Social Media Shouldn’t Be an Echo Chamber

Social media’s rapid accent to ubiquity has proven to be one of the most disruptive changes to marketing, perhaps more so than the digital revolution itself.  That shouldn’t be a bad thing. The marketers and Mad Men of old dreamt of a world where they could have one-to-one conversations with consumers. Such dreams are reality today, but those conversations can quickly become nightmares when brands misuse social channels or underestimate the apathetic disposition of the Internet.

Part of the issue stems from a major disparity between brand’s definition of social media and consumer’s. “Social was supposed to be a great democratizing agent. It was supposed to be this thing that turned communication between brands and consumers into conversation,” explains Apu Gupta, CEO and cofounder of social analytics and marketing company Curalate. “Instead, brands decided to go onto social and do more of what they’ve been doing for the last 50 years: talk about themselves.”

Social media’s commanding station in digital communication likely won’t diminish. Brands that don’t cull, or at least curb, their monologue risk being ignored, or worse, ridiculed.

Here, several experts weigh in on some of the more annoying (and easily broken) social media habits brands display that do everything but endear them to consumers. 

Be easy with the #hashtags

#This #is #hard #to #read. That’s what consumers see when brands load Twitter (or worse, Facebook) posts with hashtags. It’s bad SEO practice to overload content articles with meta tags. Social networks are no different in this regard. “Generally, just use two hashtags per tweet,” says Jeremy Durant, business principal at Web design and online B2B marketing agency BOP Design. “You don’t want the whole tweet to be hashtags and just really hard to read.”

Don’t Ignore People

Establishing brand presence on a social media outlet implies, at the very least, that a brand is ready to engage with consumers and answer their questions. If this isn’t the reality, however, consumers will leave. “A presence on social media makes brands seem available to answer urgent demands or questions at all times,” says Jan Rezab, CEO and founder of social media analytics provider Socialbakers.  “The most socially devoted brands know this and they make sure to have a team set up that can handle inbound customer requests in a timely manner.”

Be agile

“While everything needs to be vetted to ensure that it’s brand-safe, having a 10-person approval process for a single tweet is just counterproductive,” says Chris Harihar, director at Crenshaw Communications. “Streamline social media approvals to make sure approved content can actually have an impact online.” Often, taking too long to respond to consumers on social medial channels is about as bad as outright ignoring them. Indeed, ensure that a comment or post isn’t detrimental to the brand’s identity. However, take long enough and you’ll end up sending an entirely unintended or irrelevant message anyway.

Don’t solicit shares or follows

Like physical interactions, social medial communication is an organic, subtle practice. The brand offers value, the consumer follows the brand. The brand supplies cool content, the consumer shares it across a network, potentially sparking a viral sensation. This process can be encouraged, but never, ever forced. “If you have good content it will be retweeted, favorited, or shared,” BOP Design’s Durant says. “It looks shameless and desperate to ask for shares and retweets. It actually dilutes your brand if you’re asking people to share your content.”

Be cognizant of what’s trending

An inappropriate or insensitive comment in the midst of a crisis can absolutely wreck brand image. Brands must remember that social networks are also an emerging medium for news and information. If a brand wanders, oblivious, into a conversation about a developing news item, then proceeds to shamelessly advertise, it can cast the company in a negative light. “Social media crises (like Epicurious’ snafu around the time of the Boston bombings in 2013) can have a huge impact on brand image,” explains Socialbakers’ Rezab. “Crisis can be unexpected, and social media teams should have a plan in place ahead of time to effectively handle them.”

Don’t dive into every new platform

Some social networks come almost as fast as they go. Even Facebook has fallen from grace with many users. When these networks do finally die off, the fall is swift and with little warning (MySpace anyone?). Brands should gauge the viability of a new social networking channel before immediately chasing consumers. “Just a few years ago the biggest mistake was not embracing new platforms. Now, though, too often you see a brand being overly ambitious and trying to take on too many platforms at once,” says Crenshaw Communications’ Harihar. “Stick to what works for your business. Don’t dive in just because something is in vogue or new.”

Don’t monologue

If brands lack the content or resources to sustain a social media account, it’s probably best to simply abandon the channel. There’s almost nothing worse than an oblivious brand posting dozens of times per day with none of the posts in response to a customer query; none of them contributing to actual dialogue. “If you walk into a cocktail party and scream ‘I’m here!’ what do you think would happen? Everybody would leave,” says Curalate’s Gupta. “We do this on social and expect people to not be annoyed.”

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