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by Alec Sharratt on 11th July 2012
Hello. Many of you will have heard or read the story about the 9-year-old school Scottish girl, Martha Payne, recently who created a blog about her school dinners where she reviewed them and other kids sent in pictures of their school dinners for review as well. This is really a classic example of social media engagement and drives to the crux of this video blog post, which is about how to do social media engagement and also how to avoid the bad aspects of social media engagement.
This girl who had a very successful blog, only 9 years old, it got some national press because of that, and this is what brought the whole thing to the attention of the school to which she was a pupil. Now, once the school had found out, they could have done a few things. Unfortunately for them, they took the wrong route. This was to try and silence her, and silencing your critics is never a popular move for a company to make if people get wind of this, and sure enough people did get wind of it. Aside from the fact that you’re trying to silence a critic there, you’re also trying to silence a 9-year-old girl who’s actually a pupil of your school, someone who’s capable of writing great content, building a popular blog, and also monetising that for the purposes of charity. So, as you can imagine, once people got hold of this information, the spotlight that was on her grew. The spotlight that was on the school grew as well, and the next thing you know the school have got a massive social media problem on their hands, where they’re looking to be bullying their pupils into preventing them from doing things like raising money for charity.
This just is such a good example of how not to deal with criticism online. I thought it was worth a mention, and it touches upon several of the points that I think underpin a good social media engagement strategy. As I said, the school could have done one of a few things in this situation. To my mind it seemed obvious all they needed to do was turn around and say, “Okay, our school dinners might need a little bit of reviewing, but our pupils are astounding,” and all of a sudden you make it look like you’re reasonable, you’re funny, you’ve got a sense of humour about things, but, fundamentally, you’re a great school that is able to produce entrepreneurial pupils at a very, very young age.
These are the six underpinning principles to social media engagement I think everyone should follow. I’m going to walk through these and then give you some juicy stories about where people have broken these rules and what they’ve done to fix that or what they could’ve done to fix that.
First of all, building relationships, this is really the crux of social media engagement. This is why you’re doing it. If you’re only on there to just self-promote, it’s not going to work. The whole point of social media is engagement, and the point of engagement is to build relationships with people. So this should be your primary focus when doing any kind of social media.
Train your staff. Unless you’re hiring professional social media agencies that know exactly what they’re doing, you will need to train people so they’re aware of what’s good, what isn’t, what works, and what doesn’t. To reinforce this, have company policies that clearly outline what is and is not acceptable behaviour when using social media.
Respond quickly. This really is a twofold statement. It means respond and quickly. If you don’t respond quickly enough, it will probably be too late. This is really important. If you’re not responding at all, you’re not going to get the opportunity to either control or fix a situation or turn a bad situation into a good situation.
Real time brand monitoring. There are tools and business software that you can get that will help you to do this. This reinforces or facilitates the respond quickly point because you can see in real time how your brand is being mentioned online, and when you see it mentioned, you can then respond to that.
Underpinning all of this is the idea that you should be polite, professional, and act like it matters because it does matter. If you don’t do it properly, if you don’t act in a polite or professional way, thingsthat go wrong can go wrong quickly and badly and become viral and can create massive amounts of negative attention for you.
So a few stories to sort of highlight how this should and shouldn’t be done. The first one is Dell. This is going back to 2005, when a guy called Jeff Jarvis made a blog, and he was a prolific blog writer. He wrote this blog called “Dell sucks. Dell lies. Dell sucks. Dell lies.” Pretty damming. He goes into how he bought a product and it didn’t work and he paid extra to have someone come out and fix it, but they couldn’t do it. So they had to take it away and so on and so forth. A classic customer nightmare story. Now, Dell didn’t respond to this quickly, and in the time it took them to respond this blog gained huge online traction and triggered criticism from hundreds and hundreds of other Dell customers that all had bad experiences. What’s important to learn here is that Dell actually did respond in the end, and they dealt with the situation, albeit it was a bit late and that had a lot of negative press. But the chap that wrote the blog post wrote a follow-up blog post called “Dell Learns to Listen”. This is great. This really epitomises the good and the bad aspects of a social media engagement strategy. Granted they didn’t respond quickly enough, but they did respond. When they did respond, they learned from their mistakes. They set up social media managers and a proper engagement strategy to prevent this kind of thing from happening again in the future.
Honda, another company who recently, or fairly recently, had a bit of a slip-up on Facebook where one of their employees had written a comment, acting as if he wasn’t an employee, complimenting a recent launch of one of their cars. Now, the online community saw this. It looked odd amidst the litany of other negative comments, and within a few searches in Google, people have found out this guy actual worked for them, was a product planner for the company, and this went horribly for them and again it went viral and it doesn’t look good. This really comes down to self-promotion. Are you trying to build relationships, are you trying to engage, or are you just self-promoting in a flagrant and unproductive way?
Another story which I found quite interesting was the Price Chopper debacle where a customer had complaints on Twitter that there wasn’t much stock in one of their sections of their store and had compared them to a competitor. It was a bit of a damming comment, but ultimately it was a fair comment, and the employee at Price Chopper rather than dealing with this directly actually contacted the employer of the customer and tried to get him disciplined. This is off the scale in terms of where you should be with your social media engagement. It’s like: Are you trying to build a relationship? Was that guy trained? Are there policies in place? I don’t think that there were. As a result of this, an influential friend of the customer blogged about it. The whole thing went viral, and loads and loads of negative press rained down upon Price Chopper.
So there are a few things to learn from these stories. If the criticism that’s being levelled against you is fair, honest, genuine, and from genuine customers, then it needs to be dealt with. I’m not talking about someone that’s being rude or offensive or trolling online. That can be ignored, and in some cases if something’s just rude and offensive, it’s fair to remove the comment. But if it’s a genuine criticism or a genuine concern or a genuine piece of feedback from a genuine customer, it does need to be dealt with properly.
Another great example of poor social media engagement was when Green Peace challenged Nestle and Kit Kat who used or procured products from people that were essentially destroying the rainforest, threatening the lives of the local indigenous people and also the lives of orangutans, which is never good. This started on YouTube. It spilled over onto Facebook and Twitter. People started making logos using the Nestle logo and manipulating it to be defamatory and negative towards them. Nestle didn’t deal with this properly. They threatened to try and get these images removed. Again, really I think two things. If you’re going to destroy rainforests and endangered species, have a social media policy in place that allows you to deal with the kind of criticism that will be fairly levelled against you, and don’t just threaten people or threaten to remove their comments or their images. You have to really deal with this, engage with it, and get to the bottom of it. I don’t know whether or not this is truly the case, whether they were buying these products and whether it was damaging the rain forest. But if it wasn’t, you needed to get that message out there and you needed to do it in a proper way as well. I say engage and build relationships, don’t just tit for tat or try and get revenge on someone.
So, as I say, these are the six points I think if you follow will lead to a good and strong and robust social media engagement strategy. The main aim build relationship, always be polite. Everything else can follow in line.
Okay. Thanks for listening. My name’s Alec. If you want to know any more, you can go to the Koozai website at www.Koozai.com, or you can find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, information at the bottom of the screen. Thanks. Goodbye.
Alec Sharratt will be writing about his passion; the technical aspects of search. Well experienced within the IT industry, Alec has bags of knowledge on everything technical from simple spreadsheets that will save you hours right up to news and tips to make search that little bit easier.