Social Media – More on Corporate Social Media Use and Policy

Just as I’m seeing chinks of light – OK, maybe social media can be used in localised and focused fashion to boost the fortunes of smaller concerns (see here, no apologies for linking you to the US and all that goes with it, we have a special relationship, get used to it), although I’m still a bit fuzzy on the bit that gets the punter to the Twitter – up pop the creatures.

The post in question dates from last week and, because I know you, blog snorkellers, and you can’t be bothered to do clickety-dickety, it’s yet another take on the reasons why corporations don’t embrace social media. I am, surprisingly enough, not going to pass judgement on it – I’m going to limit myself to a few observations.

1) Employees will waste time with social media.

Yes. They will. But let’s not confuse the internet with social media. The internet is, broadly speaking, a Good Thing in the work place – a source of information and ideas that can assist the company in the achievement of its goals. Social media are simply bits of the internet, choices if you like, which may or may not be benign, and if they benefit a company only do so if approached in a planned, strategic and carefully monitored fashion. Policies on social media usage by employees should be draconian and companies are within their rights to block usage of social media sites.

2) Haters will damage our brand.

Yes. But haters will damage your brand whether or not you have a social media strategy or presence. This is about whether your brand’s any good. If it isn’t, word of mouth will damage your brand. Get it right, however, and people will like it (simple. eh?) – and no-one goes out of their way to say nasty things about a brand if it isn’t nasty. You don’t need the followers of a Twitter feed to do your crisis containment for you. Trust me, you don’t.

3. We’ll lose control of the brand

Of course you won’t. But that’s because a brand’s essence is controlled by the brand guardians, its equity is protected by law and its appearance enshrined in the brand guidelines. – not because people are talking about it on-line or off-line. Of course people talk about brands – always have done, always will do – doesn’t change the brand unless the brand guardians decide it should.

To say, however, that message control is an illusion is either laziness or a failure to grasp one of the most basic principles of corporate communications. Message control is about the messages you, the brand communicator, and your brand spokespeople, put out there. Your output, over time, should change the tone of the general chit-chat in the way you want it to. That’s message control. It takes time and effort. It is not suited to social media but, hey – if you want to be constantly at risk of being backfooted and you want to increase your investment manyfold – go ahead.

4. Social media requires a real budget! It’s not really cheap or free.

Yes, it does. No, it’s not. And as social media doesn’t deliver a quantifiable ROI and has yet to make anyone any money, just, exactly, why would you put your limited marketing budget against it? I merely ask.

5. They’re scared they’ll be sued.

And rightly so. Employees + unregulated access to social media = Risk.

6) They’re scared of giving away corporate secrets or that information on social networks will affect the stock price.

Yes, you do need to create a social media policy. But policies aren’t foolproof. The FSA (in the UK) has serious rules on disclosure – doesn’t stop people playing fast and loose with financial information, and these are professionals, not naive and untrained employees.

Some employees are hired to represent the brand and talk to customers, others are hired because they have  a specific and specialised skillset. Not all of them would be comfortable being a brand ambassador. Others suffer from a sort of corporate Tourette’s when confronted with message boards and suggestion boxes. It’s not a question of trust, it’s a question of horses for courses.

Someone actually said – and I’ve quoted it in a previous post – that the very nature of social media leads to inadvertent disclosure. Which scares the living crap out of me.

Anyway, I’ll leave you with another post. This time about a company that gets mentioned quite a lot in connection with social media (along with Starbucks, Dell, Zappo, Amazon and Dominos – always these six, strange really), Best Buy. They asked, on their Facebook group, whether they should have the Best Buy website in Spanish. Cue negative, even racist comment. (Actually, in fairness, how were they to know? But it does say something about the type of Facebooketeers attracted to Best Buy.) So what were they to do? Well, as I understand it, if you’re a social media head – a company hippy – then you join the conversation. You motivate your online community to rally to your defence.

Horsesh*t. If you’re sensible, you do exactly what Best Buy did. You pull the plug and hope that it goes away.

This is the wonder of social media – you never know what it’s going to do and whether it’s going to take a big chunk out of your bum. If it does, however, just turn it off.

Join the conversation, my *rse.

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Filed under Communications Strategy, Crisis Management, External Communications, Public Relations, Social Media

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