9 ways SA firms fail on social media

Twitter. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Twitter. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town - Social media is with us, yet few companies are truly aware of how to use the medium to engage with the public in general, and consumers specifically.

Coffee retailer Starbucks recently incurred a social media backlash when the company initiated a discussion on race relations as part of a well-intentioned campaign to promote the issue in American politics.

Even Twitter executive Anthony Noto sent what was meant to be a private message to his public Twitter feed.

US Airways accidentally sent a graphic tweet in response to a customer complaint. The tweet was widely shared even though the company moved swiftly to delete it.

In SA, companies too often jump on board social networks before clearly thinking about how they will manage what can often be a fast moving uncontrolled environment.

Gordon Geldenhuys, who heads up the social media and insights division at 25AM, offers the nine worst mistakes that SA firms make on social media:

1.    No plan or measurable goals

One of the worst mistakes a company can make is embarking on a social media journey on a trial and error basis as this wastes a significant amount of time and provides little direction. Goal setting is very effective in guiding social media initiatives as it provides a benchmark to measure and account for success.

2.    Fools rush in

A very key mistake is adopting approaches with the promise of making fortunes of money overnight, and even worse, falling for advice that suggests that this is even possible. The reality is that only by planting the seed, working hard at developing relationships with your followers and community, and having lots of patience is the only real way of ensuring sustained success.

3.    Not knowing what’s out there

A key and somewhat difficult lesson to learn is not to assume what is being said out there. It is crucial to first listen to what customers have to say and thereby gain an insight into what they really care about, what communities they are active in and what subject matter they choose to associate with.

Listening to your customer before engaging with them shows that you are in touch with their needs. It’s important to reach these communities in places and in ways where they are receptive to your message and are willing to participate.

4.    Forgetting about a social media playbook

Employees generally have a fear of ridicule or performance anxiety when required to engage on a company’s social channels. It is therefore very challenging to establish the levels of collaboration and participation from your staff that would contribute toward making a company’s social media presence a success.

5.    Giving employees free reign

Every employer's worst nightmare is the day they wake up to receive news about a scandal emanating from their brand, as a result of a defamatory comment posted by a disgruntled employee. More common occurrences may be where inaccurate or poorly constructed information (including typos and spelling mistakes) are posted about the brand.

To mitigate these risks it is best practice to make use of tools that allow you to manage which staff can post to specific social media channels, together with various levels of management approvals to pre-authorise posts before they move into the public domain.  

6.    Using canned responses

Companies naturally feel the need to be prepared for any eventuality. As such, when using e-mail communication, it is common to use various text based templates as a means of answering common email queries from customers. Unfortunately using these types of canned or pre-prepared responses on social media, can impact the brand negatively.

Social media is a highly personalised communication channel, coupled with the fact that customers who utilise social media frequently expect individually tailored responses that fall in line with each individual’s unique needs.

7.    Avoiding responding to negative feedback

Companies can often make the mistake of ignoring negative feedback that they may receive from their customers via social media. Unfortunately this head in the sand type of approach will not resolve the problem but it may create an even bigger problem.

It's important to treat negative feedback proactively, by addressing each query and then interpreting the feedback as constructive criticism and an opportunity to take corrective measures for continual improvement.

8.    Setting up too many social profiles and communities

Too often we see companies registering social accounts on every social channel and for every brand or business unit within the company. Unfortunately this approach can dilute a brands potential audience, and while it may be a logical way to go about things from a business perspective, this approach is not always intuitive to the needs of the customers.

It is therefore important to consolidate your social presence to deal with the customers experience holistically and across all your companies' functions. It's also important to think about where your audience is likely to engage with you and therefore not to invest time unnecessarily by being active on certain social networks that are unlikely to result in any interaction.

9.    Using overtly promotional messages

Often companies embrace social media purely as a promotional platform to push their products, without realising that their audience may have a more diverse range of needs and interests in the company.

Don't be afraid to tell the true story behind your brand, the people who work for you, what makes your company unique and real, therefore giving your customers a reason to care. This can take on the form of communicating the company’s involvement in various CSI driven initiatives.

25AM is a integrative digital customer engagement agency which is part of the Times Media group and Lagadere and is based in Cape Town.

Watch Andre Steenkamp, CEO of 25AM, explain why clickbait is the lowest form of online marketing:

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

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