Damages: When social media managers lose it . . .

Somebody recently mentioned that “Mercury is in retrograde”. I had no idea what they meant, but I’m beginning to suspect that it’s a Latin term for “social media managers in South Africa have lost the plot”.

Over the past week or so, several incidents confirm that there are still too many companies that believe social media to be something less than brand and reputation management and the most incredible way to engage clients on a one-to-one basis.

The first occurred with a site I imagined to be a tourism site (of sorts), given its name. The (I can only imagine young) men who run the Facebook page posted a picture of a woman almost wearing underwear, though I’m not sure what it had to do with events in Cape Town at all. A couple of people found it offensive and one said so. The party started round about there . . . The “social media manager” told her to unlike his page; she suggested that wasn’t really the way to deal with issues on social media; the young SMM called in the troops . . . and the woman was slagged off, mocked, degraded and lambasted – on Facebook and Twitter – for hours.

I tried to reason with the young SMM, suggesting that whether one found the pictures (yes, there are more of them; some entirely inappropriate for a site that doesn’t warn parents not to let their youngsters go there) offensive or not, it doesn’t make sense marketing-wise to treat people badly online. My comments went unnoticed and the attack continued. I had no idea South Africans could be that vicious. Don’t these blokes have a mountain they could climb to get rid of that kind of pent up anger??

The second incident was the now-famous SANRAL comment to someone who complained to the organisation on Twitter. The SMM found it necessary in that case to immediately attack the man’s looks. Not nice, not clever and not a secret anymore that SANRAL’s social media accounts may just be managed by someone with little online experience and even less people skills. SANRAL deleted the comment a short while later but – too late . . . screenshots of the exchange were all over Facebook, out of the SMM’s control. Silly, silly thing to do.

The sad part about all this is that so many companies know they should have a social media presence, but fear negative publicity. Issues like those mentioned here just confirm their fears, when the real problem is who they hand their brands over to: I’ve heard many a decision maker suggest “Jason in IT – he’ll handle it AND he’s got LOTS of Facebook friends”; or “Meredith can do it in her spare time”; or even better, “Let’s hire a college student – they’re cheap”.

If you’re about to hire any of the above, ask yourself this: “Am I willing to put my brand’s (and my own) reputation in the hands of Jason, Meredith or Cheap? What does my brand’s value mean to us as a company, and to current and potential clients?”

Social media is not about how many Facebook friends someone has, or even the number of “likes” a page gets. It is an opportunity to keep your brand top-of-mind and to be proactive when someone has had a bad or a good experience with it. Would you employ a call centre manager who slammed the phone down on people or told them their complaint wasn’t valid because their hair looks shoddy? I imagine you wouldn’t. So, here’s what a good social media manager looks like:

  • Even tempered and able to detach personally from criticism
  • Good people skills and the ability to make people feel as though they have been heard
  • Genuinely has your brand and your customers at heart
  • Marketing skills – they beat technical skills hands down in this arena . . . you’re building brand loyalty, not websites
  • Good writing skills, thus avoiding having to use Grade 5 text-speak on Twitter and posts of naked women on Facebook on slow news days
  • A good knowledge of your products and/or core focus, as well as your image . . . and a dedication to protect that at all costs – even when there’s this, like, RAD pic of a chick in a bikini just waiting to be posted, Dude . . .

Incidents like these two (and there were others, but you get the general idea) serve only to damage the social media arena and the reputation of both brands and people. Especially the SMM people who don’t have the social skills required to deal with the opportunity to address customer’s concerns in a positive and pleasant manner – which is exactly what CAN be done on social media, with millions of people watching.

Choose your staff with care – and remind them that slander and defamation are offences for which they (and you) may be sued, online as quickly as off. (And, in case anyone was wondering, this was not written with the “social media managers should be under 25” article in mind – but the “managers” in this case probably are.)

Dianne Bayley is a freelance writer, former editor of Marketingweb and the founder of infORM Reputation Management, a company that specialises in setting up and monitoring your social media initiatives. This blog was originally published on Letsema Communications’ publicrelationspnderings blog.

Playing nice on Facebook

By Dianne Bayley

If you’re reading this, you’re online. It’s a fabulous place to be and the single biggest communications event of our lifetime. Like any playground, it has rules. Chief among these is “play nice”.

  • You know how when you post something on Facebook that reads, “I am OUTRAGED at this politician/store/product” . . . and some arb Facebook friend writes underneath it, “Hey– haven’t seen you for years! How are you?” Don’t be that person! It’s one thing to divert the thread of a conversation with something similar, but another thing entirely when you use a post to write something that should have been a “hello” between the two of you on the person’s page. Continue reading

Measuring ROI of word of mouth – really?

By Dianne Bayley

Just as I’ve never understood how anyone can assure an advertiser that his billboard has been seen by X number of people – rather than just cars driving past, if they’re counted – I’m finding it difficult to believe the number of companies claiming to be able to give you the ROI on social media exposure.

No matter how many “matrix”, “metrics” amd “measurement” terms you use, it’s virtually impossible to give an exact return on investment from a Facebook page or Twitter account. Ask yourself this: “How do I measure word of mouth advertising?” When you find the answer to that question, let me know. I, for example, have installed a handy little program that prevents me from being counted by the plethora of “analytics” programs running on every page I visit. In fact, I can see exactly which ones can no longer count me every time I visit a new site online. Continue reading

Infobesity and the social media diet

By Dianne Bayley

While I’m highly animated about the remarkable ways in which we can communicate these days, I’m also starting to look at how much information we access daily, and where it all goes once my head is full. Probably to my hips . . .

For many, a typical day starts with switching on the TV or radio at the same time as the coffee machine. It’s not enough to be greeted with a blast of world news and three strangers in your bedroom hosting a morning show – they run tickertapes while everyone’s talking, just in case you miss a bush fire or some other tragedy you can mourn before you’ve had your first cup of coffee. Continue reading

What price social media (non)management?

By Dianne Bayley

In a recent article posted on socialmediatoday.com, social media expert for CBS News and founder & president of Resonate Social Eric Harr says that, while it will be a massive growth industry in the next few years, very few companies (or people) know the art or reputation management.

Importantly, even fewer companies or brands in South Africa appear to be looking at social media – and online reputation – management as an investment, as they would marketing and advertising. Seems many are happy to hand social media over to a techie or a junior member of staff, when they wouldn’t dream of having these people in charge of their advertising campaigns.

Harr says: “You may have spent untold amounts on branding, website design and corporate communications, but these efforts pale next to the hundreds of millions of people sharing ideas and opinions in social media. They are talking in public about companies – and in doing so, they are defining brands. You need to accept this reality  – and not cavalierly disregard ‘brand management’ as a ‘nice to have’. It’s a ‘gotta have. Right now.’” Continue reading