The power of the Social Media Manager

2014-08-25 07:32

Social media faux pas are great for a laugh – until it happens to you.

Your brand’s Social Media Manager (SMM) is your company’s first port of call, its corporate message disseminator and a front-of-house customer service agent.  Your SMM is for all intents and purposes the voice of your brand, and their live interactions with your customers are taking place in a public arena.

That’s a big responsibility for one person, and this is why there should be a team, or at least a smart set of systems in place to keep things running smoothly.

But in order for a brand to be truly successful on social media, you need one more thing: good reflexes. The social arena is dynamic and volatile. Your SMM needs to know how to bob and weave through the punches while keeping your brand’s hands clean.

Why are so many brands getting it wrong?


A few recent social media faux pas have been “blamed” on bad wording and unintended meanings.

Grazia SA, the weekly fashion magazine, faced a massive onslaught from its community due to a status update, asking: “What is it that makes a girl a slut?” They have since apologised for any offence caused, but maintain that their intention was to source opinions for an article on slut-shaming.

I won’t reiterate everything that’s wrong with this status and its supposed justification, but I want to use it as an example of being too intimate with your audience.

Customers, not friends

Brands are now using social media platforms that (initially at least) were designed to make it easier for friends and like-minded individuals to connect. While it’s important to blend into the particular social media environment, you have to remember that you’re still talking to customers.

You cannot treat your customers like friends; you need to respect the nature of your relationship, despite the platform.

Brands are not our friends. We follow brands for info on products, customer service queries and mostly because there’s something to be won.

The next social media offender I’d like to reference is Computicket, who thought it appropriate to respond to a tweet without directly being asked a question. The brand’s SMM then made rude and dismissive comments that, as the customer pointed out, could be construed as sexist (whether intended or not). To make matters worse, the brand then defended the faux pas with an “unintended meaning” disclaimer. The matter has now been resolved, but it's important to reference this incident for a lesson in how not to deal with your customers.  You can see how it all unfolded here.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself

We are digital content producers. Checking ourselves, our sources and our spelling is essential for any writer, and the rules shouldn’t slacken simply because of the immediacy or familiarity of our medium. “Unintended meaning” is simply not a valid excuse.

So – where are these offending SMMs going wrong? Are companies undervaluing their social presence by hiring juniors to just churn tweets and serve cookie-cutter responses? Is it that 140-character limits leave little space for context and massive gaps in which something can be misconstrued?

How to do it right

Relatively speaking, social media management is still a toddler in the corporate world and there’s going to be crayon on the wall, a broken vase or two and lots of screaming.

But there’s no need for brands to just unplug and delete their accounts out of fear. A social media faux pas has as much chance of becoming a brand win as it does a disaster.

A bad tweet can go viral, but so can a sincere apology. Don’t believe me? Read this article on how some brands are even faking mistakes just to cash in on the consumer loyalty that goes hand-in-hand with brand sincerity.

You don’t need to sit on your hands waiting for something big to happen. Activate your audience. Engage them appropriately. Always be ready to respond accordingly.

Hire smart, conscientious writers and communications specialists who can handle a crisis even when your CEO is on a beach in Hawaii.

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2010-11-21 18:15

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