Social media sites are a great way for companies to grow and to communicate directly with their customers and clients. Everyone likes feeling part of something and social media sites are an ideal way to build a sense of community. Nobody likes a faceless company.
Before we get too excited, it’s worth remembering that the dawn of social media doesn’t come without its pitfalls. Mistakes are easily made, either the wrong people get trusted with a company profile or an employee bad mouths their employer. The list of mess ups is endless.
Here are a few tips and pointers to help you avoid the many problems of the oh-so-simple-seeming social networking.
1. Protect company accounts/passwords – Only give out passwords to trusted users and change them frequently. Otherwise you’ll run the risk of them ending up in the wrong hands, which could cause havoc.
Remember in February when one of Vodafone’s employees sent an offensive homophobic tweet to the company’s 10,000 followers saying: “VodafoneUK is fed up with dirty homo’s (sic) and is going after beaver.”
Within seconds the comment had been re-tweeted, so even when the company deleted the comment, it was already all over the internet. People assumed the company had been hacked and Vodafone had to admit: “We weren’t hacked. A severe breach of rules by staff in our building, dealing with that internally. We’re very sorry. Please keep your faith in us.”
2. Brand guidelines for staff - Make sure employees think very carefully before mentioning rival brand names in personal Tweets / Facebook updates. You do not want them to be indirectly giving publicity to your rivals or bad mouth your own company.
There’s a story of someone working in a marketing company who would spent half the morning ranting about their mobile phone provider on Twitter… until bosses saw what was going on. The phone company was a major client of this ranter’s company, so the man was given a stern talking to. After all, it is not only him who looks bad, but the whole company.
Similarly, staff can say inappropriate things about companies that they think are unrelated to yours, but actually have links. For example, if someone slams Pret a Manger and ignores that McDonalds, which is a part owner, is one of your clients. It’s bad enough not knowing your client is involved with Pret, but then bad mouthing them is highly unprofessional.
3. Balance personality with professionalism – People have deleted Twitter accounts, because they couldn’t trust themselves to be a public face of a company. It takes effort to maintain a somewhat professional persona, and you could get into trouble if you don’t manage it.
Remember: all employees are potentially public faces of your company. As a part of their online brand management, clients should know about business Twitter accounts and can easily search for other mentions of their company name. You are probably being watched/listened to/ etc.
4. No Sockpuppetry – The sock-puppet is a false online identity. Don’t spam people via personal accounts to become fans of your clients over and over again. It’s incredibly annoying and if they don’t accept it once, it’s unlikely they’ll accept it the second and third time.
So, bearing in mind the points above, get on Facebook, start tweeting now and spread your company’s word!