I get asked for advice on social media a lot. I’ll admit it – I quite enjoy sitting down and hearing about people’s individual communications-based situations to assess whether social media can be of any help.
However, I think it’s also important to be honest about when social media is the not the best answer. Many social media agents and consultants will have you believe that social media is always the best solution for all marketing and communications requirements. I’m more than willing to admit that there are times when social media is not the best option.
- A friend of mine works for a large national company who run an annual awards show to recognise the projects and employees of outstanding merit. My friend, a senior member of comms staff at the company, called me to ask about using social media to bridge the gap between the live show and the large majority of employees who were not invited to attend. He wanted to know if displaying a live Twitter stream would be a good option to preserve the spirit of a large audience.
- Normally, all employees are invited to the show and audience participation by way of comments and questions. This year, in an attempt to cut costs, only senior managers were to be invited to the awards show. This decision would not be announced until the week before the show.
- Lastly, he added that there was likely to be some resentment amongst those who weren’t invited to the show. He asked if this would be a concern when considering the Twitter feed as a means of communication between the show and “virtual” audience.
Social media delivers sentiment
Until my friend mentioned the likelihood of resentment among those not invited, I’d begun to envision a big screens on stage displaying comments and questions via Twitter, all tagged with the show’s #hashtag.
But obviously the problem lay in the potential the stream to turn negative, and for the negative tweets to build upon one another. People with a bone to pick could have created Twitter accounts that hid their true identities and could have really gone to town on negative tweets…all of which would have been tagged with the show’s #hashtag and displayed on the big screens I’d envisioned. When enough people begin to tweet using the same #hashtag, a topic can begin to “trend” on Twitter – you don’t want that happening with you negative press!
In a commercial B2B situation (indeed, in any situation) we can’t stop people from tweeting negative things – we can only work hard to prevent those negative comments from happening in the first place. If they do happen, all we can do is apply damage control to the best of our ability and try to turn a negative situation into a positive one.
Ask yourself – is social media always necessary? Could you use email instead?
In a situation where social media is not being proposed for marketing or promotion, you have to ask yourself – is it necessary, and will it open you up to a potential public relations disaster you can easily avoid?
In my friend’s award show case, once I realised there was potential for social media to capture the negative sentiment he feared some employees might be feeling, I immediately asked why he didn’t just set up a live stream of the show via a website and email address to which the people could send the questions and comments to.
He seemed a little disappointed that he wouldn’t get to deploy some flash social media during the show, but the solution met all his communications needs and did well to avert a potential public relations disaster.
There are actually quite a few “When NOT to use Social Media” scenarios I’d like to write about, including a few examples I’ve run in to when companies have simply reached their social media saturation points. Keep an eye out for further posts or follow the blog via email or RSS.