Don’t start a social media bush-fire with your brand

In days gone by most channels of marketing and communications could be controlled by the brand.  Marketers could determine what messages are conveyed, to whom, where and when ensuring their precious brand reputation is kept in-tact.

Enter social media and a whole new tinder dry marketing environment. Power is being transferred to the consumer. They can refer, recommend, vote, score and comment on positively or negatively anything they feel or experience about a product or service.  And the big dose of fuel to the bush-fire comes from social media’s interactively, real-time capacity to broadcast messages with unlimited reach in compelling multi-media formats such as pictures and videos taken on the go from smartphones.

Brands are being compelled to be more open, honest and transparent. Trying to hide or disguise issues on social networks with service quality, for example, is likely to fan the flames of discontent.

In fear of a loss of control, many organisations are holding back on adopting social media either because they once had their hands burnt or someone else in their industry did. There are lots of examples.

But there is a solution and let’s face it there has to be, no organisation can dig in and hope that the flames of social media will die down.  Unlike most marketing channels, social media initiatives call for a risk assessment. For most in marketing, risk assessment wasn’t covered in their marketing school curriculum.  Well time to learn a new skills and processes – social media marketing risk analysis.

Social media risk assessment is about analysing the potential negative consequences of a marketing initiative or how to handle a flare up about your organisation.  If you already understand that marketing is a science and a lot of social science, then you will buy into the following few broad principles that need to be adhered to…………….

  1. Remember you are dealing with individuals now, not markets.
  2. Test social media initiatives on real people (not sample groups) by asking for their reaction before running. Gauge their reaction.
  3. Understand what is motivating users to participate in online social communities and think through the reactions you are likely to get – scenario plan.
  4. Check that your initiative builds ongoing ‘engagement’ not is not a traditional marketing ‘campaign’ as they don’t work.
  5. Check that you are being honest, open and transparent – or just go and hide somewhere.
  6. Never be corporate or official with your responses to negative posts.
  7. Assign skilled resources and technologies to monitor discourse.

Making sure that the social media fires you ignite are setting people alight with enthusiasm and not inciting them to burn down the town requires new specialist skills and  risk assessment and damage limitation are two vital elements to successful social media marketing and communications.

Paul Fennemore

Managing Director Viapoint

Viapoint – UK’s Leading Social Media Consultancy, Managed Services and Training Provider

Researcher and Lecturer at Henley Business School and Oxford Brookes University

paul.fennemore@viapoint.co.uk

http://www.viapoint.co.uk

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