You are a small or medium business owner, right? No, you’re an executive at a large corporation. You are f***ing terrified of social media, so you hide, trembling under your desk, hoping The Twitter will pass over eventually and leave you and your company in the pre-instant-media peace that you once knew, when well-crafted press releases allowed you to gracefully–and on your own terms–present a persona of professional perfection.
You are so gonna fail (but did you see that alliteration?!).
Yes, social media as we know it will probably change over the years. Facebook may follow the path of Friendster, and Tumblr may become the next Typepad; however, unless there’s a werewolf apocalypse and human/wolf hybrids eat the Internet, I seriously doubt that social media and social sharing is going anywhere. For a long time.
What this means for you, dear business owner / corporate executive, is that you’ve got to have a plan for how to deal with social media.
And no, I’m not talking about using it to broadcast your products and services; what I mean is that you need to figure out how you’re going to reply, often without too much time to run an idea through the Rube Goldberg machine that is your corporate bureaucracy, to instant publicity, instant press, instantly broadcast complaints, and instant snark.
Recently, a maxipad company located in the United Kingdom crafted a brilliant, viral response to a snarky comment on its Facebook page.
They hired a professional actress to play the CEO of their company, and responded to a man’s sarcastic claims that they had been lying to him over the years. Watch the video below, then keep reading.
While this response took quite a bit of money and time, it was incredibly daring and also effective. Bodyform embraced the trollishness of someone on social media, and turned it into an opportunity to generate buzz about the company. It’s funny, it’s sarcastic, and it’s something that very few companies would feel confident doing.
On a much more basic level, your marketing / social media / PR team should be trained on how to respond to comments, complaints, and praise on social networks.
Every time someone posts to your Facebook wall you are given an opportunity to publicly, and relatively cheaply, advertise what a great company you are. Your team needs to know how to respond to positive reviews.
If someone has a customer service issue and makes that complaint known on Facebook, you need to respond quickly and effectively to that, too. Have a plan in place for how you’ll respond to a negative experience of your company, brand, products, or services.
But more importantly, make sure you are working to solve the issue. Good marketing, good social media, good SEO come from good business practices. I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again and again and again. This stuff isn’t magic: it’s about you doing something real, something good, and caring about the results beyond your bottom-line.
Once you’ve come up with a good social media policy, you should consider how to harness your community to share your ideas, to reply to your posts, and to give you inspiration for what direction you’d like to take your social communities.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other networks are a bottomless well of relatively cheap market research, marketing fodder, and ideas for improving your customer service. Please don’t let that intimidate you. Embrace it. Love it. Learn it. And whatever you do, stop hiding from it.