As a strategic marketer and copywriter, I’m always delighted when I see great social media posts by a Fortune 500 brand. But I’m even more impressed when those posts are from a tiny, little company, where you know the person posting is also answering the phone, dealing with orders, and possibly working the cash register.
But whether an organization is big or small, the sad news is that despite social media celebrating 10 to 17 years of history (depending how you look at social media being a marketing opportunity), very few brands today really “get” how to use social media effectively.
Perhaps it’s because, in the big scheme of things, companies are still wrestling with what they should say or how they should say it. For many, social media is merely another way to push advertising content that’s being used in other media channels. Consider Twitter posts like this: “Check out our new television spot!” with a link to a 0:30 spot. Does this inspire you to click on the link? If you’re a huge fan of the brand, perhaps, but does the post add insight and value to the brand? The short answer is “NO!”
In many mid-sized or smaller businesses, social media posts are considered “grunt work,” and thrown to the current intern to figure out. Or, running out of fun and engaging ideas, the social media manager gets desperate and perhaps loses their sense of appropriateness — like the famous Twitter post from Home Depot that got the employee and their marketing agency, fired.
If You Make a Misstep, They Will Come (in Droves)
Social media is the ideal platform for customers to express their immediate frustration with a brand. Pre-internet, if something happened, you’d write the company a letter (good luck getting a response beyond a form letter!), or call the customer service line and vent to some hapless inbound telemarketer who was empowered to do absolutely nothing about your complaint.
But in 2016, all it takes is access to a Facebook or Twitter account, and with a few keystrokes a consumer can generate an extremely damaging and embarrassing message to practically any brand in the world. And all eyes are on the brand as to how they’re going to handle this potentially messy situation.
Sometimes the brand need do nothing in response. It seems that there are a lot of sympathetic brand protectors out there, who often swoop in to save the day (without being endorsed by the brand at all).
Take the anti-gay bigot bashing Facebook user named Jessica, who was angry over the new Campbell’s Soup campaign that featured two gay Dads feeding their son Star Wars-inspired soup while taking turns mimicking Darth Vader’s quip “I am your father.”
Without waiting for Campbell’s Soup to officially reply to her post, another Facebook user created a Facebook account called Campbell’s ForHelp and tackled Jessica’s comments head on, virtually shaming her while building a positive following and support for the Campbell’s brand.
Often brands simply ignore or take down inappropriate posts to their Facebook accounts. But if a brand takes down a legitimate complaint, they’ll often get bashed for that action as well. In fact, a recent survey found that 42 percent of consumers that are complaining on social media expect a response within 60 minutes. And when they don’t receive one, they continue to complain with more posts.
Many companies are now turning to their customer service departments to run their social media sites. Personally, I think this will lead to dull and disinteresting content as it turns the channel into a reactive, rather than proactive, one.
Welcome the Newest Addition to the C-Suite
I think the answer to the problem is crystal clear. There needs to be a new job function created: Chief Social Media Officer (CSMO).
Skilled as a writer, classically trained as a marketer, deeply committed to exemplary customer service and empowered to take on and resolve customer complaints, this brand maven would represent the organization as well as (or better than!) any existing company spokesperson.
A highly sought-after position, this individual would clearly love and champion the brand while developing strong relationships both internally and externally in order to share customer insights (gleaned from social media chatter), and elevate customer issues for fast resolution.
They would be clearly versed in the company’s strategic vision, business operations, products and services (including what was coming down the pipeline), and would be always ready to speak as the organization’s brand ambassador but in a way that leveraged the power of social media.
What do you think? Are you up to the task? Ready to apply?