Social Media; The king of Public Opinion
Twenty years ago, our now beloved computer enthusiasts were working the world up into a frenzy about their hopes to create a ‘Cyberspace world’. They were all adorably enthusiastic about achieving a ‘Globalized Village’ where every person in the world comes together in harmony and peace. The ultimate ideal, create a neutral digital Switzerland to ring the world together. Quite possibly, they were being too idealistic and held a tunnel vision of hope for the future. Human nature is a strong force, and the rise of trolls, online Karens, and the monetizing of social media platforms and the potential soft power up for grabs, all pretty much shattered the glasshouses of this idyllic global village.
Unlike a quaint, picturesque English Village, the internet does not believe in keeping family secrets and realities behind closed doors. Rather, the internet is the Las Vegas Strip of TMI and strongly voiced opinions that are often resolutely defended. It’s given a voice to the outliers; which can be in itself a beautiful thing if you’re a teenager looking for ‘your people’. It can be a double-edged sword for businesses and their brands. On the one hand, it gives you direct access to your target audience, can help you build an interactive rapport with them and establish trust in your business and the people behind it. On the other hand, the trolls and Karens will come for you if they even get a whiff of blood in the water.
The butterfly effect of social media is staggering. One bad review, reaction, or an angry troll going off on their socials, can spread like wildfire across the world like an epic game of Chinese whispers. Sometimes, there does not have to be any context for people to join the bandwagon if enough people believe in it, then it is perceived as the truth. Whether experiential, consequential or intentional, word of mouth on social is the soft power that can make or break your business.
Winning the War
If you’re not effectively using all the weapons in your arsenal, then shame on you. Businesses that don’t leverage their socials often find that their competitors far surpass them in their rate of growth. It’s great that you post content regularly, and you feel proud of yourself for being ‘engaged with your audience’. That’s just great. However, spending the majority of your time creating content or defending it against the trolls, is arguably the most ludicrous and harmful thing you could do. The 80/20 rule applies to many things in life, and this is one of them. Spend less time producing content and justifying your actions, and more time promoting your work and beliefs. An ‘interactive’ audience doesn’t just appear because you used buzzwords, created minimal traction, and you have a small, but fierce following. It takes effort to create a stir within your realm of operation.
To see any benefit at all, companies should be prepared to spend time and effort on their promotion through social media. Not all business models work, and being ‘sassy’ or full of personality is not always in line with the business ethos of a company. Your creating content for a specific audience, so you should get on said audiences’ level. Tailor your online speech and content to your audience, listen for any changes in colloquial jargon, and adapt as quick as you can. Social media is an economical method of building trust and key relationships with your target customers. The great thing about social media is that if you can manage to turn one passing customer into a loyal follower, you have guaranteed yourself access to their followers as well. So, it is crucial to stay away from the petty hate battles and focus on the larger picture of winning the war by increasing your brand’s strategic soft power across the web.
Prepare for the Inevitable Fall out
To be honest, people are fickle beings, and more so when their autonomy is secured. You might believe you have hit a fail-proof strategy, then Bam! A catastrophe of disasters that will haunt your business for some time to come. Like the Pepsi and Kendal Jenner commercial, a great idea in concept, but extremely off colour and tone-deaf in reality. There is no ‘Fail-proof’ in social media. If you believe your strategy is, then that is going to be your downfall and remember-pride goeth before the fall. One bad review on Glassdoor, or a few pinned tweets, can result in you harming your company’s SEO. When it comes to companies that are in that arduous and uncertain stage of growth, any bad press is exactly that. Bad.
So, be ready. Because the internet is forever, and there is no erasing or running from the memes of your mistakes. It’s been years, and still, there are memes of Samsung’s Galaxy S7 exploding in people’s faces, everywhere. That’s a visual image they can never recover from, and it’s out there for the end of time. Here are some tips for businesses to help them cover their bases;
Social Media does not mean Casual
You should prepare for a campaign the same way you would a physical campaign. Post photos like you would release to the media, if it’s something you wouldn’t want to be seen in a magazine or newspaper, then it should not be on your business profile. Keep it professional.
2. Keep the Receipts
It’s social media, not the supreme court. Wrong. It’s the court of public opinion, so you best be ready to back up any claims or defence through visual proof. Always save the originals, there will always be one person who will comb through your businesses and conduct an audit on your business of their own accord, ready to find fault and be the hero who tells the world of your tasteless faux-pas.
3. You are not a Comedian
The POTUS may get away with it, but you are not him. What you say means something, and if it’s taken the wrong way, you may be in a mess. Keep it professional, on par with what your audience expects from you, and save the rants and clap backs for your time. No one will care that the view of the person in charge of the account, isn’t related to your business. It came from your business account, so you are accountable for anything posted there.
4. Remember; It’s a Village
It’s crucial to establish a global management system to protect brand reputation and keep it consistent. Your social media image is, after all, your business image, and regardless of language and culture this should be reflected and addressed. For larger companies, it may better to outsource this task, as they can better keep a more objective eye on how your company and it’s people are perceived by the mass public.
5. With Great Soft Power
There is massive power for grabs on social media, and even though it’s a world stage, there is only so much to go around. So if you manage the feat of besting the haters, building a large and loyal following, it’s good to remember that you have a tentative grasp at best on the power you have to play with online, and it should be used responsibly, to convey a positive, strong image of your company.
6. Activism vs. Reality
With the current rise in the Black Lives Matter movement worldwide, some companies are feeling the pressure to address it, make their public statements and show where they stand. This is great, super realistic. Until one disgruntled employee calls you out for the hypocrisy. Yes, it’s crucial to make a statement, but making one for the sake of PR only, will not make you friends with the internet trolls. Unless you fully believe that your company can stand by the statement you give, do not make one until you work out if fits with what your business culture is in actuality. A reaction may be needed, but when your company image is on the line, take a minute and think through your response.
There is no mastering of social media, it has united us all under its supreme reign. Some part of that idyllic dream the fathers of the internet pinned on it has come true. Still, we must learn to live with it, because as time goes on and the world is hurled into a digital renaissance, social media is here to stay. It would help to know what minimal control enterprises can have on the beast that is social media. There’s one main rule when it comes to social media. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.