On our blog, and most others that deal with the topic of social media marketing, it’s all about the pieces, tools, and tactics. But, because sites like Facebook and Twitter are all about impressions and relationships, the tactics only tell part of the story.
In fact, if you’re not paying attention to your company’s overall reputation – both online and offline – then you’re almost certainly missing a big piece of the larger puzzle.
For some of the most obvious examples, we only need to look to major Fortune 500 brands. McDonald’s produced a huge social media “fail” when it unveiled its “real McDonald’s stories” campaign, only to see users flood the profiles and hashtags with stories about indigestion, dirty bathrooms, and worse. Starbucks suffered the same kind of fate when followers started asking uncomfortable questions about the company’s tax history overseas.
Perhaps the best example, though, comes from retailing giant Abercrombie and Fitch.
After an ill-advised interview in which an executive shared that the company didn’t want certain kinds of people (especially unpopular kids) wearing their brand, videos popped up of shoppers distributing their clothes to the homeless. In a very short amount of time, a small PR problem became a social media nightmare, in which the business was seen on the wrong side of the fight against things like charity and equality.
Ironically enough, these disasters prove how effective social media really can be at spreading buzz. Of course, it’s a safe bet that many of the executives involved wished they’d never even heard of these sites, and didn’t have the headaches that come with the wrong kinds of social media attention.
How can you learn from their example?
How can you keep from missing the most important piece of your social media marketing puzzle? Here are a few easy tips to follow:
Build a stronger brand online and off.
Naturally, this bias goes beyond social media and into the realm of simply “good business practices.” Still, being known for high-quality products, for example, or being involved in your community, is one of the best things you can do to make people more receptive to your content. It takes a lot of work to build up goodwill and good feelings towards your brand, but the effort almost always pays off in the long run.
Choose what you share very carefully.
There is a tendency, especially in social profiles, to weigh in on every current event, political debate, or public argument. But, does doing so enhance your credibility or bring you closer to the people you want to reach? You don’t necessarily have to hide your own ideals and treasured beliefs, but it makes a lot of sense to think carefully before you comment on something sensitive or potentially share information on something that should be kept private.
Look out for unintended double meanings.
The one thing you never want in social media is to realize that you’ve made your marketing campaign go viral for the wrong reasons after the fact. Certainly, there are some mistakes that are hard to avoid, but it normally just takes a few minutes of extra thinking and brainstorming to ensure that you don’t put your foot in your mouth, virtually speaking. Read messages and taglines out loud before you post them if you have to, but make sure you don’t post something that’s funny or cruel for the wrong reasons.
When it’s working the way you want it to, social networking can be a powerful way to attract attention from potential clients or customers, make connections with colleagues, and test out new ideas. For any of that to happen, though, it’s important to remember that your profiles don’t exist in a perfect void – you have to be running the kind of company people like and respect before they are willing to “play nice” on Facebook and elsewhere.