For some companies, social networks are kind of like monsters under the bed. Instead of thinking about the great upsides, these folks worry about over-sharing by employees, losing control over intellectual property, damaging their brands, losing productivity, fielding sensitive questions, unleashing embarrassing secrets and all manner of other bumps in the night.
But when you think about it, none of these things are any more of a threat because of social media. They stem from deeper business problems. And deeper business problems make prime fodder for snarky conversations on social networks.
So, while I believe it’s a great idea for every company to have a social media policy and a functioning understanding of the various channels, there are sometimes more pressing matters than choosing the right Twitter handle.
If any of the following apply to you, it might be time to work on something other than your Facebook Fan Page.
1. You’re leaky
If your company holds onto private information as well as a sieve holds onto water, the problem might be your employee training or internal security practices.
Journalists will tell you most of the whistleblowers and leaks they talk to are people who feel they’ve been silenced or punished for disagreeing with something they find objectionable. Fixing the problem might be as simple as training employees and managers on how to better voice and field complaints. It might also mean fixing what I call confidentially overload – or overusing confidentiality and secrecy to the point where they lose their seriousness. Product development memos are confidential. Birthday party memos probably don’t need to be.
2. You create customer service horror stories
If you’re a regular feature on The Consumerist, social media shouldn’t be your top priority. You may want to review your procedures before you start fielding complaints on the public stage. It’s a proving ground everyone can see, so if you say you provide great service, it needs to be a promise you can keep.
Handling customer issues can make or break your brand. And if you do a bad job, you’re undermining all your other efforts. That’s just as true online.
3. You ignore and/or take legal measures against your critics
If this applies to you, you’ll find your entry into social media a bumpy ride. Odds are there’s a flotilla of critics just waiting to take shots at you. And while I think you should absolutely face your critics wherever they may be, you need to figure out how you’re going to do it first.
Letting your lawyers do your dirty work only gives your critics an incredibly effective us vs them story to tell. Half-hearted apologies feel just as fake to those who receive them as to those who give them. Fighting emotion with pure fact works against everything we know about the human brain.
Honest dealings are the second most valuable currency online. The most valuable is reputation, and you’re not going to make a very good one if you can’t deal with disagreements.
Sometimes we all miss the forest for the trees. Take a step back and see if you can think of some other fundamental business problems that prevent companies from finding success in social media. I came up with three. Let’s see how many you can come up with in the comments.
Jacob can do horrible, unspeakable things with words. But he’s chosen to use his powers for good, not evil. Follow him @jacobedenfield or contact him directly at Jacob.Edenfield@adfarmonline.com.
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