested principles to foster a community of trust, accuracy and transparency and ensure your brand is on the right path.
1. Think twice before posting. Consider what could happen if a post becomes widely known and how that may reflect upon both the social community manager and your brand. Search engines can turn up posts years after they were created, and comments can be forwarded or copied. If you wouldn’t say it to a customer, co-worker, or member of the media, it’s probably something to avoid sharing with your online community, especially during heightened times of sensitivity. For example, last summer the American Rifleman posted a pro-gun tweet as the travesty in Colorado was unfolding. While the tweet was more than likely pre-scheduled, needless to say, it showed poor taste and caused a stir on Twitter. The tweet was later deleted from the account, but the damage had already been done. It’s important to be on top of current affairs and be ready to edit content at a moment’s notice.
On the positive side, there are many brands that get it right. While most of us aren’t flocking to major brand feeds during a tragedy, Coke’s response during the Boston tragedy this past spring was heartfelt and sincere. They didn’t continue to publish branded messages and were respectful to the events. It’s moments like these that remind us that there’s a human element to social media channels.
Ford’s global head of social media Scott Monty, may have given the best advice on how to manage your brand’s social media during a national tragedy.
2. Strive for accuracy. Get the facts straight before posting. Review all content for grammatical and spelling errors. This is especially important if posting on behalf of your brand in any capacity. Another brand made a severe blunder that could have been avoided during the July 2012 shooting tragedy in Aurora, Colo. Celeb Boutique sent out a promotional tweet with the #Aurora hashtag and didn’t research why it was trending.
The tweet came off as insensitive because of the tragedy. This could have been avoided by spending extra time upfront to do the research. Being accurate can help eliminate potential headaches on the backend. Some brands will link to relevant resources (e.g., The Red Cross), or craft posts to show support. Nike Running is a great example. As you can see from the message, it was contextual, supportive and inspirational.
3. Be respectful. Understand that content contributed to a social media platform could encourage comments or discussion of opposing ideas. Responses should be considered carefully in light of how they will reflect your brand’s voice.
On September 11th, many brands produced content that caused some controversy and have been viewed as distasteful and disrespectful. AT&T received the most coverage, trying to tie in product placement around a "never forget" message. They immediately responded to the post and issued an apology moments later. Due to the real-time requirements of social media, errors and miscues can occur. However, your brand should always address any errors with professionalism, and respect the opinions and reactions of others.
4. Remember your audience. Be aware that a presence in the social media world is, or easily can be, made available to the public at large. This includes prospective and existing customers, current colleagues and peers. Consider this fact before publishing to ensure the post will not alienate, harm or provoke any of these groups. Don't use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenities, or engage in any conduct that would not be acceptable in the workplace. You should also show proper consideration for individuals’ privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory (e.g., religion, politics).
The pasta maker, Barilla, recently suffered severe backlash because of their chairman’s comments about same-sex families. Detractors quickly turned to social media to voice their displeasure with the brand. Critics even created a hashtag (#BoycotBarilla) that quickly started trending worldwide. While apologies were issued through their Italian pages, their U.S. pages remained silent. Barillia missed an opportunity to help rectify the situation and opened the door for competitors to capitalize on the opportunity through content development.
5. If need be, say you’re sorry...quickly. As humans, we all make errors in judgment, and the examples above certainly won’t be the last. There’s a delicate balance between your brand’s identity online and how customers shape their opinions of your brand. The Internet is no longer an anonymous place where anything you publish will go unnoticed. The best way to help rectify situations like those mentioned above is if you screw up, apologize. Right away.
Again, this may sound like a basic principle, but many instances can be avoided with some common sense. This is just the first step. While we like to hear the words “I’m sorry,” when we’ve been wronged, it doesn’t matter unless you’re going to follow through with some tangible steps to make it right. The beauty of social media is that a global topic of discussion can explode instantly across the web. That’s why having a solid strategy as a foundation and an excellent, empowered social media manager in place -- balanced with an effective response plan -- can help avoid disasters. The key takeaway -- your brand needs to be accurate, careful and always be listening. These principles will help build a solid foundation for your social media strategy and define how you want to activate in a particular channel.
What are your best practices on social media guideline principles? What other advice would you offer to avoid these situations above? Give us your thoughts below, or give us call and let’s talk about how our social media expertise can help your business.