Social media is critical for companies to get right. With low barriers to entry and the perception of ease of use, it may seem enticing to jump straight in but disaster can lurk in the shallows as well as the depths.
The media is never shy about reporting on major blunders by large corporations and so with everything from “my Dell hell” in 2005 through to Dr Pepper ‘s Facebook blunder, the search results are littered with examples of social media disasters. If it isn’t Habitat abusing hashtags in Twitter to promote their sweepstakes then it is Walmart creating a fake blog. Some of these activities are now literally criminal.
In the past the only thing wrong with doing something against the rules was getting the domain banned from Google. While that ban could ruin a business, there was no criminality attached to it (except perhaps the increase in your PI rates). In fact, some SEOs see getting a domain banned as a badge of honour and not the disaster it can be.
Suddenly the EU has changed all that and any SEO operating within its borders has had to also look at the legal ramification of everything they are doing. Where once legions of pretend consumers lived and worked in the EU, they have all had to now relocate to another country. These social media advocates trying to spread the message of love for the brand they ‘loved’ were in fact fake, and this only recently violated the law adopted in the UK under the Consumer Protection Act.
Where once love was espoused, silence. Where once we were able to read about a boy wanting a PSP3 for Christmas or a couple driving their RV across America and loving Wallmart’s great staff while doing it, we have had to be content with the news or blogs written mostly about chocolate. Where once a hashtag we followed about the protests in Iraq could lead us to a deal on garden furniture, now it simply brings us the news and drivel from spammers still seeking to invade the space. This new law has made owning the social media space more difficult because we’ve been forced to tell the truth (or move our legions offshore).
Social media is vital for SEO though and a good social media strategy can result in increased visits and increased rankings in search. It is important, if not essential, for brands to be active in the social media space, and do it correctly. While the age of citizen journalism may not yet be in full flower, the power of word of mouth networks is now digital. Mommy bloggers, passionate bloggers on food, alcohol, gadgets, and more all exist and have supporting communities, and tapping into these communities can yield rich results. The deceptive ease of social networks and access to bloggers belies the danger in getting it wrong.
While social media blunders and gaffs abound, the question is how much brand damage is done by a bad social media execution. Without the legions of ‘advocates’ able to be deployed at a moments notice, blunders in social media now have the potential to stick around for weeks if not years. But is it really disastrous to have bad reviews about your business on Qype or someone have a moan about your brand on Twitter? It depends.
The quickest way to screw up your social media strategy is to not have one. Too many companies jump in with no idea of what they are hoping to accomplish by engaging over social media. They have been sold a blog/twitter/facebook package by some social media guru and now they need to use it. That lack of focus would never be allowed in a DM campaign and it shouldn’t be allowd in social media.
The website www.whatthefuckismysocialmediastrategy.com could be a good first place to check to see what you might want to get out of social media engagement if you don’t already have a plan. But really, if you’re already Facepartying your Twitter check-ins on your BlogTube, it might be too late. Stop. Take a breath. Plan.
Now get back in there.