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Corporate Social Risks

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

A friend posted this ages ago and I meant to write about, so I’m catching up now:

Social media is not corporate media

This is a related point to the one I mentioned a while back about social media “experts” – where those are just people given that label, the group referenced here are in some ways more dangerous.  The newly appointed social media manager will hopefully direct the organization’s efforts towards authenticity. The consultants referenced in the article linked above, however, are much more driven by their own agendas.  I don’t mean they’re sinister, but this is a group of people taking a very heavily marketing approach to a space that’s not well suited to it.

I think the social space is changing a lot, so I’m not sure I agree that corporations are doomed to move in with marketing guns blazing; I’m also not convinced that a corporate presence in a social space means the authentic users will go scurrying away like roaches when the lights go on.  Like the rest of the web universe, this is an evolving medium, and there’s already a developing protocol for interactions between corporate and consumer in the social sphere.

Some things for corporate communicators to understand about this medium and how to prepare for it:

  • Your audience is smart – they often know a lot more about you than you think; they may even know more about your product and company than you do
  • Many of them are unbelievably passionate – your 2011 model will never be as good as the 2002, and you have a lot of work to do to get them to appreciate the changes (and you won’t convince a lot of diehards)
  • They will let you know immediately if they are not happy; you can’t make them all happy, but be wary of making many of them unhappy
  • You will get trolls – it’s inevitable, and many of them live for the chance to drag you down.  It’s part of the territory, they’ll do it anyway, and there’s absolutely no point getting into the proverbial urinating match with them.
  • Respect your audience, be honest with them, and stick to your word.
  • When something blows up in your face, come clean.  The mistake is bad, the cover-up is worse (see Wiener, Anthony; Nixon, Richard).
  • As I’ve sad before – this is just one tool in your arsenal.  Use it wisely, don’t kill yourself to get it perfect, and take advantage of the opportunity to participate in a dialogue with your customers.

To drag this briefly over to video, don’t try and be too clever when producing video content for the social sphere.  You can’t make a video go viral just by wanting it to happen, and people I’ve met who are aiming for a viral video don’t get how it works.  The biggest danger is you’ll create an unintentionally viral piece – because it’s so awful/stupid/irritating that everyone wants to see how ridiculous it looks.  As in the case of the written social sphere, plan what you want to say, be honest, and tell the story well.  You’ll get your point across, and the viral will take care of itself if it’s meant to happen.

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