Social media is like a young adult with a great mind and limitless potential.
It started as a tiny little idea that everyone could be connected at all times. Social media’s creators tried and tried to find the winning formula for social media, and eventually it was born in the form of AOL instant messenger and Friends Reunited. Then it hit its first growth spurt (Myspace, Friendster, etc.) but that came with growing pains in the form of a very non-liquid business and a fickle user base. Social media cried, complained, and yet some people loved it and allowed it to grow in their hearts quickly. Then it went through puberty (Facebook, Twitter etc), with all the mood swings that we dread. One moment social media was this hot new commodity, and then the next day it was the way to ruin your business. It really struggled to find its true identity, was it a corporate gold mine or a massive waste of money and resources?
Then social media did something remarkable; it matured. It became more set in our society, more widely spread and accepted. When it was originally seen as a waste of time, the massive amount of connections it offered made it seem, almost employable. There was always it’s semi-questionable past, but things really seemed to change in its late teenage years. It started to become what it was raised to be, a goldmine of information about consumers.
And now social media is officially in its early adulthood. It is sought out by businesses around the world for its innovative new ways to advertise, as well as the vast amount of information it can provide on consumers. Social media has become a necessary component to everyday business.
But like young adults, social media can boost your business with new ideas and energy, or they can make it crash and burn with the slightest slip.
Let’s take Tesco as an example. They were dealing with a horse meat scandal in the second half of 2013. That’s already pretty bad, but social media amplified the damage with one simple mistake. They forgot to cancel an automatic tweet that read, “it’s sleepy time so we’re off to hit the hay. See you at 8am for more #TescoTweets”
Not an ideal tweet to be honest.
It made an already embarrassing and negative event into a full blown disaster. That’s the danger of social media, it allows for massive amounts of publicity which in a majority of cases is a great thing. It allows you to promote your brand and create a positive image of your company for a relatively low cost. Yet if one thing goes wrong it can act as a multiplier to the damages. To fix the situation Tesco had to place full-page ads in several national newspapers to apologize for the situation. Not to mention the real costs to Tesco in the form of sales lost from the added publicity the scandal received.
So how do you control this wild yet valuable beast called social media?
The most effective and popular method is to create a social media policy. This allows businesses to lay out a set of guidelines for their employees to follow when using social media. It doesn’t have to be long, Best Buy’s is only 500 words, and it gives a company the chance to educate employees, prevent disasters, and reduce the company’s liability if a social media mistake is made.
Now before you write a social media policy, know this. It’s not enough to just write one and keep it in a filing cabinet in a dark room in a lost corner of the office. The best way to use it is to actually go over it with every new employee. Take that chance to teach them about how to avoid tanking the company on social media. If you want you can even take it one step further and teach them how to best promote the company brand over social media.
If you’re wondering how to write one, there’s no general consensus unfortunately. They’re still pretty new and there is a multitude of styles of social media policies with no universal set of standards. The good thing is you can’t really go wrong with one; the main differences between the styles are the amount of detail they contain.
Social media is a necessary evil in business today. You need it to survive in this modern world, yet it can ruin you at any moment. So be smart about it, write a social media policy and educate your employees on the use of social media.
By: Mike Kachaniwsky