The benefits that brands both new and established gain from being active on social media are undeniable. However, so are the risks. In order to protect your brand, you need to get a handle on what the risks are and have clear cut ways on how to deal with them.
It isn’t only the global masses that you need to watch out for, it is your own internal workforce. The use (or Misuse) of Social Media by your own employees spawns a slew of challenges that brands many times overlook and end up ignoring their employee’s activities.
The use of Social Media as a channel that connects brands with customers has changed the way things works in many ways. The advantages for brands using social media have been made evident time and time again. The use of Social Media platforms provide the ability to promote, market and advertise your brand in a direct, free and most of the time hassle-free way to your global audience. As this use of Social Media rises, more brands are waking up and seeing the risks.
Let’s face it. Social Media is a sort of free for all, and that is the reason constant monitoring is necessary. These platforms are open for anyone to post nice or bad things about your brand and also use your brand’s content as they please, either for good or bad.
As I said, a brand’s internal employees can potentially open up a can of worms you rather see closed. Leaking of sensitive corporate information, misrepresentation of the brand can lead to widespread damage to a brand’s reputation and bottom line. For these reasons, brands need to be proactive and develop plans to thwart and minimize these risks before they cause sometimes irreversible damage.
Here are some of the things the big brands are doing to protect their brand from the potential minefields of Social Media that you can implement in your organization today, regardless of size.
Create a policy, conduct staff training
Guidelines must be decided upon and implemented for what the brand considers acceptable in the utilization of Social Media. Brands must dictate to their staff these guidelines with regards to their personal LinkedIn, Facebook and/or twitter accounts.
For example: A CEO of a retail sales organization came to us with a not so common problem. They dealt with thousands of consumers all across the country and so the odds were they were going to have some complaints along the way. They had worked hard to address the issues in their business that needed attention, but yet they began finding that it was harder to do business because of the negative information about them online. As we review their online reputation, we of course did find consumer complaints which had for the most part been handled correctly, but most alarming was that most of the information that we found about their company came from their employees posting disparaging comments and videos about their own customers as well as roll playing videos about how to sell to their customers. There had never been a social media policy established by the company so every location had their own social media pages and each employee posted anything they thought was interesting and in some cases funny. This required a start from scratch approach with their company and a complete retraining of their staff not only in regards to the information that they posted, but also with how they viewed their customers.
It is quite evident from a priority and risk standpoint that social media plans should vary among businesses and it is critical that these guidelines be tailored for the business. These guidelines must be flexible and be able to adapt to the ever changing face of social media and must extend beyond the use of the most popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and must also include forums, blogs and even video sites such as Vevo and YouTube.
Once these guidelines are decided upon, they must be communicated to all stakeholders in the company and trickled down to the staff. The top of the chain of course are the brand marketing managers and all those that administer social media pages that must be skilled in dealing with audiences on Social Media.
Be careful when dealing with customer complaints
Not only should those who administer company social media pages be wary of what users are posting on these pages, they also need to be extra careful when dealing with the posters. Brands are increasingly using social media as an avenue to deal with customer complaints and other issues.
One of the primary things not to do is to delete comments or silence user voices. This could create a backlash and just stir up more social media trouble. Another thing that brands must stay away from is to argue with customers in public forums, and this includes blogs and even YouTube comments. Take it offline. Send the user your personal contact information so that you can personally connect with them and take care of whatever problems are at hand.
Monitor for phonies
Trademark violation runs rampant on Social Media. Brands need to be monitoring the web for any generic pages that could be misusing their trademarks, paving an ugly scenario where the brand loses its distinction. Quite surprisingly fan pages started by fans could do a brand good. Some of the most successful fan pages were started by fans.