04 Apr 2011 Social media in a corporate world – the 3 golden rules to avoid disaster
It used to be the preserve of the geeks then the teenagers and the silver surfers and finally just about everybody started to embrace social media. And corporations have got on the band wagon too. There’s been lots of debate recently about whether twitter or social media generally is an important tool in the business world with many remaining unconvinced of its worth. But despite the scepticism, corporate twitter accounts, facebook pages and company blogs are now becoming firmly established as important marketing and information channels. But this can be dangerous – very dangerous indeed, because to get things wrong is worse than not doing anything at all.
So what should you do to avoid making a social media disaster? The rule book is still being written of course but there are a few obvious lesson learned from the last 25 years or so of social media that corporations should heed.
Rule 1 – Stay in control and stay on topic
The 21st century is full of aspirations for openness and freedom. It’s a world of everything is free and open source software. It’s great. But if you’re a business wanting to jump on the social media bandwagon – think twice about adopting this approach. What is said on your website, your facebook page and your twitter messages is your shop window. Don’t allow unmoderated comments. Don’t give general access to your staff and make sure that all messages are vetted for their consistency with the marketing messages you want to get out there. Stay in tight control.
I read a company blog recently on the site of one of the most respected analyst firms in the world. A highly professional firm, absolutely at the forefront of 21s century technology and its application to business. The topic of the blog post? My favorite rock albums with the 70’s Allman Brothers Band at the top. What!? They were a fine band I agree but have you been asleep for 40 years? And what has this to do with cutting edge technology? Suddenly the image of this firm changed – and not in a good way.
Rule 2 – Flattery feeds the blogosphere
Spread the love. Whatever you have to say – put a positive spin on it.
The blogosphere is about the most public place there is. If you stand on a box on a busy street corner to share your opinions, only the few people that pass by are likely to hear what you say. But say it on the internet and the world can get to hear it. Don’t even think of making a joke at someone else’s expense. A negative remark or a joke at someone’s expense can become magnified out of all proportion. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so is an insult. Take great care what you say.
Rule 3 – Ignore your enemies
I heard Ricky Gervais once say something on the lines of “You know when you’ve got it right when you start to get hate mail”. What he was saying – and apologies to Ricky if I’ve paraphrased him beyond recognition – is that to get people to love you, you have to stand out from the crowd a little and that attracts haters. Hate mail is a good sign – embrace it – but whatever you do, don’t react to it.
The troll phenomenon is well established in social media. The usenet news groups used to be full of them, all provoking flame wars like it was a kind of cyber sport. Professional organizations can’t risk getting anywhere near this kind of behavior. For a business to be seen to get involved in an unseemly squabble does more than anything I can think of to destroy a reputation.