When not to start with social media as a company

Everyone is talking about social media and companies are using the new media to their advantage. Sure you don’t want to be left behind but how do you start? Or perhaps… you shouldn’t start just yet! It’s so easy to create an account on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Google Plus and to add social media sharing buttons to your website. It’s a matter of minutes and it’s free, so why wait? Herman Vissia, creator of BuzzTalk, published an article about this on the famous Dutch blog ‘Frankwatching‘. Here’s the English translation.

Interactive websites are often doomed to fail

When is an interactive website doomed to fail? It’s when the website is an exclusive marketing party. When the focus is entirely and solely on the appearance of the website without taking into account all of the logistical implications for the internal organization. It’s almost too easy to just add social media widgets to a site without thinking about the consequences. When this is the case companies aren’t prepared for the information that an interactive website delivers and this can result in loss of reputation and customers.

Social media are hip and trendy

I’m sure you’ve heard the tale of the emperor’s new clothes in which he suddenly appeared to be in public without any clothes. Or perhaps you’ve dreamed about this happening to you. You don’t want this to happen to your company. There is nothing worse than make a mistake and suddenly have all eyes on you without being prepared. In the social media era everyone is a publisher and everyone can have their say. We now count thousands of (amateur)journalists who can directly express their opinions, feelings and observations for everyone to consume. And every marketeer wants to start a company blog, business page on Facebook and corporate twitter account to communicate fun facts about the business.

Marketing agencies are advising companies to take advantage of the social media hype, to participate and be where their audience is. They argue that your company is left behind if your website doesn’t have cute ‘tweet this’ and ‘share this’ buttons and if you have no presence on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. As a management team you decide when and how to proceed with this. It’s in your control.

Glass lid on the company

Your employees are probably already present on social media. They can tweet about their work and your brand without you knowing. In the old days you could control your corporate communication strategy but how can you manage all of these smaller channels. Each channel having the potential to become viral and have an enormous influence. You don’t want to find yourself in the midst of an audience without your clothes. We’ve seen this happening with T-mobile when the famous Dutch comedian Youp van ‘t Hek started tweeting about his frustration with the company. It started on Twitter and was quickly discovered by the traditional media. The whole country was watching T-mobile and their next action. Often companies are unprepared for the result of social engagement. Starting with Social Media Engagement, initiated by the marketing department, often results in placing a glass lid on the garbage bin of the company.

Does your organization desire an interactive website?

Social Media Engagement or building a social media friendly webportal is the last step when you’re building an interactive website. Before you start you, as an organization, should ask yourself a couple of questions: Who are we? Who do we want to be? Are we a fair and sincere organization? The culture of the back office and the culture of the front office meet on social media platforms. The quality of a product or service becomes everyone’s business. This corresponds to the working methods of a Quality Manager who is used to handling complaints in a structured fashion. The marketing department may think it’s about showing the company logo in as many places as possible. Embracing Social Media Engagement is actually embracing the basic principles of TQM (Total Quality management). That doesn’t look like the core competence of the marketing department. The other way around, having the quality department interfere with marketing, is also unlikely. Shouldn’t the quality department be busy with checking procedures, performing audits and mapping internal processes instead of marketing?

If this sounds all too familiar then perhaps your organization isn’t ready for Social Media Engagement. Make sure you start with the least sexy part and answer the basic questions: Who or what do you want to be? Do you really want to listen to our customers? Do you strive for quality service? Do you want to develop innovative products? Do you really take your clients serious? If the answer is a firm ‘yes’ then ask the execution question: ‘How are we going to realize that?’. Are we ready for innovation? Can we be sure that everyone in the company thinks we are? If this is not the case, then what do we need to do first? Which changes do we need to initiate within the organization to eliminate bottlenecks?

Relevant questions to ask when you start with social media

When these questions are answered an organization can start to think about using social media. First identify the consequences that an interactive website has for the entire organization. To do so consider the following questions:

  • Who dares to directly and openly talk with clients?
  • Are you willing to be open and do you really want to improve your product or service to create a company that takes their clients seriously?
  • And if you want to… can you do it?
  • What if you get 500 inquiries in a weeks time, who can answer these?
  • Have you even thought about how to follow all relevant messages in the social media?
  • Who is allowed to Twitter?
  • Who is allowed to blog?
  • Does everything that is communicated have to be approved by management first?
  • Is management going to blog too or will you use a ghost blogger?
  • Is your company culture sufficiently focused on using social media?
  • Do you have an open culture or autocratic management style?

How do you know if you are really ready?

It’s very simple: you are proud of your company, you have a beautiful business or organization and it’s about time for people to discover this. In this case embrace Social Media Engagement. Go for it! However, if you think: ‘Oh boy, I hope they won’t find out that our back office is really a mess, that our service department is heading towards a burn-out and that our recalls are much too high’, then don’t start. No matter how much the marketing department is begging for it. It takes a long time to build trust but it can be lost in a second. The only thing you achieve is that the deception forces you to do what you should have done to begin with: build a trustworthy organization. An honest organization that makes all employees proud be be part of, where existing customers are raving fans, where values like transparancy, innovation, passion, excellence and customer satisfaction are integrated.

However, we don’t want you to fall into the trap of paralysis by analysis. The BuzzTalk team has developed not only a tool to help you discover your world, know what’s happening and start engaging the players, it also has developed a path with stepping stones. Think big, start small and build from there. As always… the best way to gain clarity is to take action!

Is your company ready for social media or do you know about companies that though they were… but weren’t?
Let us know via the comments.

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