Peter Muir, an often-featured speaker on Social Media and related topics, offers some thoughts that are useful to those of us in the faith-based and non-profit arena as well as the business world.
“With the up-tick of social media in the business world, you need to be prepared for the risks social media can pose. If your company is using social media, or thinking about jumping in, you need to understand how it will be used by your employees and how to do so safely. Most users don’t truly understand how their own behavior can and will impact the company. Since people will use social media, with or without company approval, it is crucial to understand the line between social and business. Knowing the risks and establishing company guidelines is a step in the right direction.”
1. Something gets posted you don’t want others to see.
Is it a corporate secret, comments of a disgruntled employee or an upset customer because of a lack of customer service? If you don’t already have one, a brief internal social media policy should cover what can and can’t be said along with how it could be said by those inside the organization. It should be flexible enough to encourage passion for customers and the brand but should also make sure the brand remains an asset. If the comments are from outside the organization they should be quickly judged to determine constructive criticism or inappropriate behavior and appropriate steps should be taken to deal with them in a timely manner.
2. You create a social presence but no one is participating.
Social media should start with a strategy and part of the strategy should include audience, content and appropriate channel(s). It takes time to grow a community. You may think you’re talking to yourself but really you can be honing your message to your customer while you also spend time listening to what is important to them and include it in your community content. The time you take working at establishing your social media standing can also be used as an ongoing case study to discuss what you’ve learned with your customers.
3. You’re trying to be social but the topic gets sidetracked or even hijacked.
Simply ask, “Why?” Perhaps there is something else more important you could or should be covering. One of the first rules of social media is that it’s not about you. Or perhaps you can suggest covering the new topic in next week’s discussions where you can research it further and get more input on it. The point of social media is that you don’t have direct control of the message but the more involved you are in social media and are aware of your business and customers, your ability to influence the message increases.
4. Some people don’t tolerate change.
As your social media community grows and expands its reach there is a possibility of alienating your core followers. You need to consider your core first before diluting your approach to please the masses you’re not currently connected to. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but if you include the core in your growth and choices for growth it’s often easier for them to deal with change. Also remember, there are some people who just don’t want to change. If they are your target audience, what about creating a core group just for them? Consider the impact on you resources and the benefits of keeping them happy while still addressing a larger potential community.
5. Social media channels and content can open up breaches of security.
Viruses, malware, identity and brand theft can all occur with or without the use of social media. You should consider good IT practices to avoid the possibility of software and hardware security breaches. Some recommend being vague with content to avoid brand or identity theft. You need to consider the level of information you share and the possibility that information can be used against you. But if you participate in social media and all you do is listen without giving there is a high probability your community will wonder if it’s worth participating in your network.
6. Social media strategies that don’t include the whole organization.
In a small organization the worry is not enough resources to establish a social media strategy and be able to execute while in a larger organization it may mean a fight to control or influence the approach, the theme, the content, the budget and other resources. Not everyone needs to be directly involved but all should be aware of the social media benefits as part of the marketing and sales strategies of the organization.
7. Thinking social media is only for marketing.
Although many organizations believe social media should be managed from the marketing department to enable the acquisition and retention of customers; other companies use social media as a critical enabler to their customer service efforts, research and development initiatives, strategy planning and so much more. Social media enables conversation through on line communities. The conversations you start or participate in can lead to so many great possibilities.
8. Too much power wielded by an individual.
There is a risk if the social media “face” of the company is a particular individual and what if that individual leaves the organization or takes another role within the company? Their social media currency could leave with them. Consider the impact of an individual and consider spreading the currency around to include others. Not only will it help to balance the power, but it can also help balance the responsibility to create great content and manage the social media strategy.
9. Not having the ability to localize your message to a particular audience.
What happens if your social media presence expands to another country or a customer base outside your typical one? Monitoring your social media strategy and reviewing the needs of a particular audience can help you plan for the needs of your existing and future audiences. As you look to expand into a new audience you should evaluate tactics to localize your message to the audience. This could include translation services or evaluating the needs of a new layer of employees.
10. Someone wants to have a conversation but they get ignored.
With more and more communication channels available to us it’s very hard to keep up with it all. But a simple business principle plays here – ignore your customer and eventually they will go away. Take the time to develop a solid social media monitoring plan that not only listens to what people are saying about you or your organization but also hears the smallest request and makes sure it gets the attention any good customer deserves.