Social Media & Business

Those words are pretty simple. Taken alone they each have a meaning that is self-defining. Put together, we now have an entirely new world. One of the biggest topics of discussion that I have seen is using social media in business and how businesses are engaging (or not) with their audience.

There are challenges facing businesses when using social media without really understanding how to use it. Do you listen to what your clients/customers are saying, do you broadcast content, or do you (and quite possibly your employees) engage with them? What is the risk when you broadcast content or leave your accounts unmonitored? What message are you sending to your employees and in turn your customers?

I saw some of these challenges at the company (not a “brand”) I recently left. Many people I worked with had a presence of some sort on the typical social media platforms. The company did not. Out of the blue, we received an email from the Marketing Group “telling” us about a decision by a “committee” to create a Facebook page for one of the Specialty Groups in the Company. This “committee” was comprised of a couple of senior marketing folks, representatives from a couple of the branch offices (not the marketing folks though) and a couple of other people. By the way, nowhere in that group did I see a member of the C-Suite. We were informed that they were testing the Facebook page for a specific Specialty Group – to see what, if anything would happen. I found that to be a rather curious posture.

They invited the employees to look at the page and even “like” it, but they also asked us not to post anything.  Attached to this email was a very long document on the company’s social media policy accompanied by a new “confidentiality” agreement. “Look but don’t touch” was the message they were sending and “oh, please keep what you see quiet.” I’m guessing they were trying to remove the risk of engagement when they told us to not post. What I didn’t see were invitations directed to the Specialty Group to have their clients engage with the page.

Was it too risky to allow us to comment on the page? Perhaps. Or maybe they really didn’t understand about the rules of engagement.  Perhaps they didn’t understand that to create a conversation, you need to create content that invites discussion. You need to invite people (or companies in this case) to have a conversation of some sort with you.

I’m pretty sure that was not the best strategy to use, as the Facebook page is pretty sterile and lacks any engagement. It’s been over six months since they launched that page.

I have to say I’ve seen similar social media accounts being used that way by businesses in the town and surrounding areas where I live. Some of these businesses are service oriented, i.e. retail or restaurants.  They have a “presence” because someone most likely told them that they needed a Twitter or Facebook page to be “out there,” but then they did nothing with it. They broadcast their “specials,” but when someone tries to engage, nothing.  I know this, because I tried to engage a few to see what would happen. I purposely sent a few test tweets with questions hoping someone was monitoring the account and would answer. I did this with over ten company accounts. Not one answered.  Who was in charge of monitoring these accounts? It appears no one was.

What is the purpose of having a social media account for your business, if you’re not paying attention to it? I then went and looked at a few Facebook pages. Same thing – just broadcasted information with content that was blah and limited engagement. It seems that they have the page for a “presence” but don’t know what to do with it, so they do nothing.  Again, who is in charge?

I think those Twitter and Facebook accounts do more harm than good in the long run. I believe it sheds a bad light on the business. In my eyes, if they don’t care enough to keep up their presence in some form on Twitter or Facebook, why would I think going to their business would be any better? I might be doing them a disservice by not patronizing them; they might be the best thing since sliced bread for all I know. However, their lack of engagement on the very thing that “screams” engagement leaves me feeling a bit cold.

I have to wonder if the leadership team of these companies’ knows anything about these accounts and if they did, would they know what to do with them. Would they know whom to ask in their own company to create a better presence on Twitter or Facebook? Would they risk taking a chance and engage on either of these platforms?

I believe that any business that decides to put forth a presence on Twitter and Facebook should always have a member of the Leadership Team be a part of this presence. This member should be well-informed and taught how to use Twitter and Facebook and should once in a while, put themselves out in the digital world and talk to people – to actually engage.  I think it puts a more human face on a business (or brand for that matter) and it creates interest.

What do you think?  I’m curious to hear what you have to say.

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