Peter Graves listens intently to his task. He digests the information. He looks at the tape recorder as a voice utters those pivotal words: “Your mission, should you choose to accept it …”
There’s nothing impossible about the mission of social media planning. But, after participating in a Wednesday night discussion of the subject, I see it as a challenge to be undertaken. I could never properly synthesize a 50-slide presentation in 500 words, so I’ll focus on the first step – preplanning.
Haphazardly is no way to begin engagement in social media. As our instructor suggests: Do what you can handle. And, after 24 hours’ reflection, I would add this: Count the cost. Are you ready for social media? Are you prepared to participate in brand-building fashion? Are you ready to be …
… present? The best brands are real and available on social media. Not only does Whole Foods provide coupons and announce sales via Twitter and Facebook, it also provides real-time customer service. A patron tweets about a mischarge for 23 lemons. Whole Foods tweets back to make sure the problem has been resolved. But real-time customer service doesn’t have to use an external platform. Adobe has created an entire community wherein users and Adobe techs alike can help others troubleshoot.
… transparent? When disaster strikes, the path back to brand relevance sometimes involves three simple words: We messed up. Whether culpable or not, Alaska Airlines took a hit for its defensive Facebook stance after the Seattle-based airline was accused of neglecting an elderly man with late-stage Parkinson’s. Some organizations recoil at criticism, even to the point of deleting negative comments on social media pages. Burson-Marsteller doubled down in 2011, working incognito on a Facebook-funded smear campaign of Google, then deleting comments on its Facebook page that revealed the ill-conceived plan. In simplest terms: This is not a good idea. Conversely, Starbuck’s sets a welcoming tone, inviting feedback of all sorts at its own online community.
… consistent? Those engaged with you on social media shouldn’t have to wonder where you are or when you’re coming back again. Amazon engages customers with a daily deal tweet. Avon is well known for its comprehensive Facebook presence. The cosmetics company provides a database of reps and engages those interested in becoming reps. Should Amazon cease its daily tweets, or should Avon cease to maintain its Facebook page, each brand would surely meet a confused and angry collection of customers.
… valuable? Is your information worth something? Be like Drake University, a school that uses Pinterest to help students easily and efficiently get necessary information on a variety of topics. Be like Chobani Yogurt, a maker of delicious dairy products that uses Pinterest to provide recipes and health tips. Don’t be like Dr. Pepper, a factory for self-absorbed tweets that ask followers to boost the company’s self-esteem.
… conversational? The Natural Running Store is a small operation, but one that is using social media to spread its footprint. Owner Patton Gleason provides online customer service by thanking those who make purchases and answering questions for the masses. He even helped a runner through calf soreness via a Twitter conversation. Conversation goes beyond customer service, though. It also means understanding your voice and understanding timing. Kenneth Cole earned virtual demerits for turning the Arab Spring into a sales pitch.
While Peter Graves had a choice – “should you choose to accept it” – businesses in the 21st century may not have the option to ignore social media. If you try to hide, social media has a way of finding you: Panera found that a simple act of compassion at one of its locations led to a deluge of Facebook likes, Tide found that the weekend is no time to nod off at the social media wheel, Domino’s found that in-store employees can cause a world of hurt on YouTube.
So accept the challenge, or pass on social media at your own risk. Conduct your planning, and engage the social media world with all the calm of Peter Graves staring at a soon-to-self-destruct tape recorder …