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Betony Lloyd ponders whether it’s right for every business to use Social Media, and in what circumstances brands need to be careful about what they say.
With Facebook recently hitting the 1 billion user mark it’s becoming harder and harder for brands and organizations to ignore it. The majority have realized the might of social media and accept that they should have a presence there in order to reach their market – but should any companies or organizations not be on social media? Should some just stick to ‘traditional’ communication methods, if they communicate at all?
When companies and brands consider opening social media accounts they should think about 2 key things – what they will gain from the platform, but more importantly, what they can give to it. The answer to the first will probably be more apparent (new customers, market research, etc.) but the second is the difference between a good engaging account, or just another broadcast channel. Companies should have something to ‘give back’ to the social audience whether that’s community building, information sharing or something else.
These two requirements mean that if anyone shouldn’t be on social media, it’s probably because they can’t do these. Are there any companies or individuals out there who can’t benefit from social networking and give anything back to it? Is there any point in your dentist being on Twitter? Should the Police Force or even the Royal Family be Tweeting and Facebooking away?
With a little ingenuity, there’s usually a way for even the most unlikely of candidates to add something of value on social media platforms and gain an engaged following. For example dentists could add interest with a “guess the celebrity smile” competition, check-up reminders, specialist content about oral health and retweets of medical news from reliable sources.
Some might also think it inappropriate for the police force to be tweeting, however the Greater Manchester Police staged a very successful Twitter campaign in which they tweeted every call out they got over a 24-hour period. Not only did this gain a great deal of publicity, it also played an important educational role in highlighting the work of the police force and the dangers of prank 999 calls.
Many people may think the final example, The Royal Family, should be ‘above’ using social media and should only use traditional channels. However The British Monarchy have a very popular Facebook page, posting about the activities of the Royal Family in the U.K and abroad. In fact, one of the biggest challenges faced by the British Monarchy is the perception that they are out of touch so Facebook is the perfect platform to connect directly with the public without having to use a potentially biased media as their mouthpiece.
For a few organisations, though, it would be distasteful or inappropriate for them to be on social media – funeral directors or prisons for example. There is little they could do to make use of social platforms and they probably don’t have much to communicate about their services. For some organisations whose communications are highly guarded, such as MI5 and MI6, it would clearly be dangerous for them to broadcast on these platforms, but on the other hand having accounts for intelligence purposes might be very useful.
Finally, some brands may choose to stay away from social media, believing that for them the negatives outweigh the benefits. It may be that they are unpopular (such as oil or drugs companies) and simply do not want to open themselves up to criticism from a public that is not on their side. The recent impersonation of Shell’s social media accounts by Greenpeace is a good example, as it had a great deal of negative public interaction, and the fallout from this may help us to understand how for some companies not joining social media is an active business decision.
In summary, with creativity, research and knowledge of their audience, the majority of businesses and organisations will have something they can add to the social media mix. There are very few organisations that need to stay away, but some do for their own reasons. Of course, as with anything user-centric such as social media customs and etiquette change over time and there’s no true right or wrong usage so please do leave a comment below and let us know if there’s any organisations you don’t think should be active on social media.
The views expressed in this post are those of the author so may not represent those of the Koozai team.
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