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Guest Column: Seven deadly social media sins

15-November-2012
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Guest Column: Seven deadly social media sins

Social media continues to grow with brands working really hard to succeed with their social media initiatives. From politicians to financial institutions to retailers to sports teams, brands are trying newer ways to connect with consumers on social networks.

My family has enjoyed a particular brand of tea for over 22 years. The last batch we tried had a slight quality issue. I remembered getting multiple emails from this brand telling me that they were my ‘friend’ so I went onto their Facebook page and requested them to look into the issue. I was forced to do this a total of nine times before giving up because my friendly brand kept deleting my post. Were they really my ‘friend’?

In the pursuit of trying to get things done, some ‘top’ brands have made mistakes. Here are some things to avoid, with no exceptions – things that I hope are rarely repeated.

Blindly focus on ‘likes’: A rabid focus on driving up ‘likes’ has led to the ‘like’ button being devalued and results in significantly lower return on investment. The mantra in many corporate offices is to simply grow the number of ‘likes’ without any clear strategy on what to do after the ‘like’. You can now ask a consumer whether they really like a brand or was it simply a ‘Facebook Like’?

Games, contests, free: In a struggle to keep the consumer engaged, brands tend to keep offering consumers special incentives. This all-out effort to discount and lure consumers tends to have a negative impact by devaluing the brand and devaluing the relationship. Additionally, brands tend to run multiple contests, which results in severely diluting their engagement to conversion metrics. You want your discussions on social media to be interactive, spontaneous, and productive. Imagine trying to create interactivity by inviting your consumers into your shop to just play games!

Waiting for people to come: Brands set up shop on social media sites and simply wait for the consumer to come and find them. They do little to engage via dialogue or by trying to market along other channels. They have simply set up shop and expect that it is good enough to drive consumers in. Remember, you need to start talking on social media and push your social media on other channels to get your consumer to notice you.

Blocking negative feedback: Many top brands tend to either block or ignore negative feedback. If you put up a comment on their site, they either take it down or have a defined strategy to push the bad comments as far down as possible. This strategy diminishes the value of the positive comments.

Not monitoring conversations or wait too long to respond: Some brands take a long time to respond because they only check ‘social feedback’ twice a week. Other brands take a long time to respond because they have to get approval before they can respond. The problem is that if you take too long, the consumer will probably call your brand for an answer or move over to someone else. No one likes to get ignored.

Snooping on your customers: While it is okay for a brand to leverage ‘widgets’ to track consumer behaviour on social media sites, it is scary when the brand sneaks up on personal conversations. I once let a cruise company into my circle of friends by telling them I ‘liked’ them. Very soon, this company sprung surprise after surprise on my personal network with offers that were ‘sponsored’ by me. A click on a social link led to a phone call by a cruise representative who unabashedly told me that he observed my behaviour online.

Not connecting your channels: Always a classic with the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Businesses tend to put up positions, discussions, and offers on social media without checking what they might be doing on other channels. This inconsistency makes the brand look inefficient and encourages the consumer to take the brand’s social media efforts lightly. If brands are serious about their social media initiatives, they need to integrate social into their marketing mix.

My daughter bought a t-shirt from a popular retail brand. This shirt shrunk after the first wash. She went onto Facebook and asked, “Has anyone else ever bought a shirt that shrunk after the first wash?” In three minutes she had 41 likes and two comments. Both comments were from the retail brand, offering her a telephone number to call to resolve her issue. My daughter called the brand, they replaced the shirt, and she updated her post to say that the brand took care of the problem. Not only did the brand earn my daughters trust, it created positive interaction with all its fans.

Social media can make a positive impact. Do not wait to get started, do not just focus on ‘likes’, and please do not tell your fans that you know what link they clicked on at 11:33AM. Good luck with your social endeavours.

The author is Digital Evangelist, NCR Corporation

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