Overcoming Social Media Fear: 5 Steps to a Braver Brand

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Earlier this year, the CFO for Francesca’s Holdings, a retail clothing company, tweeted, “Board meeting.Good numbers=Happy Board,” and in doing so violated SEC regulations regarding fair disclosure. He was fired on the next business day.

In March of 2011, a social media representative at New Media Strategies, a social media marketing agency, who was handling Chrysler’s Twitter account accidentally posted a tweet to @ChryslerAutos that was actually meant for his own, personal account. The tweet read, “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to [expletive deleted] drive.” The representative was fired from New Media Strategies, NMS was taken off the Chrysler account, and Chrysler found itself scrambling to engage in damage control.

And in July of this year, Celeb Boutique, a fashion company, saw that #Aurora was trending on Twitter and decided to take advantage of the trend by tweeting, “#Aurora is trending, clearly about our Kim K inspired #Aurora dress ;)” with a link to the company’s online store. What they didn’t realize, of course, is that the reason #Aurora was trending was because of the tragic incident that occurred at the Aurora Century movie theater during the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. Understandably, the backlash was instantaneous and extremely damaging.

These are just a few examples of companies and representatives that have suffered the potential pitfalls of social media. They are by no means alone. In the past few years, we’ve seen similar stories from American Red Cross, McDonald’s, former Representative Anthony Weiner, Gilbert Gottfried, and many, many more. Social media snafus happen every day. They’re usually embarrassing, and although they sometimes go by unnoticed, they can also be incredibly damaging, to corporate brands and personal careers alike.

There’s just no way around it; social media can be scary.

That’s probably one of the reasons why only 57% of small business owners use social media for marketing, despite all of the incredible benefits. Social media marketing is more economical than traditional marketing, it’s more measurable, and it’s effective. Yet 43% of small businesses don’t use it, and heavily regulated industries, like insurance and healthcare, are only just starting to come around. With all the potential for harm, it’s easy to see why.

But in today’s socially savvy world, you can’t afford to ignore social media marketing. So here are 5 steps to navigating the social media minefield and obtaining total peace of mind:

1.    Create a Social Marketing Plan

You can’t just go out swinging. You need a plan. Just like a traditional marketing plan, a solid social marketing-specific plan will help give your social network communications focus, which is the first step to social safety.

2. Build a Team You Can Trust

Even if you’re the only person who posts content to your company’s social networks, you undoubtedly receive input from other employees and stakeholders within your organization. Be proactive when forming your social media team, whether that team consists of a dozen content specialists, a graphic designer, and a product specialist, or just you and the intern you share with the HR Department. Surround yourself with people whom you can trust to post appropriately and who are sensitive enough to potentially hazardous content that they can weed it out before it becomes an issue.

3.    …But Be Ultimately Responsible

This one sounds kind of scary in its own right, but someone has to be responsible for your social media usage. And being ultimately responsible doesn’t just mean taking the fall for any brand negativity that occurs because of your social marketing work; more importantly, it means you need to be proactive in determining what type of content successfully enhances and promotes the company’s digital voice. When you mentally and actively assume ultimate responsibility for the social message, you give your team a rally point, a level of social professionalism to aspire to. When you assume responsibility for the message, you gain control of the message (inasmuch as you are able to control a social media message, at least), and that internal control can make all the difference between social snafu and social success.

4. Use Gremln’s Compliance Tools

Here at Gremln, we’ve created a handful of tools specifically designed to allay your social media fears. Our Keywords tool allows you to restrict or block specific keywords from your team’s social networks. If anyone tries to send a tweet that violates your company’s content policies, it’ll be flagged, and it won’t go to the network without your approval. Our Moderation function lets you assign inbound tweets and messages to the specific team member who can best answer the question posed. Our Groups feature allows you to separate your team into groups with varying access levels, so you can set your seasoned pros to post freely, while everything your social media interns and new-hires post goes straight to you for approval first. With Gremln’s help, you can defend against wayward tweets before they ever go out.

5. Have an Emergency Response Plan

Despite all your precautions, the day might come when you face a social media disaster. Because hey, things happen. That’s why it’s important to have an emergency response plan in place. What will you do when the entire Twitterverse explodes in a rage over your post? Will you delete the offending tweet? Who will make that decision? How will you respond to the outcry? When will you respond? Who will be the one responsible for responding? If you can’t handle the fallout yourself, which of your company’s stakeholders can you count on for help? Is your organization’s management aware that this sort of negativity can happen? How will you calm the anxiety of your Board at the next meeting?

You don’t want to be making these decisions under the gun. Have your emergency plan mapped out as best you can…and hopefully, you’ll never have to use it.

The Bottom Line

Social media can be scary. But it’s just too good of a marketing tool to shy away from. It can be easy to get wrapped up in the immediate nature of social media and post in a near-stream of consciousness style, but always keep in mind that careful planning and idea vetting is key to social media safety. By following these five steps, you’ll be able to take control of your social fear and take proactive steps to avert brand-harming disaster.

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