A brand is like a person, but the person tweeting may not be your brand

Entenmanns bakery, in response to the Casey Anthony not guilty verdict:

From Kenneth Cole, during the Egyptian uprisings:

From Chrysler, following their incredibly expensive Eminem “Detroit is awesome” campaign:

This list goes on and on. And every time this happens, I’m sure thousands of smaller brands, not-for-profit organizations, and government communication policy people get that much more nervous about social media.

Nowhere are messaging guidelines more important than the real-time branding that happens on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social networks. If you think about it, you probably should have your best marketing people constantly monitoring and refocusing your social media outreach. But in reality, it’s often left to entry-level employees, interns, or (in Chrysler’s case) is outsourced.

These disasters keep some brands out of social media altogether, but that is not a practical solution. I like to tell clients that avoiding new channels is like skipping out on drinks with coworkers: if you’re not there, you’ll be the one they talk trash about.

Instead, there needs to be more effort put into training. Acart charges for this service, so I won’t give it all away here, but there are some basic rules that any brand can implement right now to stay safer on social media:

Have a plan

When you developed your brand, you defined its personality. Now it’s time to think about how that brand will really come to life. How does your offering, what you value, and what you stand for really come through in a live conversation? You may want to start with a list of preferred topics and types of posts, as well as fencing off forbidden content zones.

Keep it relevant

Notice how all the examples above make the mistake of talking about controversial world events, or personal beefs. Unless you are an NGO that is an activist in those specific issues, stick to your area of expertise. And never get personal.

Be interactive

At the same time, don’t just use social media for broadcast. You’re there to provide useful information, answer questions, and thank people for caring. Never let a question or compliment go unanswered for more than a day, if resources permit.

Think “customer service”

It’s always weird to see organizations with massive customer service systems treating social media as an afterthought. Social media is the future of customer service, so it might make sense to start migrating some of those highly experienced call centre people over to today’s media. When you successfully resolve a common compliant in public, you are potentially preempting hundreds of individual calls.

Don’t feed the trolls

Once you’ve been doing this for a while, you automatically know the difference between a valid complaint and a contemptuous attempt to make you look bad. Complaints should always be addressed and misinformation corrected. But personal attacks on public figures, staff or other followers, abusive or offensive language, spam, and repetitive posts on the same topic all warrant removal and/or blocking of the person involved.

Most important is that your decision makers and senior marketing people make understanding (and participating in) social media strategy and engagement a priority. Because there’s no going back to old ways of doing things.


[Image via TopGrowth]

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