Four mistakes you could make in social media

440198755_45d3a9a9d3Most social media panels want to hear all about the case studies that work, who’s doing it right, and how to emulate them.  But one question served up today at a MITX event was, “What are some of the dumb ass mistakes that people make in social media?”   Well we’ve all heard the classics, from Motrin, to United to Dominoes, so I tried to frame my answer in the kinds of mistakes brands make.  Here they are.

1. Not responding fast enough

In social media 24 hours is a long time. Really long. What hurt brands like Motrin and Dominoes was simply delaying their responses. In the old days of offline media, if something happened on a Friday, you could think about it all weekend before the Monday business press hits. Not in social. You’ve got hours not days. So have a plan in place.  Then listen, respond, engage accordingly. In all likelihood you’ll get credit for confronting the situation head on. Any good PR or social media agency can help.

2.  Promoting yourself before you have engaged, joined or built a community

This would be like showing up at a social event and pitching yourself to any stranger in the room. This is the classic mass media way of thinking. OK, there’s an audience here, I’ll broadcast a message. Doesn’t work that way out here. You have to bring something to the party,  make friends, perform a few favors before you can even think about asking for anything in return.  If you come to social media with a traditional media way of thinking you’ll be worse than invisible.

3.  Neglecting to be transparent

That means hide or conceal nothing.  And never forget to credit a source.  Olympus camera recently made a video celebrating the 50th anniversary of its PEN camera.  A beautiful story told by editing stills across time, the video was produced for the European market.  But it didn’t take long for the online community to call Olympus out for creating something a little too close to another video using the same technique. We picked up some Twitter chatter on behalf of our American Olympus client and immediately notified them so they could alert Europe and resolve the whole thing by simply giving credit where credit is due. Lesson? You can riff off of someone else in the social space, but never without attributing it to the original creator.

4.  Choosing not to be in social media at all

To me, this is the single biggest mistake any brand can make.  A few months ago, I was asked to make a presentation and proposal to National Grid. In preparing I did a simple Google search for “National Grid on Twitter.” What came up, at the top of page one, in big, bold capital letters was F*@K YOU NATIONAL GRID. For two weeks running that was the number one result. Wow, I thought, how cool is that. I couldn’t invent a better argument for why a brand should start engaging. National Grid was getting pummeled in a way previously reserved for the likes of Dell and Comcast. Alas, my dramatic slide, blown up extra large on a big flat screen failed to convince.  And while Dell and Comcast are now darlings of social, the utility is losing time, credibility and reputation.

I’m sure there are other mistakes you can make.  Got any that you’ve encountered?

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Lin Klaassen
Lin Klaassen

I can't agree more with you Edward, I just met with a client who has a very unique business which has 120 local members. What he is offering has a broad interest worldwide and his company has done nothing with social media. I even took the time to show him how to search his field and that their had been 137 posts in the last hour related to his field, and 19 more in the time it took me to perform the search. I am curious to watch what they will do. I really appreciate the reminder #1 offers. It is easy to let time fly buy. I am working on posting at different times of day since we all tend to have routines we fall into I may be missing posts that are of value to me.

Ben Kunz
Ben Kunz

Great list - and I do usually hate lists ;)

However, do you think another danger is *overreacting*? I recall the Motrin Moms storm, saw the video online, and was curious at the time why so many found it offensive. Then, later I read that most of the public hadn't heard about it, and that a lot of moms in the target didn't find the ad offensive at all. Is it possible that a small minority with a loud voice could cause brands to overreact -- crashing guardrail to guardrail from debate to debate?

Certainly sophisticated social media monitoring tools can parse the data, give you metrics and numbers and weight the influencers etc. But I do wonder if social media runs the same risk as a public company constantly shifting strategy to hit its quarterly forecasts -- lots of small leaps in the short term that don't follow a consistent strategy. Social media's heaviest users remain a fraction of the population; and within this subset are even smaller clusters of "opinion leaders" that often attract groupthink followers. Not all flag-wavers point in the logical direction.

Sometimes leadership requires listening ... and sometimes it requires doing things that a chorus of complainers may not like. Would be interesting to see a model to help make the strategic decision of when to listen, like a million books now say, and when to tune out the noise.
.-= Ben Kunz´s last blog ..An end to the Hot Waitress Index =-.

edward boches
edward boches

I have a friend @sethsimonds who is working on just that. Will alert him you your interests.

edward boches
edward boches

Ben:
I hate lists, too. But readers seem to like. That raises the whole other story of who decides what, the creator and content generator or the reader and community. Another post.

We recently had a similar issue with a client that I won't name, even in age of transparency as I didnt'ask if OK, but they got a little bit of negative buzz over a comment from the CEO in the press. We could have overreacted, flipcamming the CEO and responding that way. Instead, we just engage the detractors ourselves, explained the company's intent, policy and support of its customers, and all was fine.

How you respond should be congruous with the level of discussion and buzz, but you still may want to respond. The issue with Motrin was that it got picked up by mainstream press pretty fast. Motrin could have slammed the door shut on that with some simple engagement with individuals. It's a few minutes of time. Yes?

Ross Kimbarovsky
Ross Kimbarovsky

Ben - overreacting is for sure a danger. In part - the risk is heightened because social media amplifies everything. And it's more difficult to extricate oneself once the momentum has grown.

We (at crowdSPRING) spent a lot of time ealrier this year talking about this issue in the context of the continuous debate about spec work and our business model - and made adjustments to the way we reacted. Some smart people (among them, Micah Baldwin), gave me some good advice that fundamentally changed the way I engaged (and has helped me to avoid overreacting).

I'd love to see a model that helps with the decision making. But it seems, at least in most contexts, that far too many variables are at issue - models couldn't possibly begin to take all into account correctly.
.-= Ross Kimbarovsky´s last blog ..Twitter Link Roundup #12 - Design, Small Business, Social Media And More =-.

schneidermike
schneidermike

What do you say to companies who think they are transparent, but not to the level of transparency that social media demands or that you have undoubtedly advised? I'm talking about the toe-dippers - companies who disclose that they want to have a certain kind of conversation in their profile - for instance a conversation about their products or innovations in their space - and then start to receive feedback or support questions that they are not interested in fielding. How do you persuade them to act? (I bet this question sounds familiar)
.-= schneidermike´s last blog ..Got Style? Ask Emmi =-.

edward boches
edward boches

I can only tell you what I do. Keep educating them, explaining to them, advising them. I actually find that eventually they get it as they get over the fears of putting themselves out there. Unless there's a disaster or justified hate (think Comcast Must Die story) the people most likel to engage are fans and supporters.

Leo Bottary
Leo Bottary

Edward, I think all the mistakes you point out are certainly mistakes. I just think that the code of conduct is more congruous between the social media world and the real world than you're suggesting here.

To cite a few of your examples: The guy who goes to the "social event" and pitches his wares to people he doesn't know will still be considered an idiot, it's just that by definition, tales of his idiocy may not travel as far or as quickly. Regarding crisis, television made it impossible to just think about it over the weekend. Do we have to act even more quickly today? Absolutely. But the companies you mentioned would have been skewered in any era for their slow response.

As we try to navigate this social media code of ethics, I find it always comes down to behaving likely a normal, mature, considerate, ethical adult. Do that, and you'll likely be fine wherever you decide to hang out.
.-= Leo Bottary´s last blog ..How Smart Is Your Team? =-.

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