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.