The Balancing Act Behind Social Media Marketing
Let’s take a moment to contemplate the underlying principle of this latest breed of communications. At its core, social media is just what it claims to be – a dialogue. The poster – whether the business itself or an external party – provides a stimulus (a question, a promotion, a product launch) to which users can respond. But most importantly, not only can they respond, but conversations are open to mass viewing and participation, leaving companies exposed, and to be frank, vulnerable to attack. Will the next post become a PR treasure chest or a Pandora’s box? Assuming that you would prefer the treasure chest of “likes” and endorsements, having an authentic social media marketing program requires entrepreneurs and managers to hold up a mirror to dissect their services, products, and platform and ask themselves, “Are we prepared?”
Thus, there’s good news and bad news to social media marketing. Starting with the bad: public posting invites criticism and complaints on both personal profiles and company profiles. Even worse, customers have been known to create their own “anti” groups and pages (sometimes involving profanity) that cause irrevocable damage to your brand. Companies committed to implementing a genuine, uncensored social media presence should create a contingency plan. Frontline customer service reps will be the most qualified to compile and analyze your company’s negative feedback.
Depending on your available resources, you can decide your level of response:
Short-term “bandages” (such as a discount or refund)
Long-term preventative measures (take the issue back to product design and solve the problem). Customer-centric marketers will be the first to confront these issues head-on and engage their community about the problem before customers get the chance to start their own damaging threads.
Furthermore, the bad news isn’t entirely bad. The consumer electronics industry has benefited from online public forums – communities who share repair instructions and tricks with their fellow consumers, saving company resources in their technical support departments.
Similarly, the good news, actually amazing news, is that social media can be your best advocate. This same engine that allows customers to launch their own smear campaigns also enables them to sing your praises to networks that trust them more than they trust you. The resulting man-hours saved (and profits earned) due to unsolicited social media endorsements should be diverted to building the damn-good products that inspire these virtual “word of mouth” promotions. However, every business needs to formulate a strategy to fit their industry and goals. Facebook might be naturally suited for promoting lifestyle and entertainment, such as restaurants and events while other industries are still testing how to best leverage a Facebook audience.
To start, examine the mechanics of your Facebook or Twitter sharing (which would be prudent for your personal profiles too).
What is the “useful life” of any status update? How many hours until your post becomes buried and unseen beneath friends’ and followers’ impulsive, stream of consciousness? Because when you play business with social media your competition then becomes your college roommate counting down days to their next vacation. When are you posting? Midweek? Early morning?
Do you diversify your media with links to blogs, articles, videos, photos and tags of other users? Garnering “likes” and comments will also extend the lifespan of your post and increase visibility. If you’re not collecting much response, you might need to revisit the content and appeal of your posts.
Be deliberate and conscious about your posts – create an editorial Tweet calendar with your marketing team or determine your high traffic Facebook periods. And in the end, there’s nothing like seeing
posting an ego-boosting “pat on the back” on your feed for a job well done (accompanied by 22 likes).
Social media integration into your business model becomes the dual prioritization of maximizing positive feedback and mitigating the risks of public criticism. Getting the most out of your social media campaign means making it both a marketing tool that increases visibility and exposure as well as a research and evaluation tool that influences your overall business strategy.