In our line of work, we meet with hundreds of communication professionals, representing some of the biggest brands in and around Boston. Many of them understand the importance of social media and see it as a tool to help grow their brand awareness and make important connections to their customers and community.
Others, however, aren’t as proactive in their approach to tools such as Instagram and Facebook, giving the following reasons as to why they don’t have a social media plan:
- “It’s not a priority at this time.”
- “We opened an account in 2012 but we haven’t used it since.”
- “Our target audience doesn’t use it.”
If there is one thing companies should know, it’s that social media is here to stay; it’s not a passing fad. It’s possible that some of the apps or distribution channels may change (such as MySpace losing ground to Facebook), but the idea of sharing thoughts, photos and experiences online isn’t going away.
As alarming as it can be to experience a company missing out on the benefits of social media, what is worse is a company engaging in social media “without a net,” meaning they are posting and tweeting without a real plan or even a review process in place. As a result, insensitive, tone-deaf, and inappropriate messages have gone out under the names of some of the country’s biggest brands, giving them a black eye in the process. The combination of an inattentive communications team and inexperienced or irresponsible employees have led to social media horror stories such as these:
- Disgruntled HMV employees publicly aired their grievances about corporate layoffs.
- Epicurious used the Boston Marathon bombing to promote recipes.
- The Home Depot sent out a racist photo via Twitter.
- Kenneth Cole thought the uprising in Egypt was a good lead-in to promote their spring collection.
- CelebBoutique added the hashtag #Aurora to a promotional tweet, not realizing it referred to a shooting spree in a movie theater.
- Someone in charge of the KitchenAid Twitter account makes a joke about the death of Barack Obama’s Grandmother.
Unfortunately, there are many, many more examples like these. Even though postings are deleted and apologies are made, the damage is done. As everyone knows, once something is posted, it’s virtually impossible to erase it completely.
The solution starts by treating social media accounts for what they are: communication tools that are the primary source of information for thousands (perhaps millions) of customers. They need to be thoughtful, they need to reflect your corporate culture and values, and, above all, they need to be reviewed by a third party before they enter cyberspace. Because once released, you can never really get them back.