by Omri Levin, Dig­i­tal Media Man­ag­er

In the past year, com­pa­nies like Domino’s have imple­ment­ed social media strate­gies with impres­sive cre­ativ­i­ty and effec­tive­ness; but before you run to your board meet­ing and say “This was AWESOME, let’s invest mon­ey in social media!”, let’s step back and look at the big pic­ture.  Yes, we live in a world where many brands and busi­ness­es may ben­e­fit great­ly from a social media pres­ence.  On the oth­er hand, bad­ly exe­cut­ed social media can be worse than no social media at all.

Social Media Donts

Social media is very sim­i­lar to social­iz­ing.  By build­ing a pres­ence on Face­book or Twit­ter and engag­ing with fans or poten­tial cus­tomers, your brand announces its com­ing of age par­ty.  Friends, fam­i­ly, and fans will show up.  If your brand is still awk­ward and social­ly inept, it will have an uphill bat­tle at becom­ing the cool kid.

Face­book and Twit­ter are incred­i­ble tools for build­ing real rela­tion­ships between a cus­tomer and a brand.  The key that many brands miss is that these are REAL rela­tion­ships.  In oth­er words, if your friend engages you with sur­face lev­el con­ver­sa­tions, nev­er real­ly lis­tens to your advice, and doesn’t fol­low through with com­mit­ments, you will even­tu­al­ly re-pri­or­i­tize that rela­tion­ship.  It’s the same in a social media rela­tion­ship.

In the words of my first post-col­lege employ­er, my social media mot­to is: “ Under-promise, over-deliv­er”.  Fans have expec­ta­tions of brands they engage with on social media.  If a brand active­ly promis­es to solve cus­tomer issues and ends every day with a tweet that says they’ve helped a lot of peo­ple, anoth­er cus­tomer can rea­son­ably expect they can tweet that brand’s han­dle and get their own issues solved or ques­tions answered.

Let’s look at an exam­ple I expe­ri­enced recent­ly:

Late last year I upgrad­ed my phone to a phab­u­lous phablet.  I was excit­ed to be ditch­ing my 4G wi-max phone for one with 4G LTE capa­bil­i­ty.  I checked my carrier’s web­site for cov­er­age for my home and office and went ahead and bought the phone.  To my dis­may it had ter­ri­ble cov­er­age at the office.  I called my car­ri­er for advice but didn’t have time to wait for their cus­tomer ser­vice folk to pick up.  After see­ing that the car­ri­er had a ded­i­cat­ed cus­tomer ser­vice Twit­ter han­dle, I tweet­ed the car­ri­er:

Social Media Donts twitter convo

Over the course of a few days we tweet­ed back and forth. They asked for my loca­tion, for me to email them the details, and for me to wipe and restart my phone to see if it would mag­i­cal­ly fix the prob­lem.  As an aside, a fac­to­ry reset of a phone can fix many issues but it is a has­sle to do and, giv­en that my cov­er­age was only bad in a few loca­tions, I was look­ing for a well thought-out solu­tion.

My biggest quib­ble is that, while the Twit­ter han­dle told me there was a con­firmed out­age in my area, the actu­al tech­ni­cian I spoke to on the phone lat­er said there had been no out­ages and that I shouldn’t lis­ten to their social media team because they don’t have access to the cor­rect infor­ma­tion.

If a brand is going to have a social media pres­ence, it needs to be a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the brand as a whole.  You might be think­ing my harass­ment deserved the ter­ri­ble cus­tomer ser­vice.  I appre­ci­ate that; how­ev­er, it is dif­fi­cult to under­stand the val­ue in a com­pa­ny invest­ing in a social media pres­ence, when that pres­ence is only skin deep.  My expe­ri­ence taught me that their depart­ments are very out of touch with each oth­er and that I shouldn’t engage their social media “cus­tomer care” team for… cus­tomer care.

When a brand invests in social media it needs to estab­lish a prop­er infra­struc­ture that will allow its social media team to engage in deep­er con­ver­sa­tions with its fol­low­ers.  They need to be able to solve cus­tomer issues and show how cus­tomer feed­back is being tak­en seri­ous­ly and deliv­ered to the appro­pri­ate depart­ments in their com­pa­ny.  Oth­er­wise, social media becomes a pub­lic out­let for users to com­plain and tor­ment their com­mu­ni­ty man­agers.