Social Media - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Social media has changed the way the world does business, and whether you buy in to the experience or not, there is no denying that it has become a force to be reckoned with in the business world.  While this nearly unlimited connectivity can do great things in terms of spreading your corporate message, it can also turn into a PR nightmare if you don’t keep up with the conversation.

The Good

By producing a quality feed that people want to follow, you can not only give a “face” to your company, but you can utilize the immediacy of the internet to promote ideas, sales and new products. And, as an added bonus, social media allows you to really hone in on your specific clientele.  You can send out branding messages that are tailor-made to your clients and get real-time feedback on how your marketing efforts are being received.

One recent example of great social media marketing is when an Austin-based company called Mondo used Twitter to announce the sale of a limited-edition poster based on the 1988 animated film My Neighbor Totoro. Now, for most people, a new poster that references an obscure 24 year old movie would not cause much of a stir, but Mondo knew that its fan base would jump at the chance to own one of these new posters. The tweet went out and within three minutes all 590 of the posters had been sold, netting the company over $36,000 in sales!

Now, Mondo is probably the exception rather than the rule when it comes to a Twitter-based sale, but it illustrates a great point.  By utilizing social media to reach your clientele and speaking to them in a language that they are particularly sensitive to, you can generate great leads and potentially great profits.

The Bad

Once you decide to venture out into social media, you have to also accept that things are not going to be easy.  Sure, it’s easy to set up a Facebook or Twitter account, but without active, concerted effort, just having the account won’t get you anywhere.  One of the biggest mistakes companies make in social media is to have accounts that aren’t updated frequently.  Nothing illustrates an “I don’t care about this new-fangled technology” attitude quite like a company that hasn’t posted a Twitter update in six months but still has a “Follow Me on Twitter” icon on every bit of advertising they produce.

Social media is, by definition, social. You have to interact often or no one is going to listen to what you have to say. Be sure to make your feed interesting, useful, amusing, and not just about adverting your company.

The Ugly

A celebrity recently said, “Twitter is like being stalked by the world.” And frankly, he makes a good point.  Social media allows your clients and your competitors equal access to you and your brand. Everyone who sets up an account can comment on you, your company, your products, and your customer service.

But beware…even well-intentioned posts can take on a mind of their own when sent out to the masses. Qantas Airlines found that out the hard way when they asked their followers to describe their “dream luxury in-flight experience” as part of a Twitter contest.  Frustrated customers around the world responded with thousands of angry tweets about the airline’s customer service and hijacked the campaign’s hashtag, #QantasLuxury, creating a PR nightmare.

But this doesn’t have to happen to you!  Remember, the companies that are the best at social media take the time to respond to their followers. They don’t answer everyone, but they make sure that people know that the company cares about, understands, and acknowledges the opinions of the people who use their products.  Just take the time to be part of the dialogue, be honest, and above all, be professional.

Social media is a great equalizer. Every voice is equally important and every voice has equal access to a company.  By leveraging social media, your company can receive real-time feedback and unparalleled access to your clientele, allowing you to be responsive to customers in a way that email and telephones just can’t compare to. Just remember to think before you post, post items that are relevant to your followers, and keep up the conversation!