Today, I was asked by an oil company, how to prevent bloggers posting inappropriate comments on their social network pages. They are worried that they cannot control what is being said about their company, This is a major challenge for them that they did not know how to manage.
The following is my response...................................................
Your company is going on a journey with social media. The issue is that organisations don’t understand what that journey entails or where the destination is going to be.
Therefore, grounded on extensive research I have done with two leading business schools, I have developed a social media adoption framework. The purpose of the framework is to give organisations a greater understanding of what they need to do to and how to do it. Here is a link to the framework http://viapointuk.wordpress.com/2012/02/18/its-time-for-corporates-to-stop-playing-with-social-media/
To your point about negative feedback. In order for social networks to flourish they have to be open, transparent and honest. This means that you will get negative comments.
If the comments are fair then surely you need to know about them and act on them. When you deal with valid negative comments or even wrong perceptions, it’s important not to respond in an official corporate tone. You are dealing with individuals who need to be acknowledged and handled with respect and in the case of social networks, in a conversational manner.
As social networkers operate in a real-time and interactive ecosystem you have to be resourced to operate in this environment. Delays in responding, if required, can cause further frustration and potentially lead to a social media bushfire of negative posts.
If the posts are unfair the others members of the online communities are likely to shout them down without you having to do anything. So when this happens, listen to see what happens. You may well find some advocates this way who can go onto support and nurture.
But don’t go down the route of firms like McDonalds who is building a network of fans by gratuitously rewarding them to post positive comments under a scheme called Family Arches. This misguided strategy will surely lead to yet and another backlash for McDonalds because it undermines all the tacit rules of social networks.
However, there are ‘Trolls’. People who are intent on making unjustified negative comments and ‘social media stalking’ companies or individuals. These people should not be responded to as you give them credence and great satisfaction by doing so. There are online laws for these people and if they are guilty of slander and harassment they can get legally managed.
Companies who are adopting social media need to undergo a cultural change and transition to the new paradigm where the consumers, shareholders and employees have more influence over brand or service reputation. Trying to suppress this will cause a backlash. We have seen plenty of examples of this. Key strategies are to define your ‘tone of voice, cultural change, employee code of conduct and governance and even a ‘crisis management’ procedure.
The issue is that most companies underestimate the resources required to manage their social media operations. It calls for resources including conversation and community management and moderation and good content generation.
If you set off playing around with social media without a plan you are likely to run into trouble. Once a company has set up social network pages without a plan, skills and resources the company is leaving itself open to a whole range of issues. Therefore, formulate a strategy with the appropriate budget, resources and skills and importantly ensure that your board level directors understand it and are bought into it.
Paul Fennemore is MD of Viapoint a leading social media strategy and services provider.
Paul also conducts research with Henley Business School and lectures at Henley and Oxford Brookes University. He also found presenting and on panels at business conferences.