Boston Biz Journal: Companies Vulnerable to Social Media Threats

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It’s may be well trod ground, but it’s still a topic that needs to be considered:  What to do about reputation-damaging tweets or critics mobilizing on social media websites like Facebook. This week we get a brief glimpse into the world via the Boston Business Journal. In their survey, they found that 33% of PR professionals said their companies were not prepared to deal with social media attacks.

“Online threats to corporate reputation are escalating the social media imperative when it comes to the new skill sets and experiences required of today’s CCOs,” said George Jamison, one of the survey’s creators, in a statement. “Credible experience in this area has shifted from ‘nice to have’ to ‘must have’ for the most desirable corporate leadership roles.”

Local companies say that it’s key for firms to establish a presence on social media sites before issues arise – not after.

Indeed, you need to “be there” before the problems occur. The problem is this: everyday it becomes harder and harder. SM staffs tend to be the first ones cut when the budget needs to be slimmed down, more and more services reach that critical level where they really need to be monitored. Last year we didn’t care about Foursquare, and the year before Yelp didn’t matter.  How about today?  What is going to really matter tomorrow?

Also, we miss a couple important facts: not every “dissatisfied customer” out there is going to be someone we can “fix” via social media. And, even worse, there are some we really shouldn’t be trying to fix.  Face the facts, in business you do your best to please most of the people most of the time, but the threat of social media is that someone who doesn’t really understand will start to expect that we’re going to magically please ALL of the people, ALL of the time.

I think the best path forward here for business is to adopt the prime tenet of the Hypocratic Oath: “Primum non nocere – First, do no harm.”  In short, we do our best to be conversant and transparent in our dealings with customers.  An even hand goes a long, long way.

However, we need to remember the world is full of trolls and miscreants, and some of them love to dog a brand.  One thing I can tell you from experience: engaging/enabling a troll is a recipe for pain and heart ache.

Here are a couple of things I learned from managing online communities that you should consider:

  1. Your commitment matters – commitment lets you set standards for users.
  2. Lead – your position makes you a leader.  Be a good one…
  3. Nastiness isn’t allowed – let people act towards each other or towards you in an uncivil manner and the good folks run for the doors.  Don’t accept rude treatment in Social Media, either.
  4. Check your ego at the door – your company isn’t perfect, neither are your products, or even yourself…get over it.
  5. You can’t control the message – nor should you try.  You can correct falsehood and solve problems, but think more in terms of “good results” as baseball stats (.400 average is outstanding) vs. nuclear war (a single loss is a total loss).
  6. Embrace the community – no one likes to feel left out.  Be inclusive, not exclusive, wherever possible.  Kewl Kid Marketing often alienates as much as it inspires.

Further reading:

7 Truths About Running Online Communities

Forget Disclosure and Transparency – We Crave Honesty

5 Lessons from a Social Media Campaign Gone Horribly Wrong

Manifesto for Social Media: Stop Talking and Start Doing

Monetize This…

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