January is over and it was a month filled with social media blunders, ridicule and public outcry. Individuals posted content on their private social media accounts and because of their ties to current or past employers opened those employers up to reputational risk.
Concerning individual staff there is only so much an employer can do, but what happens when those individuals are in charge of your official social media channels? When the wrong message gets shared on social media your brand stands to lose a great deal, and unlike Penny Sparrow or the like, there is no one person who can take the fall. Your channels, your risk. Too often organisations entrust their social media accounts to unqualified individuals, and in this article we will look at the steps you should take to avoid this situation.
Social media, like traditional media, is an extension of your organisation’s public image. Unlike traditional media, however, social media is a much more dynamic and real-time platform. In the same way that a great sale or offer can go viral in a matter of hours so too can negative sentiment spread like wildfire. This is why stewardship of social media platforms needs to be entrusted to qualified individuals. In larger organisations this means tying social media in with traditional public relations and above the line advertising functions.
How do companies then end up with social media disaster stories?
Three questions to consider
1) Who do you take your car to when a service is due?
2) Who do you consult when you are feeling ill?
3) Who do you call when your toilet is backed up?
The answer to all three those questions is the same: You employ the services of a professional. Mary in your finance office may be the self-proclaimed ‘Facebook Queen’ but is she the right person to manage your official social media channels? Just because she posts selfies and status updates to her hundreds of friends does not mean she knows how to manage your organisation’s social media presence.
Managing a social media presence is about so much more than just posting messages on Twitter and Facebook. It requires a specific skills-set and involves managing reputation. Just like you would not want your dentist to service your car, so too should you not entrust social media to just anyone.
So what makes a social media professional good at what they do?
We won’t go into the nitty-gritty details of advertising on social media. Instead we will focus on engagement and reputational risk. In addition to solid wiring skills a social media professional should:
- Know the lingo. Terms like sentiment, klout, reach and engagement are part of their vocabulary. They know the best practices when it comes to managing social media without having to reinvent the wheel.
- Know trends and channels. Not every social media platform is appropriate for every kind of business. Social media professionals know which platforms work best for different types of organisations.
- Stay current and up to date. Advertising that worked last year may not work as effectively this year. Social media professionals are on top of this ever changing landscape. They make sure that goals are reached by running effective campaigns that employ all the latest strategies and techniques.
- Be an expert at crowd control. Social media professionals are able to put aside their personal opinions and feelings and do not get impassioned under pressure. Their views and those of your organisation are kept completely separate when they are managing your social media presence.
The instant, always-on nature of social media makes managing social platforms a daunting task. There is plenty to gain from calling on the services of a social media professional, whether you are active on social media already or just now thinking about taking the leap. They might tell you that your current social media strategy is working well, identifying areas where you could improve. But they may also point out that Mary really isn’t the best person to manage your social platforms, saving you from significant reputational risk in the future.
~ Disclaimer ~
Mary is a fictional character created for this op-ed. Any link or correlation to real persons is purely coincidental.
Hugo Venter is a social media communications professional with several years’ comprehensive experience in social media marketing, strategy and management.