The social media conversation is happening with or without you.
Businesses large and small are all faced with an increasingly complex world, says social media consultant Jessica Reynolds at the Ontario Automotive Service Provider Forum.
The forum took place March 7 at the International Centre Conference Centre in Toronto. It was focused on providing automotive service providers with business tools and was organized by the Automotive Industries Association of Canada.
Reynolds says that the entire social medial landscape is changing. There are quite literally thousands of social media platforms and new ones being created every day.
“In the midst of all of this is an ongoing demographic shift. Heavy social media users are going to become the majority of your customers and not just a small part of your customer base.
“What we end up with is a customer base pulled in multiple directions. It will change the way consumers interact with businesses. Formerly, it would be difficult to find information about your business. Now people can pull out their smart phone and look for reviews, recommendations, and word of mouth.
“People are coming and browsing your information anonymously, in places you might not know exist, and making buying decisions based on that.”
The bottom line is that you can’t choose not to participate in social media. If you have a business, there is a good chance you are already part of the social media conversation.
If you choose not to actively participate, you are choosing not to control that conversation and leave yourself open to risk, says Reynolds.
She related a customer service issue Air Canadasuffered from–the case of a young boy’s wheelchair being broken–that went rapidly from social media comments, to the broader media, making for a much larger issue in the public eye. All the while Air Canada was working on solving the problem.
“The problem was that they weren’t communicating. A customer service issue became a 24 hour firestorm, and by the time Air Canada realized this they could no longer become part of the conversation.”
Sometimes the social media campaign itself can cause problems if you have the wrong messages. A not-so-recent problem with Nestle’s Facebook administrator who started sparring with cricital commenters still shows up in Google searches as a prime example of what can happen to a brand image when you lose control of your strategy and your communication.
So, says Reynolds, you really need to understand what you are trying to accomplish—what your goals are and what your strategy is—and who is going to execute it.
“You need to know who is going to do what. This is a huge oversight for many. One of the things that people say is that they will get the young intern to do it. You wouldn’t put someone that inexperienced in another role; you shouldn’t put them in that social media role.
“The problem is that most people who go on Facebook or Twitter just blather.
“You need people who can implement best practices and Internet policy, and have them supervised by someone who understands social media.”
Again, she emphasized, the choice needs to be how you choose to participate, not whether you participate.
“Companies that don’t join the conversation risk being left behind. You and your competitors are being talked about. If other people are taking advantage, you are becoming increasingly invisible.
“Your organization and brand are being talked about whether you join the conversation or not. Negative reviews and comments are being posted and this can be a huge liability for an organization.”