Many small businesses have jumped feet first into the social media sea without a complete understanding of how it works, how it will make money, or how to use it effectively. And as companies large and small experiment, many mistakes will be made. In the hopes that your company hasn't yet made these errors, let’s talk a look at some recent blunders that can easily be avoided with a little planning.
Blunder 1: Forgetting that social media is a real-time, two-way street
When most companies talk about social media, they position it as a way to engage with their customers. That's great. Go ahead and tweet dates on sales events, post coupons and “like” your customers’ wall photos. But don't forget that social media provides a way for your customers to engage with you as well.
Recently, 1&1, the largest hosting services provider in the world, experienced a prolonged network outage spanning several hours over the course of a day. For a company with millions of customers, that's a huge deal. Like other customers, I tried to obtain information on the outage from the company, but was unsuccessful as their phone lines were not working and the network status page on their corporate website had not been updated for weeks. Within minutes of the outage starting, customers started Tweeting at the company and posting messages on their Facebook wall asking questions about the outage. It took 1&1 over an hour to acknowledge that something was wrong, and several hours to provide meaningful information. In the real-time world of social media, that is an eternity—thousands of tweets and retweets had already been sent out with an escalating degree of frustration.
If your company is going to use social media, be prepared for customers using the tools how they want. Be responsive. In this case, the need was for customer service information. Also remember that one minute on Twitter is like one hour in the real world. The company in this example was caught off guard.
Blunder 2: Letting a third-party company control your social media accounts
Business use of social media is a relatively new phenomenon. The industry started out as individuals connecting with one another. Social media accounts are a digital extension of people—this thinking extends to companies. If the XYZ soft drink company has a Facebook page, then what is on that page is who they are.
If your company is trying to establish its voice on social media, letting an outside expert handle it is a mistake. Seeking advice is fine, but your company should use consulting services to learn how to manage social media, especially if you are a small business. You can't outsource your online self. It’s not genuine. There will be a disconnect between your company and your customers.
Blunder 3: Giving one person control of your social media
Whether you choose to outsource your social media management or manage it in-house, never let one person control your accounts. Chrysler executives can tell you about what problems this may cause. The employee of a third party company managing Chrysler’s Twitter account was upset at how poorly (in his view) people drive in Detroit. He decided to send a Tweet from his personal account about it. Instead, he posted it to the Chrysler Twitter account. Whoops.
How could a single person be given access to a social media network where there is no way to retract a mistake? Never give so much control to a single person. No single employee should be able to Tweet from their phone to the corporate account.
Social media is new. Mistakes will happen. Learn from those made by others.