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Avoiding Social Network Faux Pas’

Last week I joined Odyssey House CEO, James Pitts, on Sunrise to discuss the controversy QANTAS faced over their Twitter post which featured a photo of two fans dressed as their hero, Radike Samo, complete with blackened-face, body and Afro . While the race row is an important discussion (you can view the entire Sunrise segment below) the debate also raises the question of ‘what is good social media policy?

The popularity and influence of social networks have exploded over the last few years, with businesses realising the importance of joining this revolution. Today, the volume of traffic through Twitter and Facebook now exceeds traffic through Google. Each month in Australia 2 million unique visitors access Twitter and 12 million unique visitors access Facebook. It can be seen that social media has undoubtedly gripped Australia and refuses to let go. And businesses that do not harness the potential of social media could be at a major disadvantage. For some industries it’s not a choice to ‘DO’ social media, rather it is a choice of how well they ‘DO’ it.

Complications of Social Media

Whilst there are obvious advantages of employing a social media policy, there are negative consequences for your brand if it is managed poorly. One challenge is that when you post something on Twitter within moments it can be re-tweeted by anyone, and possibly thousands of times. We are now in a truly global age where anybody can communicate to an audience and your voice can be heard worldwide. This fact is often forgotten and there are people in companies who post on a blog, Twitter account or on a Facebook page who forget that it is out there instantly and can never truly be removed from the Internet.

Another issue is knowing when to react to your critics on social media sites and when to ignore them. QANTAS’ mistake was to remove the photo from their Twitter page as a reaction to a minority group who found it offensive. This in turn reflected negatively on the company - making it seem like it was something inappropriate and has led to the damaging of the brand.  You also need to be wary of cultural nuances etc. Although QANTAS did not mean to offend and there was no malicious intent behind the photograph it still caused offence.

Other examples of companies who have made mistakes when it comes to their social media policy includes Nestle and Chrysler. In 2010 when Nestle posted a message on their Facebook page saying they won’t accept comments from fans who use Nestle logos in their profile picture, it became a massive issue for people. Some even suggested boycotting Nestle products as the logo policy goes against “freedom of speech and expression.” This negative response was poorly handled by Nestle’s social media person who insulted fans and aggravated the situation. Below is a snippet of the posts exchanged.

Similarly, in March 2011 Chrysler also experienced the negative side effects of poor social media policy. Unlike Nestle, Chrysler did not manage their own Twitter account but rather employed a social media agency to maintain and manage the page. The problem occurred when an employee of the social media agency decided to blur the line between personal and brand accounts and posted the following comment; “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f***ing drive.” This comment caused the brand damage and consequently Chrysler issued an apology and removed the post.

Professor George E Belch,  a marketing professor at San Diego State University believes that we’re going to see more of this because people find it hard to distinguish and separate between their personal lives and corporate brand communications.

What does good social media strategy look like?

An organization’s social media strategy should be driven by its overall marketing and business strategy, taking direction from its vision, core values and business objectives. However, this strategy must be fluid to reflect the adaptable and fluid nature of social media. Clear, measurable objectives, a strong value proposition for the audience, an engagement plan and a crisis management plan are all key elements of a good social media strategy.

It is more important to focus on who you plan to target and how you will achieve this rather than what tools to use. When strategizing a social media campaign it is important to start with the basics i.e. get a feel for where your customers are, how they behave, what are their trigger points; and then manage and adapt your strategy from there.

For more information on what James Pitts or myself have to say on the issue and the QANTAS twitter photo scandal, watch the below segment from Sunrise (29/08/2011)

link to the Sunrise video clip -

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