Facebook launched to everyone in 2006. It has become the commercial image of what we think of social media today. Yet here we are seven years later and there are still organizations that fear social media like the Black Death of the mid 1300's. Why?
What is Social Media?
The thing that separates social media from other forms of marketing is that it is used in the context of a conversation. While traditional marketing, from this consumers perspective, like radio and television advertising, is pushing out a message and hoping people care and pay attention. Social media allows brands to connect with their customers before and after the sale not only for the sake of good customer service, but the opportunity to make that customer loyal to that brand and make it harder for someone else to change their mind. So why all the fear?
Loss of Control
I believe that some organizations are afraid of social media because they feel they have no way to control it. They look at the glass half empty instead of half full by concentrating more on the negative aspects and less, if any, on the positives. They're worried someone will talk badly about them and ruin their good name.
While it's true that some people may find problems with your organization for one reason or another, the majority of people who don't care about you are not going to go out of their way to voice their opinion. Instead you should focus on conversations with those customers that do enjoy your product or service and want to share their stories with you.
That's not so say that you should ignore the negative entirely but why give yourself an ulcer over something that may never happen. Unhappy customers may be out there whether you want to see it or not. Wouldn't you rather they said something to you where you can make a difference instead of a random forum?
Most social networks allow moderation of your page if someone should post something terribly negative about you or behave in a manner that you feel is inappropriate. Having said that, it is the Internet and nothing really ever get's deleted if someone is quick enough to take a screen shot so be careful what you remove.
If someone criticizes your organization's products or services it is a great opportunity to not only have a dialog with the unhappy customer to possibly correct the issue and win them back, but also shows to current and potential customers that you are willing to earn their trust by dealing with problems as they arise.
For those that just want to troll your brand, you will find a lot of the time your community will come to your defense and call them out for what they are. If the person has a legitimate gripe you may want to step in and see if there's anything you can do but if it's just mud slinging why not let the community cast the stones. While you are perfectly in your right to remove the post, it may enrage them even further so only my suggestion is to only resort to that end in extreme circumstances.
Too Much Time Investment
For small businesses there can be a fear of time shortage when it comes to social media. If everyone already has a job who is going monitor and engage on social channels on top of their other duties? While there is some truth that you get out of social media what you put into it, you don't have to hire a full time person to manage your accounts.
It takes time to really built an online community that much is true. But that also means that you don't have to spend every waking moment crafting messages for the next week and waiting for people to comment.
Start by just posting news about your organization that you feel might interest your fans. At first you will likely have a slow influx of followers but few who comment on posts. This should make it easy for a single person to keep up with. As your community builds and you become more comfortable with one another some dialog will begin and you may have to spend a little more time with it that the beginning.
All of social media sites that I use will send me an email when someone responds to any of my posts. This allows me to attend to those messages just like I do as emails during the course of the day. There are also pay for services out there like HooteSuite that allow you to delegate to other people in your organization to follow up on posts that may be more in their expertise.
There are two things one should consider before going all in on social media. The first is to craft a social media policy.
This is a set of "rules" for you and your employees to follow when using social media. It protects you and your customers from accidental release of confidential information such as how employees may associate themselves with your organization, what information can and cannot be shared, education on copyright law and dealing with a PR emergency should it ever happen just to name a few.
You can search the internet for plenty of articles on crafting a social media policy. Start a draft based on that research and as new issues come up, make sure to include them in revisions moving forward. And do revise it from time to time.
The second is to think about the kinds of things you'd like to share on social media. If you've just created your account and have no idea where to start, a good place to look is other social media pages, maybe even your competitors. See what are they doing. Think of how you could take that idea and make it work for your organization. Or just follow my Social Media Strategy For Beginners article to get you started. You will know if what you are doing is successful by how people respond to your posts.
I know for some, social media is the wild west of the internet. However with a little forethought and by not feeding the trolls it's not as scary as you think.