For brands looking to take their consumer engagement into the stratosphere, social media platforms offer a goldmine of opportunities for savvy marketers.
As we discovered in part 1 of this blog, there are some fabulous benefits to being on social. Increased consumer engagement, brand loyalty, improved SEO page rankings and ultimately, increased conversions are all just some of the riches that await the brands who wield the power of social to its fullest potential. But if you think it all sounds too good to be true, you may have a point…
We love our films here at Sodexo Engage HQ. One of our favourites is the seminal 1993 classic Jurassic Park; a tale of genetic engineering gone horribly wrong, dinosaurs running amok and Bob Peck uttering the now legendary words ‘Clever girl’. Now at this stage, you’re probably wondering why we’ve decided to share our love of an adventure 65 million years in the making when we’re talking about using social with your brand promotions – after all, they don’t exactly seem to be connected, do they?
Well, there’s a very good reason why we’ve highlighted Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi classic (apart from the fact that it’s pretty awesome). In amongst the chaos of T-Rex’s and Velociraptors gone wild, there’s a scene where Geoff Goldblum’s character Dr. Ian Malcolm poses the question to Jurassic Park’s owner that he was so preoccupied with whether he could do it, did he ever stop to think if he really should? And he was right to ask – as events began to spiral out of control, the best intentions of the genius owner and his scientists were cold comfort to the people trapped amongst the prehistoric carnage that was unfolding around them.
It’s at this point we come back to reality for a second or two. Jurassic Park illustrates that just because something can be done, it doesn’t necessarily mean it really should be. And whilst the stakes may not be life and death, the same sentiment can be applied to the question of using social media when it comes to promoting a brand and promotions in general. Sure, there are potentially huge benefits of being involved on social, but the pitfalls can be equally as great.
1. YOU’RE EXPOSED
Opening up your organisation to engagement is a two-way street – you simply can’t just talk at your audience and expect them to listen! So, by engaging with your audience, you’re giving them that personal touch which demonstrates you treat them as more than just a customer. Great! But there’s a catch here: by being on social, you open your business up to scrutiny by literally anyone – and if not managed effectively, it can potentially lead to some very ugly outcomes.
To give an example of what we mean by this, let’s take a slight detour back to the 9th April 2017 and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Sitting patiently in his seat on a United Airlines flight is 69 year-old David Dao; a doctor who is flying home and preparing to return to work the next day. Whilst the rest of the flight is boarding, a steward informs him that the flight is over-booked and he’ll need to give up his seat, leave the plane and catch a later flight instead. When Doctor Dao refused – after all, he had paid for his seat and had every right to be there – he was forcibly dragged out of his seat by United Airlines staff, down the aisle of the cabin, causing several bloody injuries in the process.
Now, even by itself this was a shocking incident and demonstrated just how catastrophically wrong United had managed the situation; but the real damage occurred when passenger video footage of the entire incident was uploaded and shared across all the major social platforms.
Over the course of mere hours, social users shared, tagged and re-posted the video to the point where it became a globally-trending video which was then seized upon by the world’s press. Once it had reached this point, there was nothing United could do except to try and limit the ensuing damage; but even with the wealth of resources at their disposal, United’s response to the unfolding crisis was woefully inept – leading to the incident gaining global notoriety and causing substantial, long-lasting damage to United’s reputation, value and business worldwide.
It’s important to note at this stage that whilst this is an extreme example, it highlights how even a global brand like United Airlines could be brought to its knees by negative exposure on social platforms. It could be argued that had this event not made its way onto social, it may have been contained and dealt with far more effectively; but it did. And this is where, when it comes to social media management, you really need be on top of your game.
With social offering a hotline to a global audience, you must consider whether your organisation could handle the exposure it would bring and whether you would have the resources and experience to manage this exposure if things went south. And this exposure takes no prisoners – it can potentially hold a microscope to your staff, your products, your service, your business practices… The list is genuinely endless.
2.THE INTERNET NEVER FORGETS
Yup, like some kind of wild digital elephant, the internet never forgets – and neither does social.
Social platforms offer quick and convenient means of communication with your consumers and that personal touch customers look for when choosing which brand to align with; but this convenience can sometimes lead to mistakes which are virtually impossible to erase once released into the digital wilderness. If you happen to release a piece of comms with false, inaccurate or simply inadequate information, it can be seized upon by users and shared across the social-sphere at lightning speed. Just ask the PR team over at United Airlines...
The same can also be applied to customer reviews, comments and how you respond to them. Once someone posts a review of your business onto a channel such as Facebook or Google, it’s basically there until the death of the internet – which, last time we checked, isn’t going to happen any time soon.
If you’re getting fabulous reviews and complimentary feedback from your consumers, awesome! But, if the reviews and comments you’re getting are less than favourable, they’ll be up there for the world to see until the end of time – regardless of how you go on to resolve or improve them. How you manage this is down to you.
Customer reviews are a double-edged sword and being on social opens up your organisation to feedback which, privately, is a goldmine of information. However, when it’s out in the public eye, it can be potentially damaging. Worse still, if your business has suffered a major problem (such as a service outage or product failure for example), social can be an unforgiving arena; with the issues being forever immortalised in comments, shares or – if you’ve really dropped a clanger – internet memes.
3. TROLLS ARE EVERYWHERE
Online social communities can be very curious places. On the one hand, you have people who love to engage, contribute and share positively with their peers, but equally, there are also groups who simply want to disrupt, subvert and destroy just for the sheer hell of it. The latter are your common internet trolls; and they can be incredibly difficult to deal with.
Social platforms give users the opportunity to hide behind the anonymity of the internet. This gives the troll freedom to behave in ways which they would most likely never dream of in ‘real life’, and often it’ll be in the form of posting inflammatory comments, false or misleading information about people or organisations or making serious threats to others. Whilst some studies have shown that Twitter is often the trolls’ platform of choice, whatever social channel you use for your brand promotions, it’s highly likely you’ll have to deal with internet trolls or trolling, and this is where it can become extremely time consuming.
Unlike customers who may have a genuine grievance or concern, persistent internet trolls can’t be reasoned or engaged with.
Internet trolls thrive on the negative attention they bring and will often delight in getting a ‘rise’ out of their targets, so the more you try to reasonably deal with a troll, the worse they’ll become.
There are of course a multitude of ways you can minimise the effectiveness of an internet troll on your social presence, but the fact remains that dealing with these obnoxious individuals can be highly disruptive to an organisation’s social activities.
4. IT CAN BE A DRAIN ON TIME AND RESOURCES
For the occasional social user, platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are a welcome distraction that offer light relief from the usual 9-5 day. However, when it comes to raising awareness of a business or a promotion, depending on the size of your organisation, the resources and time required to manage a social campaign or account can be a full-time job. Plus, for that social engagement to really work, you’ll also need to consider how you respond to comments, posts, social reviews, negativity and of course, trolling – all of which often require timely responses, a cool head and careful consideration.
Whilst there are plenty of good free tools and resources available for social promotions and managing social comms, many businesses don’t take into account the time it takes to learn how to use them to their fullest potential. It should be said that the various platforms do make the process as easy as they can, but this doesn’t make it any less complex – especially when it comes to getting the most out of measuring and reporting your activities.
Whilst the initial process of setting up status updates, links and promoted posts is relatively simple, when it comes to measuring their effectiveness and linking the activities to your overall strategy, this is the point where things can become mind-bendingly frustrating for the inexperienced marketer.
Installing tracking pixels, syncing with your analytics platform, split-testing posts and analysing the data can be a minefield for the uninitiated, and can eat into precious campaign time, too.
5. AUDIENCE DISENGAGEMENT
Whilst we have made a point about how good social is for engagement, there is also the fact that, if not managed correctly, having a social presence can contribute to a disengaged audience or, worse still, being blocked, ignored, un-followed or reported as spam. Not cool…
But why is this? Surely if people start following your page, they’re interested in your organisation and want to engage with you? Absolutely! After all, it’s reported that nearly 40% of people who use social expect brands to interact with them when they comment or post on their pages. But sometimes, there are a number of small issues which can lead to much bigger problems…
- Too much, or too little? – There is a fine art as to discovering when you’ve reached that Goldilocks zone of engagement when posting on social. Too little, and it’s most likely that you’ll gain little to no interest in your activities at all. Too much, and you may find your followers becoming fed up with your constant self-promotion and decide to un-follow you altogether. It's always good to get a handle on what your consumers are really thinking when it comes to your promotions. Oh, and no one likes a post with a million and one hashtags, either…
- Dull, repetitive content – Part of social’s big appeal is how it brings people together; and it’s the same for brands, too. But remember, when someone follows your brand, they’re allowing you into their virtual personal space – so if you’re not sharing with them deals or rewards to encourage brand loyalty, or anything they’ll find interesting, informative, helpful or unique for that matter, you might find yourself dumped altogether.
- Irrelevancy to your brand – This is a little tricky to quantify, but to put it into simple terms, would Mercedes Benz, start sharing the latest Love Island memes on their social pages? Probably not. The content that you share really must be appropriate to your brand, vision, values and audience. If you start sharing things and engaging in a way which isn’t consistent to your brand and audience, you’ll most likely find your pages being un-followed sharpish.
- Your competitors do it better – There’s nothing stopping your competitors being on social and you may find their activities are simply engaging more people and wooing your target audience to their pages. If you’re not keeping an eye on what your rivals are doing, you might be missing out.
- Misleading posts or ads – People take openness and transparency on social channels extremely seriously; so, if you’re posting content or ads which are misleading, not factually accurate or just plain click bait, it’s pretty certain you can look forward to being blocked or reported for spam.
- Silence isn’t golden – Your followers will expect to see some degree of 2-way interaction from your brand when on social. If you’re ignoring their posts and messages, you may find that they simply give up on you altogether.
6. LACK OF RETURN OR STRATEGY
Finally, before you join a social channel, it’s crucial that you have a plan and outline as to what you’re intending to achieve and just what your ‘personality’ will be, too. As we mentioned before, if there’s a disconnect between your brand and your social presence, this can cause confusion and disengagement; so always take the time to evaluate what you’re ultimately looking to achieve by your social promotions before taking the plunge.
The same also goes for paid promotions. Whilst advertising on social platforms can reach a huge audience, you must ensure that whilst you’re spending money on your activities, you can effectively measure how they are affecting your business and what the return on the investment is.
If you’re simply putting up ads to generate traffic, you’ll need to combine your social activities with an overarching marketing strategy to ensure what you do is measurable and worthwhile.
SIX OF ONE, HALF A DOZEN OF THE OTHER?
There’s obviously a lot for businesses to consider when joining the crowded world of social media but ultimately, the decision as to whether it’s right for you is something only you can really answer. From our own viewpoint, social is an invaluable tool when it comes to audience engagement and has proven a real game-changer in the world of promotions. But, as much as we’d love to focus purely on the positives, it would be naive to simply talk about the rewards social can bring!
As we’ve looked at here, the downsides to social can be extremely damaging if not handled with a deft touch and approaching your social activities with a degree of caution is a must. However, if you manage to master the art of social communications and promotions, or let an experienced promotional agency look after the day-to-day management of it for you, the rewards can be truly astronomical – both from an audience engagement perspective, and for your brand awareness, too. The choice is yours!
You've read the negatives, but want to know the benefits of using social for your big brand promotions? Read Part 1 of this blog: The 6 key Benefits Of Using Social For Your Brand Promotions right here!