When Oscar Wilde observed, “experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes,” he was clearly anticipating the age of social media. Mistakes abound, some minor, others calamitous but all offering guidance for those who choose to learn from them. Here are five more mistakes that I’ve observed, each provided with suggestions on how to fix or better yet avoid altogether.
#6 Ignore social media
One in three big brands, across a wide range of sectors have yet to commit significant time and resources to social media. Highly regulated industries like financial services and pharma are particularly cautious given the lack of clarity offered by regulatory bodies like FINRA and the SEC. Other laggards are taking the ostrich approach, hoping that social media will just walk on by and leave them in peace.
Ignoring social media for whatever reason simply won’t cut it. Doing so means the conversation is happening without you, eliminating your opportunity to respond to the negative, reinforce the positive and or close the door to a competitor who is more socially adept. If you are afraid your customers will say bad things, you’re probably right but rather than turning a blind eye, engage your detractors with honesty and fix the problems.
Ignoring social media also means you’ll have no means of fighting a social media fire if one erupts. Domino’s Pizza found this out the hard way when two young jokers thought it would be funny to make a video of themselves putting cheese up their noses and then onto a customer’s pizza. With no social media channels in place, Domino’s HQ floundered and sales dropped nationally. Meanwhile, Ramon DeLeon, the GM of six Domino’s in Chicago, used his long-developed social channels to put out the fire in his area, rallying his fans and growing his sales.
#7 Limit employee access at work
A lot of companies restrict employee access at work to sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, afraid that productivity will drop. As such, there is a limited understanding of the channels themselves as well as the business opportunities that they can create. So instead of having thousands of eyes and ears to watch, listen and learn, the knowledge remains concentrated and the opportunities limited.
The simple truth is that companies that want to make the most of social media need to have a lot of social people across just about every department. The benefits of this open approach are far reaching, allowing the organization as a whole to cast a broader net to catch fresh ideas, important trends, hidden prospects and even future employees.
One company that has benefited from this open approach is the behemoth IBM. Realizing a few years ago that their clients hire IBM because of IBMers, they made an all-out push to become a social business. Presently, IBM has over 30,000 employees on Twitter, over 200,000 on Facebook, over 200,000 on LinkedIn and over 35,000 bloggers. Add these to internal networks and a 75,000 strong network of ex-IBMers and you’ve got a massive community that creates and shares content with unrivaled speed and agility.
#8 Selling too hard
For most brands, social media is not the ideal place for the hard sell yet that hasn’t stopped many from trying. I heard a marketing director of a hospital call Twitter “a dumping ground” and a seasoned direct marketer describe social as “email on steroids.” Typically the result of trying to sell too hard too fast via social channels is nothing — no engagement, no interaction, no referrals, etc.
No one likes a blowhard and there is no quicker way to be unfollowed, unliked or just plain ignored than by tooting your own horn with relentless monotony. On the other hand, if you take your mother’s advice by “yacking less and listening more,” you’ll have lots more friends, friends who will be very interested in learning more about you when the time is right.
Keep in mind that 50% of the people who “like” or “follow” a brand, do so because they hope to get beneficial information or offers. Curate your content carefully, a bit like you might on a first or second date. Once the friendship is secure, feel free to put forth relevant offers. Skittles, in particular, has benefited immensely from an entirely soft sell approach, amassing over 15 million fans on Facebook in the process.
#9 Multiple voices
Perhaps because it is so easy to create content, some marketers feel it is okay to present completely different brand voices even on the same channel. A smarter approach is to establish your brand point-of-view upfront and to employ the various channels like instruments in an orchestra, creating a harmonious and synergistic effect. Defining what you are for and what you are against, will not only give you direction for execution but also it will give you permission to engage with your consumer on your subjects of mutual interest.
Among the best examples of this approach comes from an unlikely category — feminine hygiene. Targeting young women 14-24, Kimberly Clark launched a new line of tampons called U by Kotex. Going against the usual euphemistic approach, U by Kotex established a clear POV with a “bold honest attitude towards all things period and to call BS on everyone who doesn’t.” This POV permeated advertising and social media, helping the brand grab 20% market share and remarkably appreciative fan base. (FYI, the U by Kotex presentation was among the best at the BDI’s The Social Consumer Conference last month).
#10 Misalignment of platforms and goals
With so many different social media platforms to consider there is the natural temptation to try a bunch of them. This temptation is further reinforced by the seeming absence of costs to use these platforms and the presumed “cool factor” a brand may think their getting by using them. The simple truth is that not all of these platforms are right for every brand especially when you consider a particular brand’s objectives.
Dell has been particularly adept at aligning the platforms with specific business goals. Dell’s IdeaStorm.com gathers customer feedback and crowd-sources new product ideas. Recognizing various uses for Twitter, Dell has a variety of accounts including @DellOutlet for deals on refurbished computers and @DellCares for customer support. Dell’s Investor Relations team was among the first to use SlideShare.com, a presentation-sharing site, to present quarterly earnings. And their 24/7 “Social Media Command Center” ensures that customer complaints are heard and addressed regardless of the channel.
Final note: Acknowledging the wisdom of James Joyce when he said, “A man’s errors are his portals of discovery,” I do hope you’ll make a few mistakes of your own and share your discoveries with us all. (This article first appeared on MediaPost.com).