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Preserving A Brand's Sanctity In Social Media
The pointers below relate both to what the brand must do, and more importantly what its social media minders must be cognisant of as they manage the brand's social outreach.
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As social media has become more and more mainstream with lots of active participation by individuals and brands, the volume of social media chatter has reached cacophonic proportions. It has become a bit like a digitally-enabled fish market with everyone trying to talk over everyone else.
Not surprising, managing a brand's social media presence can become quite stressful for its minders (often young social media executives and digital natives). Over the recent past, we have seen numerous instances of social media executives going beyond the remit of the brands they manage.
To engage with other brands in the stream in a manner that looks more like social media exec-to-exec banter rather than brand-to-brand speak.
Then there are the cases of social media managers going "rogue" on the brand, and transmitting from the brand's official handles content or views that clearly seem misplaced and not aligned to the brand and its personality or usual content stream. We saw cases of this in the aftermath of Donald Trump's inauguration as US President, where some government Twitter handles started posting content related to his inauguration crowd and other themes counter to their expected remit. So much so, that these rogue executives had to be reined in and the truant tweets deleted.
If one looks at the Following list of a lot of corporate brands, one will find several handles that have no apparent linkage to the brand but seem to be accounts that interest its social media minders and content they would like in the stream as they go about managing the brand's social footprint.
In this scenario, let us look at what needs to be done both from the perspective of the brand and its team of social media minders:
For brands, it is most important:
1. To stay true to what it stands for, and not to diffuse this for the sake of seeming social in social media stream
2. This leads to the need of a clear articulation of what the brand stands for and what and how it can speak in social media. And just as importantly, an articulation of what a brand does NOT stand for, and therefore cannot be in the social stream
3. Riding the topicality wave is good, but only if it is relevant to the brand. Being populist for sake of being seen is not always a good idea.
4. Perhaps the most important and often neglected, is the narrative of the brand. Narrative that goes beyond content creative. That is just a means of taking the narrative to a brand's consumers. The right and consistent narrative is like the key ingredients of a recipe. With fuzzy ingredients, you get a brand mish-mash, something quite unpalatable for its consumers.
Coming to a brand's social media minders, here what is important to ensure sanctity of the brand's representation in social media:
1. A no-brainer really, is having a strong, robust process to be followed. Again, not just the Do's but explicitly laying down the Don'ts. This can help save a brand embarrassment and great cost by ensuring its minders' do not slip up easily.
2. Having a clear distinction made between the professional and personal, and making sure social media teams demarcate the two. Slipping into personal mode during duty hours is something that must be avoided.
3. Impressing upon the social media minders, that when they are in doubt, do not post. Pause, escalate to a supervisor. Err on the side of caution, not speed or bravado of jumping into the stream with an update, often coloured by their own views. Less is more.
4. Periodically, do a brand primer refresher for social media teams. Often, over time complacence sets in, and folks stop referring to the brand's primer and start relying on their own gut instead. This can often lead to awkward situations when the brand is caught in a non-brand territory. Again, prevention is better than cure.
5. Look out for the signs of an anti-brand or rogue social media exec in the making. Do this by periodically scanning personal social media accounts of the social teams, and watch for symptoms of a simmering angst against the brand or its narrative. No, it is not tantamount to snooping since the reviews are of public social media accounts. Even immigration and police officers scan social media streams to spot potential trouble makers before they cause any real trouble.
6. Add maturity and experience to the social teams. While it is good to co-opt young digital natives who know the social channels like a fish does water, it is important to add oversight into the teams by folks who are more tuned to the sanctity of the brand and take a more measured, rather than impulsive view to topical happenings around them in the social stream.
7. Steer clear of politicizing your brands by riding the popular sentiment that is often coloured by political opinion. Other than political parties and politicians, almost all brands are intrinsically apolitical. It is best to remain that way, and impress upon the social media teams the importance of staying apolitical. Doing so can save the brand's hard-earned goodwill and image, and prevent it from the messy tangles that social media gone wrong can tie it up in.
The idea of this piece is not to create a sense of paranoia in the minds of brand owners or their social media minders. But to simply highlight the risks of not adopting a thought-through approach to social media, and not recognizing how things can go wrong. It is always better to be prepared and prevent a social media mishap than to repent after the incident.