Social Media: Do it properly or not at all

facebook_twitter_youtube_logosA recruitment company viewed my LinkedIn profile recently. Wanting to know a bit more about the company and whether it was something to get excited about I had a quick look at its website. It was a decent enough site that looked up-to-date, easy to navigate around, etc. On their Contact page were the Facebook and Twitter icons. So I looked at both. The Twitter account had no Tweets, 5 followers and was following 12 other users. The Facebook page had three random entries linking to articles vaguely related to recruitment. None of these articles were on the recruitment company’s own site and neither did they refer to that company.

Yesterday I was researching a potential supplier and had a similar experience. On this site there were also links to Twitter and Facebook. The Twitter account had no Tweets (sounding familiar?), 7 followers and was following 43. The Facebook page was an eclectic mix of links to videos, graphics and articles. About two thirds of the content was loosely related to the sector in which the company operated (but not necessarily the range of services it actually provided). For the rest of the content I could not see how it was even related to the sector let alone this company. That’s not to say some of this content wasn’t interesting in its own right, just irrelevant and potentially confusing. Once again none of the links on the Facebook page went to the company’s own site. None of the content was the company’s own and one of the videos was produced by a potential competitor!

Both experiences had a negative influence on my perception of the companies in question. For the recruiter I got the impression of a small company that was not very well run. For the potential supplier the impact was worse. Not only did my opinion of the company go down, I was left confused about what it did, what its key selling points were and hence whether I should work with them. And this is despite having prior knowledge of the business having met with some of its staff in the ‘real world’.

Social media use has grown exponentially over the last few years and for many companies it has become a significant and integral part of their PR and marketing activity. If used effectively social media will increase the online presence of an organisation, enable deeper levels of customer engagement and provide a channel for marketing products/services to a specific and targeted audience. It can also play a major role in recruitment, competitor research and brand management.

One of the great features of social media tools is that they are relatively quick and also very cheap to set-up and use. However, this is also one of their biggest risks. With little or no upfront investment required it is possible that the planning, review and approval processes for social media will be less rigorous than they would be for a major marketing or IT programme that has significant expenditure. This can lead to the types of issues described above; little or no content, confusing messages, and ultimately a missed opportunity and possible damage to the organisation’s brand.

To avoid these issues and to ensure a coordinated approach that is integrated with the rest of the organisation’s PR and marketing activity, a social media strategy is required. And if you don’t already have a PR and Marketing strategy then you need to take another step back and start here. Social media is just another tool for achieving your PR and Marketing strategies, it doesn’t replace them.

If social media tools are not used correctly then at best the organisation’s investment will have little effect. At worst though they could confuse the key messages and ultimately damage the brand. It is essential therefore that the strategy identifies which of the available tools will be used, by whom and for what purpose.

So if you are going to embrace social media then you have to do it properly. You have to have a strategy and a plan and you must allocate the resource and time to execute the plan. If you are not sure what you want to say and how, or if you can’t commit the necessary time or resource then you are better off not doing anything at all.

And a final and possibly contradictory word on using social media: whilst the title of this article suggests the ‘do nothing’ option is a valid one, it’s not. Social Media is here to stay. If your competitors are not already using social media then they soon will be. If you choose the do nothing option then your organisation will be left behind. So develop your social media strategy and plan, commit the resource and do it properly.

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