The thing about social media is that is indeed social and very public. And social media has become a firmly fixed global way of communication (Doorley & Garcia, 2015). Users on social media are not afraid to be themselves and share all kinds of information and voice sentiments boldly. This way of communicating has risen the expectation of organizations to communicate authentically in an open and transparent manner and has become imperative to successful reputation management (Doorley & Garcia, 2015). And the opportunities and pitfalls of communicating on the vast social media landscape are great. The following will discuss the challenges of corporate participation on social media, best practices for avoiding pitfalls, and the need to respond to both negative and positive comments in an authentic, open and transparent manner.
Challenges of social media participation
I could probably write a very extensive list but for now, I’d like to talk about three challenges of social media challenges that corporations, brands, professional communicators face:
1.Speedy nature of social media
3. Community building
Best practices that I believe can alleviate these challenges are:
- Planning and Training
- Create corporate personality
- Responding to positive and negative comments
Speed and Planning
Social media never sleeps and it’s very fast paced and has a wide reach. As a corporation or brand, you certainly do not want to until you are overtaken with an instant storm of negative Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, Instagrams memes and bad reviews on YouTube. All the thinking and planning (for the most part) needs to be done ahead of time so you can be prepared to weather the storm and come out victorious. I think Pringle (2013) hits the nail on the head by suggesting to think about all the possible scenarios your organization could face and prepare approved statements in advance. Also having social media do’s and dont’s in place and training staff on them is also important. As Pringle (2013 ) points out staff should know what type of issues they are prepared to handle, when they need help from supervisors and how not to send out personal posts from corporate accounts.
The brand theory here is that being prepared works to manage brand reputation. When an organization is prepared with a statement they appear to know what they are doing, care about their customers or stakeholders which helps to build or maintain trust (Coombs & Holladay, 2014).No one wants to do business with someone or an entity they feel like they can’t trust.Or a someone that doesn’t know that they are doing.
Authenticity and create corporate personality
As I mentioned earlier social media users are their true selves online and expect corporations to also communicate in an authentic way. Consistently communicating in a more conversational way and following through with reflective actions is key. This can be difficult for a large corporation that has many communication channels and functions or departments (Doorley & Garcia, 2015). But this is also where planning and staff training can also be implemented. Such as, making sure all departments understand the corporate personality and communicated appropriately through all channels. Also, there should be a system in place that facilitates clear internal communication between departments and customer service.
Corporate personality. So how does a corporation create its personality? Kerpen (2015) suggests that an organization decide what personality it’s going to have. Will your corporation be serious? Warm? Funny? Once you decide you can fit the language to your personality. For example, if the corporate personality is like a surfer, then the words used might be “narley” or “dude.” Other factors to consider are who your audience is and what your company stands for (Kerpen, 2015). If you audience is not surfers then you probably don’t want to create a surfer personality, especially if you’re company that has nothing to do with surfing.
Although brand concept is mostly related to physical properties and a brand and associations (Tybout & Calkins, 2005) I do believe authentic online communications can also be an ingredient that helps to shape a brand’s concept. Reason being is that the unique way a brand communicates helps to differentiate it from other brands-just like its physical properties, word of mouth descriptions and marketing strategies, such as ads, do. And being authentic builds trust with customers because they see consistency, therefore, feel like they can purchase or support your corporation in other ways.
Community building and engaging
I think building a social media community, in general, is a challenge but can be accomplished. Just like in our offline real worlds, if you don’t talk to others, aren’t nice, honest, strike up conversations and reach out you probably won’t make any friends. And so it is online. To build a community you’ve got to be, well, communicative. But in a good way. A way in which that will attract others to you. There are several social media tools that can help drive traffic your way but I agree with the experts that word of mouth (or word of posts) is still one of the most effective ways of getting the word about your brand and building online communities. And effectively and efficiently responding to negative as well as good comments in your community can help overcome some of the associated challenges.
Responding to negative comments. It might seem a little scary to respond to a customer or fan that has posted a negative comment or complaint, but doing so can turn your customer care into a marketing asset (Kerpen, 2015). So one reason why corporations need to respond quickly to negative comments is because these comments are made public and anyone can see them and how the corporation responds- or doesn’t. Not responding only makes the situation worse and saying “sorry” or apologizing for a customer’s bad experience goes a long way (Kerpen, 2015 ). When you don’t respond, customers feel like they are not being listened to everyone else can see it. So by responding quickly and going above and beyond the call of duty to resolve the issue can turn a complaining customer into an advocate. That same customer that complained most likely will update their status about how awesome their experience was and recommend you to others.
Responding to positive comments. Positive comments are awesome! They tell you what you are doing well and it’s an opportunity to turn those happy customers into brand ambassadors (Kerpen, 2015). Just like saying “sorry” goes a long way, saying “thank you,” doing a little extra, and inviting happy customers to share with others can help a corporation overcome the challenges of building a community (Kerpen, 2015). I think I can definitely bump up my actions in this department. I just released an album and have been promoting it and my upcoming release party on Facebook. There are a few fans that have purchased the album either online or in person and have also purchased tickets to my album release party. An extra “Thank you,” is certainly in order here. I think I can do something cool like schedule a private performance just for them or even surprise them with a T-shirt when they show up to the party. I’m excited about seeing the outcome.
There are many challenges corporations, brands, marketers, and professional communicators face in participating in social media. The ones I highlighted are the challenges associated with the speedy nature of social media, authenticity, and community building. Best practices that can help overcome these challenges respectively are planning and training, creating and corporate personality and responding to negative as well as positive comments. Information travels just about instantly on social media and it can be a difficult task to keep up with it. Planning prepared statements and training staff how to communicate appropriately on social media will prepare corporations to handle this challenge. Being authentic on social media is also a difficult task. Corporations, especially those with many channels of communications and departments are challenged with maintaining one voice and reflecting that voice in action. I also believe this is another area where planning and training will be imperative. In addition, it is also important to create a corporate personality and consistently communicate that personality. Building an online community can be tough as well but an effective way to build awareness and be engaging is to say “sorry,” when a customer has a complaint, solve the issue and go beyond the call of duty to wow them. This can turn a complainer into an advocate. Saying “thank you,” rewarding loyal fans or customers, and asking them to spread the good news encourages happy customers to become ambassadors.
Coombs.T. W., Holladay, S. J (2012) The handbook of crisis communication. BlackwellPublishing Ltd. Malden, MA
Doorley, J., Garcia, H. F (2015) Reputation Management: The key to successful public relations and corporate communication (3rd ed). New York, N Y: Routledge
Kerpen, D. (2015). Likeable social media: How to delight your customers, create an irresistible brand, and be amazing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and more (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
Pringle, S (2013, July 23)7 Media training principles for social media marketers. Socialmediatoday.com. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/7-media-training-principles-social-media-marketers
Tybout, A. M., & Calkins, T. (2005). Kellogg on branding: The marketing faculty of the Kellogg School of Management. Hoboken, NJ
Cover photo retrieved from www.bloggiesta.com