Keeping social on the straight and narrow.

Strip back the fancy language and social is the culmination of technology platforms that we use to communicate with each other.

It is the great leveler. It doesn’t matter where you live, or what car you own, we all behave in a similar ways online. Social has become the world’s largest democracy powered by technology but driven by humans.

It forces us to listen, reflect and engage with customers based on what they need, not what we want to tell them. As a web content manager, I’ve been banging the same drum (against my own head at times) for years- so the advent of social has really helped bring other naysayers along on the journey.

My only fear now is that the words ‘social’, improving ‘customer experience’ and the ‘user journey’ are really becoming part of a new found buzzword bingo- and are usually dropped surreptitiously into conversation with little actual data or research backing them up.

Recently I’ve been working with some larger Creative Agencies, who are hopping on the social bandwagon. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not having a go at Creative Agencies, the creative side of their work is breathtaking, and so it should be, it’s their area of expertise.

I’m just finding that hybrid offerings are coming out of Agencies who don’t necessarily have the greatest understanding of the social landscape. It’s an entirely different monster to running an above the line campaign via traditional marketing methods.

To me, it’s a real danger employing Creative Agencies to run social campaigns, particularly social marketing campaigns. Unless your Agency has a thorough knowledge of your corporate landscape, (meaning all the issues facing your organisation from customer opinion, to call centre operations)- then a marketing campaign can go from trying to raise awareness for the right reasons, to landing you in incredibly hot water.

Customers are not stupid, they are able (and willing) to make connections about your company that even you haven’t. Drawing attention to how great you are as a company, or new exciting products that you have on offer can only really work if you’ve got your house in order. Customers don’t want to see shiny happy people if they are getting poor customer service, or over billed for example.

This is where the democracy and true transparency of social platforms is fantastic. More often than not, if creative agencies conducted social media monitoring before campaign development, they’d understand how to direct a campaign, and hopefully come up with ideas to mitigate risks in the social world.

Customer feedback via social platforms provides great creative direction for those willing to listen.

Creating Facebook fan pages for campaigns, when you haven’t listened, is pretty much the same as asking someone how they are, and not really wanting the truthful answer. Yes, it’s nice to think that everyone is happy and having a great day, but it’s not realistic. More importantly, it heightens the risk of turning a positive into a negative. Sometimes the truthful answer is worse than you imagined. In social, it’s out there for good, so it really does pay to work out who you are talking to, and find out what they are already saying.

Soap box moment over.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, there are a few things you can do to make sure that a brilliant creative campaign is not derailed by an angry flash mob of social trolls.

1. Get your brand, marketing and corporate risk people together in the same room. Air the laundry. Turn over stones. Tell stories, share information.

2. Get your agency across the issues before they begin a creative strategy.

3. Monitor before, during and after the campaign.

4. If you’re not actively engaged in social media, and your company isn’t responding, then at least make sure that you have some ways of harnessing sentiment and directing it towards the positive. Get busy with your existing advocates and ask them what they think about your direction.

5. Listen, listen and please listen to your customers and try to make sure that some of their issues are resolved before going to market if possible. If not, ACKNOWLEDGE that you are listening and let them know by any means possible that you are trying to make changes. It’s called communication! Everyone wants to feel heard.

I’m sure there are more, but at the risk of boring you to death, I think I’ll post a separate article before Xmas about some of the other ways you can make sure the whole process is a positive one. If nothing else, it’s a great learning experience.

Okay, that’s my Friday rant. Over and out!

Published by Claire Spencer

Senior social media specialist combining mindfulness with content to build a better world.

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