12 Most Non-Egotistical Ways to Avoid Social Media Blunders
Recently a client asked me: “Can you ensure me that we’ll not be the next great social media PR disaster on the evening news?” It’s a question I hear often.
More and more executives are making the leap with their businesses into the social-sphere but many are replacing their hopes of viral word-of-mouth with a fear of social missteps and viral PR disasters. The reality is that there are no guarantees; however, each executive can take steps to avoid them. It starts with checking your ego.
So in response to their questions, here are my 12 Most Non-Egotistical Ways to Avoid Social Media Blunders.
1. Educate your employees
You ask for media training — even though you only speak to the press sporadically. Why not do the same for your brand ambassadors: the employees who engage your audience (knowingly or not) via social media every day?
2. Clean your ears
Before you engage the public online, learn to listen better. Yes you’re the next visionary CEO but without a customer willing to follow your business it’s nothing but ego. Hear what your customers want and what they hope for. Know the trend currents before you speak.
3. Take if offline
You must quickly and publicly acknowledge customer complaints but never hash it out with them online, this not your forum to orate. Provide multiple options for them to reach you in person or by telephone where you can discuss their concerns.
4. Follow up
When customers don’t respond to your olive branch immediately, follow up socially. Post additional options for a connection. Let them — and the world — know your interest was not simply a platitude.
5. Don’t overproduce
Video messaging, blog posts and other forms of social media engagement are often overproduced, which screams “marketing speak” to an increasingly media-savvy public. They have grown to expect more “humanness” in your approach to them, warts and all.
6. Think first
No amount of honesty, transparency or other social media buzz word will help you if don’t first have a well-researched strategy for engaging your audience. Spontaneity and a quick response is desirable but without some form of roadmap, it will quickly take you down the wrong path.
7. Lean on me
Your loyal customers are willing to step up and help you. Acknowledge them and give them the opportunity to do so. You’re an executive but it’s their loyalty that keeps you where you are. Create customer advisory groups and open up your customer channels to advocates to speak on your behalf. That trust will be rewarded.
8. Think of your mother
A good rule of thumb when communicating socially on behalf of your brand is: pretend your mother is listening. Respect your customers and be respectful of their thoughts, opinions and feelings — even if you disagree with them.
9. Kill the office hours
Office hours have gone the way of the dinosaur. If your customers can engage with your product or service 24/7, your social office hours should also be 24/7. Responsiveness is no longer adequate. You must also be quick.
10. Be empathetic
Demonstrating empathy is a new skill required by every business, executive and employee. Public communications are better served boasting customer success vs. business success. Placing the customer’s need first in all forms of engagement is more critical than ever.
Many have said: “Content is King” when discussing social media strategy. Well, if that’s true, Context is its Mistress. Consider the intent behind what others post over your interpretation of the text. Similarly, consider how others may interpret your chosen words.
12. Be there
Never hide; for any reason. It’s better to stutter and stammer in your pajamas and “be there when the feces hits the wind machine” than appear weeks later in designer suit with a PR-spun press release.
What this all comes down to is: check your ego, trust your audience and be open and responsive to their needs and comments. Social media has created an environment where business-to-customer communications is now more like person-to-person dialogue. Shifting your engagement tactics to accommodate social media does not require a rocket scientist (or social media guru). It simply requires an egoless approach to public conversations.