Friday, February 3, 2012

You Got Your Twitter in My Facebook! When Merging Social Media Platforms Makes Sense (or Not)

It's hard to know when it's a good decision to merge Social Media platforms. Will it make you look more accessible to have a Twitter feed streaming on your website, or will it backfire and open you to situations like McDonald's encountered in their recent #McDStories campaign?

On the positive side, merging one platform with another (Adding your Facebook feed to the bottom of your internal pages, as Klout does, for instance) will let folks know that wherever they are, you are there, too. They won't have to hunt you down and leave emails through generic contact forms.

On the negative side, the more out there you are, the more you have to be willing to remember that "Social" media is based on the idea that people are talking to you - and they expect a response.

Before you mix and match your social media, you need to create a strategy to be able to Let Go, Listen (and Respond), develop Consistency and, just in case, a Plan for a Crisis.

- Let Go

Social Media is a confusing mixture of Customer Service, Marketing, Communications, Public Relations and Sales. Companies often forget that in order to have the most effective communications, they need to focus not on themselves, but on their consumers. "Tell us why we are so great and get a prize" can work once or twice, but "Our customers are great!" will work forever.

"What if someone says something bad about us?" asks Matt Hames of Colgate University.
This question tends to constrict company's Social Media use - the fear of a negative comment. But, as Matt goes on to point out, "What is possible is engagement. If you get 10 comments and one of them is bad, it is hard to focus on the 9 good ones. The bad one takes all the energy."

Let Go of the idea that Social Media is about you. Embrace the idea that wherever you are, you cannot control the message. Not one second after you tweet, someone might have an ax to grind, or worse, someone might have a genuine problem. You need to Let Go of the concept of controlling the message. Develop a model for communications with positive and negative commenters. Learn everything you can about where a person is coming from, find a way to make the experience of communicating as satisfying and positive as possible.

 - Listen (and Respond)

Emma Haller, Marketing Manager at iFactory "If and when you receive a negative comment, don't delete it - deal with it. Your reply can add credibility to your company."

Merging Social Media might be opening a window on the parts of the Internet you pretend don't really exists, as Skittles found out when they put their Twitter feed on their new Facebook page. You can't set Social media up and walk away. It has to be managed and monitored in a meaningful way. Listen to what is being said to you. If it's acting out, you can have your creatives come up with a boilerplate that handles that, but you also need to listen to the noise for serious issues. How you handle each negative situation is twice as important as how you handle the positive ones.

 - Consistency

People have a lot to say about consistency between platforms.

Matthew Dominy Social Media Consultant points out that "by integrating your social media into your website you allow for sharing to increase your exposure and create a viral loop for your audience to easily see the social proof of your product/service."

On the other hand, Bridie Jenner of Bridie's Typing Services warns, "the mediums are very different, so something I would share on LinkedIn wouldn't necessary be right for my twitter followers, and vice versa."

Steven Lowell Community Manager at reminds us that "For example, a platform may auto-post your blog with a look you did not expect, or give credit to the wrong author of the article. In addition, the usage of hashtags may appear strange on the platform you are using."

Creating consistency between your social platforms is way more than just having the same brand logo. Each interaction establishes a "voice" for your company. Coming off as clueless, or disinterested sets a tone that can lead quickly to customer frustration. The more in control your "voice" is, the less likely a situation spirals into crazy.

Daniel Godin, Founder of Triton PR reminds us that, "With or without you, people are using social media to talk about your brand." So, we need to be vigilant and be aware of what is being said - and by whom. One really influential person trashing your brand can be as bad as many average people who are unhappy with your SM efforts.

 - Crisis Planning

Sometimes, despite the best plans, a social situation explodes. Be prepared. In the best of worlds, your crisis plan sits, unused, in a file.

Before anything else, add in "Apologize Sincerely" to the top of that plan. People using Social Media are not children, they know - and share - when they are getting insincere responses. Admit to doing something wrong, THEN proceed to fix the problem. Either one without the other sends a message of uncaring, or at worst, manipulation.

Whether or not you actively embrace Social Media, Social Media is discussing you and your business. So, while you decide if you want your company blog on your LinkedIn page, or your Twitter feed embedded in your blog, it's worth the time to consider the worst possible outcomes to your choice and develop appropriate responses. Failures of over-enthusiasm are seen as more benign than failures of denial.

You may be mixing your Social Media to create a delicious new idea, or you may end up with a franken-flavor - either way, you'll want to be prepared for the best and the worst.

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