If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? To put it another way, if you post something on social media and (you think) no one is around to read it, does it still make an impact? A former PR executive in New York, the well-known operator of a popular online job bank in Cleveland and a host of politicians and celebrities will be the first to tell you that every piece of social media content makes a sound – and often a really loud one.
That being the case, it seems odd that even the most experienced marketers sometimes fail to realize that everything, and I mean everything, we say or post to social networks has the potential to impact the public’s perception of our brand – be it personal or professional. Whether you are a big brand or a small business, all of your social media content leaves you open to scrutiny, and the meaning of your messages are always subject to interpretation. What sounds funny to you might be offensive to someone else, and what is intended as a tongue in cheek comment may come off as blatant arrogance.
Perhaps more worrisome is the fact that brands are far too often relying on inexperienced staff to make the determination as to what is appropriate to post on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere. Celebrities may build their brand with raunchy, crude content – but your business won’t. Years of hard work devoted to building a stellar reputation can all come crashing down with a simple click of the “Post” button.
So what steps can your business take to ensure that posts are vetted, content is appropriate, and the tone reflects the true meaning of the message?
Here are a few key things to keep in mind in order to protect the integrity of your business by making sure your social posts are designed with the utmost consideration when it comes to customer relations and safeguarding your reputation.
Chain of Command for Sharing Social Media Content
Every business needs a clear chain of command when it comes to social posting. Who creates the guidelines for posting? Who develops the content to be posted? Who verifies the posts before public distribution? In a small business these tasks might all fall to the same person. For large brands, there might be a team of people responsible for developing and approving posts. But social media moves so fast that best practices can easily be cast aside in the name expediency.
In situations that demand a real time response, knowing who is responsible for making the decision as to content or format will mitigate the risk of posting something that can lead to an unnecessary crisis.
Best Practices and Team Training
In keeping with the theme of strategies and contingencies, your social posting should be guided by a series of best practices covering everything from what to post to how to respond to customers. Your social media team needs to be trained in these areas to ensure they clearly understand their roles and responsibilities when it comes to sharing your corporate message and representing your brand. Simply hiring social media “experts” does not guarantee that they understand your business philosophy when it comes to client interaction.
While there are some universal best practices to abide by (see ‘Don’t Respond Angry’ below), every brand will have its own approach to social engagement. Once you have determined your social voice, draft and edit your content accordingly. What’s more, you should also consider refresher sessions with your team every so often to maintain the integrity of your brand on social media.
Consider Your Response
The comments you and your team post on social channels are out there for everyone to see. While we want to respond to posts, positive or negative, in a reasonable timeframe, it is imperative to consider what you are saying and how it people will react to your post.
Granted, we generally don’t have the time to spend hours every day mulling over each post that we write. That said, it is still advisable to set aside some time to make sure that your responses to business sensitive comments are well thought out.
For smaller businesses, make sure you take the time to craft your response carefully and read it over several times just to be sure it can’t be misinterpreted. For larger organizations, you need to have a social media posting structure in place that establishes who determines when a post should be elevated to a higher decision maker for review, who is assigned the responsibility of responding to these posts, and who vets the replies along the chain of command?
Don’t Respond Angry
For small business owners who manage their own social media, it’s easy to take comments personally. The temptation to “teach that customer a lesson” can easily cloud judgment when it comes to posting a reply on social channels. When that happens – and we’ve all seen it happen – things quickly spiral out of control. On the same note, for big businesses who assign social media responsibilities to junior staff, agencies or third parties, it is important to remember that these parties do not necessarily identify with or have a connection to your brand, and they may not fully consider the repercussions of tactless comments.
For these reasons, it is imperative that you consider what you are saying and how it will be perceived by recipients and those with whom they share your comments. While I noted above that real-time interaction is sometimes necessary, you’re better off stepping away and regrouping before you post an emotionally-charged response.
Make Sure Your Agency Knows the Rules
If you do choose to go with an outside party for social media management, best to make it clear early on that you need to have a big say in the best practices outlined at the beginning of your relationship.
In November of last year, a tweet was sent out from the Home Depot account which was chastised for being racist. While the company immediately took ownership of the event and fired the employee and agency responsible, incidents like this raise questions with regards to who is watching over those responsible for your social media content.
As a business owner, you have the right, in fact, the obligation, to know who is posting on your behalf. For example: what are their qualifications, how have they been trained and who is watching over them?
You will be ultimately responsible for the content posted on your social channels, so make sure that your third-party partners clearly understand their responsibilities as they relate to your brand.
In today’s online social world where the lines are blurred between what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’, outsourced social media management can be an effective method, but must be guided by a clear set of rules. There is one simple rule that should be followed by anyone involved in social media posting on behalf of a business: If you think it might offend people, it probably will. So err on the side of caution.
When introducing your brand to the social media world, you need to realize it is considerably more vulnerable than ever before. Every word you share, every response you give and, essentially, every move you make is open to scrutiny by forces both large and small. Ensuring your social content is high-quality and implementing best practices to keep it that way are an important element to the success of your overall social strategy.
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