The question that I get asked most often when talking with businesses about social media is if they should hire an outside firm to handle their needs. My answer is always no, do not hire an outside firm. If you can’t do it personally or have someone you would trust with you daughter, just don’t do it. You have too much to lose. I have a lot of reasons for my firm stance on this trend in business, but the biggest one is simply that nobody knows your business like you do.
Your brand is your reputation, and nothing is more important in business than your reputation. You can have great products and great prices, but if your reputation is tarnished then your business will struggle to succeed. I once sat on an interview panel and the young man we were interviewing used the quote, “If it is worth doing, it is worth doing right.” It is a quote that I have repeated to myself numerous times since.
Social Media is the best FREE way for you to connect with your customers, it should not be used to drive sales or push products, but to build relationships. It should be genuine and pure. It should be true and honest. It should not be canned and it is most definitely not one-size-fits-all.
For the purpose of this article, I will focus on twitter, but these same types of examples are available on Facebook, and Google+ as well.
Let me give you some real world reasons why you need to closely guard this all important commodity.
On September 9th, 2011 @whatstrending sent out a tweet that Steve Jobs had died – the problem is that Steve Jobs had yet to pass. The message was deleted a few minutes later but lived on in screen shots. Jobs did pass away in October of 2011, but @whatstrending’s tweet sent CBS (@whatstreding’s parent company) into a PR nightmare.
@ChryslerAutos hired a firm to handle their tweets and hand to deal with the mess created by this tweet – “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f###ing drive”. The staffer who posted the tweet was fired, and Chrysler went on to not renew the firms contract, however a gaffe like that is hard to recover from.
Celeb Boutique used a foreign PR company who was not in tune with current events in the United States, and they posted a very classless tweet the morning after the Batman Shootings in Aurora, Colorado. I personally question which is worse, the lack of class of the original tweet or Celeb Boutique not taking responsibility for their actions (or indirect actions) and throwing their PR firm under the bus.
The examples could go on for days. The bottom line is this, protect your brand. Do not trust an intern or junior staff member to represent you in such an interactive forum.
Take example from leaders like Tony Hsieh and use this platform to build your brand and spread your message in a positive way. Tony was the pioneer in getting CEO’s to interact with customers via twitter.
In this video, Ashton Kutcher talks about Tony’s ICEE twitter strategy.
Kutcher himself got into hot water with a tweet he made about the Penn State and Joe Paterno, but later retracted his own tweet because of his lack of knowledge on the situation. At the time Kutcher believed that Paterno was fired because of his age, and claims to have known nothing of the Penn State investigation. Kutcher who has over 12 million (yes that is million) followers on his @aplusk twitter account did turn management of his account over to his publicity team at Katalyst Media, giving him a buffer between the send buttion and the public.
If you must turn your brand over to a third party here are my closing thoughts:
Do not let the person or firm pretend to be you, don’t put your personal name on the twitter account and allow someone else to tweet on your behalf.
Make sure that the firm only follows and retweets companies and people who share your same core beliefs. Nothing ruins an accounts credibility faster than retweets from other accounts that the marketing firm is also representing. An electrician should not be retweeting about women’s jeans.
Be sure that you still follow and closely monitor your stream to make sure that you are aware of all messages. It won’t keep you out of an embarrassing situation, but it could help you get onto damage control faster.