GUEST BLOG: How NOT to do social media

Do brands need a big budget for a successful social media presence? NO!  Just the ability to respond to both good comments and negative criticism in a timely and welcoming manner. My advice to brands doing or looking to do social media, if you're not going to do it properly, just don't bother at all because it will do you more damage than good.

Twitter lists eight "best practices" on its business advice page. The two main points that I feel companies usually fail on are 'listen' and 'respond'.

As the popularity of social media soars and more and more people rely on these live feeds for news, information, entertainment and networking, UK retailers have tried to get in on the act.

But a benchmark study from internet consultancy Auros reveals that the UK's top 25 retailers are largely unresponsive when it comes to engaging on social media channels. The reason? These companies do not fully understand the depth of these social tools.

They jumped on the bandwagon with their rose-tinted glasses on, probably trying to do it on the cheap, thinking they can gain more customers and win their never-ending loyalty. In reality these companies' social media accounts were and are a place for not only positive interaction but also negative responses to their existing customer service.

For example, Nestle seriously underestimated the power of social media last year. Greenpeace used the company's fan page to attack it over its practices in harvesting palm oil. The response from Nestle was slow (whether it was consulting its legal team or not is no excuse) and consequently damaged their brand considerably.

So many businesses out there believe that signing up to sites such as Facebook and Twitter is fast, easy publicity for their brand. Had Nestle actually spent more time looking into the powers of social platforms, they would have realised they need to be more on the ball when it comes to responding to people on their fan pages and made sure they were replying to direct messages on Twitter. Just a simple post to state they were of aware of any issues and they could have executed damage control.

Businesses need to understand that social platforms are just that! A platform where their customers share experiences and socialise. It's not a quick fix to get yourself and your marketing message out there to millions of people.  If you want to be the brand that can adapt to all social tools then do your research!

Starbucks is one of the world's most well known brands (and if I do say so myself make an excellent Frappuccino). On their Facebook page you can even manage your Starbucks card as well as post comments etc. I am a firm believer that 'people buy from people' and value what other people think about brands.

A recent post from a woman on the Starbucks Facebook fan page was:

"Had a coffee frap light today. New recipe is revolting. Took it back. Swapped it for an espresso one. Also foul. Mocha is marginally more palatable...but not much. Bring back the old ones please..........."

Will this post have an effect on what people order the next time they go into Starbucks? Maybe.

Businesses need to realise that social media is an open forum for people's views, thoughts, concerns and expressions. Places where people can interact with their brands are all good and well but don't be fooled into think they are places where only good things are said.

Work hard to support your customer and they will work hard to support you!


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