A local burger joint recently ran into some problems on their Facebook page. Apparently a number of customers weren’t happy with either the food or the service, and they voiced their complaints on the Facebook page. This is a reality of how social media works, and any business that uses social media, particularly Facebook, better be prepared for the worst.
Sadly, this business wasn’t prepared, and the situation went from bad to worse. The business responded in a less than cordial way, and then the negative comments were deleted. As people noticed their comments disappearing, they commented again. It became very clear that the person managing the page wasn’t prepared, and within a short period of time, the page was unpublished. Seemed like a case of,
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
Eventually the page came back, with no indication that anything had gone wrong, other than the following status update:
We want to thank everyone for their patience and understanding last night. Unfortunately we were experiencing computer difficulties. We apologize if you experienced anything short of exceptional service. We strive to deliver you the most outstanding customer service and food quality. We have corrected all technical issues and look forward to serving you today!
That’s right, rather than handling the situation, they engaged in excuses and deception.
Why did this happen? Most likely because this business had the mindset of so many other businesses, small and large. They viewed Facebook as a strategy. The thought process goes something like this:
Social media is hot, so we need to do social media. Facebook is hot, so let’s create a Facebook page. Oh look! We’re doing social media!
The reason I know this is because I see it all the time. I get calls from businesses all the time asking:
“Can you set up a Facebook page for me?”
My first response is:
I want to know why they want a Facebook page, and what they plan on doing with it. Is it just for the purpose of having a page? Will they use it? Is it part of a larger marketing and communications strategy? Do they really understand what social media and Facebook are all about? And yet there are plenty of social media businesses and even large ad agencies that will slap a Facebook page together for you for a few hundred, or thousand, dollars. But that doesn’t make it right, or effective.
Honestly, for many small businesses, Facebook might be the only social platform you use, and in some cases that’s OK, if you know what you’re doing, and your not doing what I call:
Facebook for Facebook’s sake.
One should never embark on any sort of marketing or communications tactic or use any tool without first understanding how it works, and then having a plan for how you will use it. Beyond that, you should have a plan for what you will do if something happens to go wrong. Trust me, things will go wrong. Consumers understand that they have a new found voice with new found power as they engage with businesses on social media. I’ve seen businesses taken hostage on their own Facebook pages.
This is not to scare you, because none of that is a reason for running away from Facebook, Twitter, or any other social channel. But if you’re in retail, and especially in the hospitality industry, you know that people complain. There are those who complain even when there’s nothing to complain about. Someone is always unhappy. And whereas in the past they might have told you on the phone or to your face, they will now tell you in a way that the whole world can see.
What is your social media strategy? Why are you using social media in general, and more specifically why are you on Facebook?
Matt Dickman of Weber Shandwick addressed a lot of these issues in a recent edition of the Brand Fast-Trackers podcast, where he offered a number of important thoughts to help you make sure you understand social media and aren’t just jumping in because everyone is doing it. You should listen to the entire interview, but here are a few of the points he made:
- Social media needs a clear direction that ties back to the business.
- The role of social media is to affect change on business goals.
- You need to have buy in from the top.
- There should be an engagement strategy, not a Twitter strategy – don’t talk about channels (Facebook), but talk about your goals and overall strategy, and THEN how are you going to fit the channels into that.
- You need to mitigate risk before you start using social media.
- You run risks with your employees if you don’t have a proper social media policy in place.
Dickman gives one of the best descriptions of social media, and how it works, that I’ve ever heard:
“Social media…is the exact intersection where brand and reputation collide…It’s the intersection of what you say about yourself, and what people actually think about you. That, to a brand marketer, I think, should be really frightening…Marketers talk about brand, communicators (PR) talk about reputation. This space brings them both together. There’s inherent risk in that.”
Again, this is not to scare you, but to educate you so that when you jump into the social space, it’s not just a matter of slapping a Facebook page together and expecting great things.
Facebook is not a strategy. Twitter is not a strategy. A blog is not a strategy.
These are tools that you can use as part of your larger, business wide communications strategy. If you look at Facebook as a strategy, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Look at your business model and structure. Understand your communications strategy and brand. Articulate your business goals. And only then should you begin to look at how social media might fit into that.
What’s your approach to social media and Facebook? Do you have the proper mindset, or are you merely using Facebook because, well, everyone else is?
- Do You Really Think CEOs are not on Social Media? (marijeanjaggers.com)
- Why social media strategy should NOT start with a drive for Facebook fans (businessesgrow.com)
- Social Media’s Perception Problem(s): Everything and Nothing (inklingmedia.net)
- Fortune 500 Executives Aren’t Using Social Media and That’s OK (spinsucks.com)
- The Real Promise (and Power) of Social Media (inklingmedia.net)