By: Rebecca Kwong-Taylor
I am not a professional marketer. Though I know about social media, I use it in a different way than most marketers do. Not only that, I see things in a different way too – from more of a consumer point of view. Nevertheless, it was fascinating to glimpse into the other side of it all at the Four Seasons Hotel on October 3rd, at a luncheon held by the British Columbia Association of Integrated Marketers (BCAIM).
With the theme of the event being “Social Currency: Building Trust Through Transparency in Social Media”, attendees were treated to a talk by ING Direct’s Senior Manager of Social Media, Jaime Stein, and Hootsuite’s Senior Content Manager, Ashley Jane Brookes, where both spoke about their experiences with social media and offered tips to businesses in using it.
I was one of around 6-8 students fortunate enough to attend the event and rub shoulders with some of Vancouver’s most business-savvy marketing professionals. We were all reminded and informed about the power of social media, the importance of customer engagement, and above all, the need for transparency and trust.
Here are tips from the speakers that I thought were particularly interesting, along with commentary from my own consumer perspective:
Tip #1: Take steps to ensure that your organization’s senior leadership team is engaged in social media.
Social media has become an increasingly important tool for organizations, but many C-suite executives just don’t get it. Both Jaime and Ashley explain that social media is actually an opportunity to build trust and brand confidence – although like every organizational value, it needs to start from the top down.
In today’s connected world, most brands are on social media. However, as a consumer, I have noticed that certain brands are more adept than others at using it. There are brands whose Twitter and Facebook posts always seem so on-point (in Ashley’s words, “timely, relevant, and likeable”).
During the afternoon talk, I was struck at how strategic brands get about social media. Prior to Jaime explaining how ING’s CEO interacts with consumers on Twitter, I had not witnessed any senior leaders of my favourite brands doing this, and also honestly, I do not know if I would have cared if they did. However, I have now come to realize that having senior leadership on these channels can be helpful not only for the brand, but for consumers as well. If social media is utilized well by executives, consumers are able to then put a face to the organization and to feel that the actions of the brand are truly believable and trustworthy because they are coming from a person, rather than a brand entity.
Tip #2 Have your organization create a social media crisis management document to be prepared in case of crisis.
As with any crisis, time is of the essence. An organization’s delayed reaction could be the difference between it being a minor issue or becoming a full-blown PR crisis. Jaime uses the example of his brand, ING, facing criticism on social media regarding a particular ad. In the end, the news story became not about how bad a PR crisis this was, but instead, about how the brand handled the situation well with its timely and apologetic response.
As a consumer, I have witnessed many a social media PR misstep. Whether it be a brand taking a day of solemn commemoration as opportunity to plug a product, or a brand deleting negative comments on social media channels, many consumers have been faced with brand interactions that have left them with a sour taste. While social media is typically used to promote, brands can also take advantage of the speed and ease of information transfer that social media provides in the wake of such error. As a consumer, I respect a brand more when it takes accountability for its mistakes and wholeheartedly apologizes, and does so in a timely manner. When brands attempt to side step the issue or to reluctantly say sorry, this can hurt their reputation. Consumers like myself respect honesty, and even in trying times, such a response has the potential to lead to increased loyalty to the brand.
Tip #3: Empower your organization’s people on the ground so that they are able to act quickly and share information.
Social media needs to be a team effort. If employees across all levels are engaged in the brand’s social media image, and are empowered to share information and help people, this exponentially increases the brand’s reach.
Recently, I tweeted about a brand query I had – intended only for my followers as I had not tagged the brand’s handle. However, not long after, I receive a response from an employee of said brand asking how they could best assist me. Decisions made quickly from employees add to the value of social media being the vehicle for such communications between the customer and the brand. After this talk by Ashley and Jaime, I realize that it can only benefit consumers like myself to have more of a brand’s team be empowered to help customers. Customer service, via social media and otherwise, is extremely important and having more people able to help customers out and resolve issues is truly impressive.
In all, the BCAIM “Social Currency” luncheon was a great event. This quote sums up the content quite well: “Marketers like brands, consumers like relationships”. Jaime Stein and Ashley Jane Brookes delivered presentations that were extremely interesting to me, as they truly reinforced how influential and integral social media can be – not only for brands to benefit from, but for consumers to engage with and gain meaning from as well.