Is it just me, or do a lot of business writers seem determined to make social media marketing AS SCARY AS POSSIBLE?
I mean, don’t get me wrong – there are obviously things that everyone should know not to do. But still, when you look at the types of articles that get published about businesses on social media, it sends kind of a terrifying message:
The message? If you screw up on social media, your mistake will be documented online forever and ever, so you can be ritualistically humiliated for the rest of time! Your business will fail! You’ll be living in an old refrigerator box in the alley behind Arby’s!
What these articles don’t mention, though, is that YOU just may have a huge, secret advantage.
Because when you read articles like these about SOCIAL MEDIA FAAAAAIIIILS, there’s one thing they conveniently forget to point out: these are almost always exclusively big businesses.
Big businesses have it rough on social media! Sure, having a million-jillion fans would be nice, but that also heaps MOUNTAINS of pressure on you to always be perfect. And let’s be real – none of us is ALWAYS perfect.
Fortunately, the big business rules don’t apply to you.
(Unless, you know, you just so happen to BE a big business with a million-jillion fans.)
I know that “big business” is all relative, to a certain degree. But you can be a million-dollar company with tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of online fans, and STILL not have to face the same scrutiny as a brand that’s a household name.
That’s why today, I’m looking at FOUR big business problems on social media that do NOT affect you the same way. These are the big, anxiety-inducing problems that strike fear into the hearts of social media managers everywhere – and when it comes to dealing with them, you have it way, WAY easier than the types of companies that make up those scary “corporate social media fails” lists.
So, what are these problems, and how should YOU deal with them?
1. The Faux Pas
Everybody makes a mistake sometimes. Unfortunately, when you’re an enormous brand with nearly 400K Twitter fans, and you make a couple of tone-deaf, self-promotional comments on social media in an attempt to exploit a national tragedy? Well, this happens:
The tweets in question, as you may have assumed, went out after the Boston Marathon bombing in early 2013. Search for the Epicurious Twitter profile on Google, and you can see their legacy:
Yikes, right?? I mean, obviously, those tweets were mega-insensitive. They never should have gone out. So, you know, lesson one is don’t say anything to embarrass yourself. C’mon. You know better.
But hey, mistakes happen. We’re all human! Does that mean that if you make a faux pas on social media, the whole world is going to notice and document it and heap their scorn on you forever? Probably not.
If you post something you regret, delete it. Apologize. Move on, and don’t make a spectacle of yourself. These are privileges that businesses like Epicurious don’t share – they have too many eyes on them at all times. Be discreet, be direct, and put it in the past.
As my girl T-Sweezy says, “the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” And it’s just simple math that the more followers you have, the more criticism you’re gonna attract.
This means that big companies often find themselves in the position of receiving so much criticism online (both deserved and otherwise) that they literally have NO IDEA WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT. Look what happened to Kmart, when people in the Twittersphere called them out on their policy to stay open on Thanksgiving as a Black Friday promotion:
Fortunately, when your business is smaller and more agile, you won’t typically have criticism flying at you from every direction like this – and THAT means you don’t have to embarrass yourself by responding to everyone with the same blanket statement like the team at K-Mart did.
How do you deal with online hate?
Ideally, you don’t have to deal with this too often, but like I said – nobody’s perfect. It’s likely that at one point or another, you’ll get called out on Facebook or Twitter or someplace for a product that didn’t work perfectly, or a customer service email that never got responded to, or just generally not satisfying someone 100%.
Because this happens on such a smaller scale than it does with, say, the Kmart thing, you have the freedom to contain the situation and handle each case individually. Almost every complaint you get on social media is an opportunity.
In my experience, the best policy is to start a conversation – privately. Trying to solve a problem on social is an easy way for it to escalate and get out of your hands, but at the same time, you don’t want to appear aloof.
Contact the dissatisfied person privately, and respond to their comment on social letting them know that you’ve done so. This gives you the chance not only to turn the situation around for the person in question and make them happy, but also to show anyone who saw the exchange that the person’s comments didn’t fall on deaf ears.
Speaking of people who contact you on social, there’s another big advantage that a smaller business has over a ginormous brand:
3. Delayed Responses
According to a late-2012 survey, almost a third of all people who use social media as a way of contacting customer service expect a response within 30 minutes.
Um…excusez-moi? 30 MINUTES?? That’s crazy, right?
Fortunately, an independent business isn’t nearly as likely to be held to standards like that as, say, an international brand. When you call the customer service line for your bank or the department store or whatever, you KNOW that they have a whole 24-hour call center at their disposal somewhere. You KNOW that they have a whole team of people answering emails and responding to tweets and all that jazz.
And just like you KNOW all that stuff, and measure your expectations accordingly, other people do the same. You run a business on your own? Solopreneur, small staff, whatever? Your customers know you don’t have the resources of some mega-conglomerate super-business-whatever.
Heck, I’m not on MY Twitter account 24 hours a day! I’m not checking it every 25 minutes to make sure I respond to any customer service queries RIGHT THAT SECOND. It’s unrealistic when you’re running the whole show yourself!
Your advantage? Your customers know you and your business on a personal level. You’re not a faceless company. You’re a human company. Don’t try to live by the same standards as businesses with much different resources than yours – your customers don’t expect you to.
4. The Renegade Social Media Marketing Team
Behind almost every social media fail on those big scary lists is a social media marketing team that just done screwed up.
Sometimes, it’s someone who tweets from the business account instead of their personal one:
(Chrysler dropped their agency over that one. And the agency fired the guy who sent the tweet. Whoops.)
Other times, it’s a disgruntled employee who didn’t have their social media account access revoked before being fired:
Big companies aren’t always as careful as they should be about who runs their social media, and when everything falls apart, they look TERRIBLE.
That’s not going to happen to you, though. It just isn’t.
Why? Because you’re reading this!
See, it’s not that I think my advice or whatever is going to mean you never slip up. But the fact that you’re reading this says that you keep control over your social media right where it belongs – in YOUR hands.
Independent businesses don’t have to worry about renegade social media marketing teams, because they keep it simple. Whether you do it all yourself, you have a freelance social media manager, or you have a dedicated in-house person to handle everything, you KNOW who’s running your social media. You’ve talked to them. You have a relationship. You can TRUST them.
When big businesses get reckless about who gets the keys to the car, accidents happen, and they pay for it bigtime. Because you’re in charge of your own business, and the way it operates, this won’t happen to you.
So don’t worry about ending up on the next big list of social media fails.
The problems that businesses on those lists contend with are NOT the same problems YOU have to worry about. So don’t let them scare you – and don’t worry about doing the same things THEY have to do!
(Got a social media marketing fail that sticks out in your memory? One that really had you asking, “What were they THINKING??” Share it in the comments below!)