Part Four: Authenticity – Keeping It Real
In the first three parts of the series I discussed some of the mechanics of managing social profiles, but arguably the most important part of working with social media would be having an authentic and consistent voice within your channels. There are many different ideas on how to accomplish this, and what better way to demonstrate authenticity than to provide a transcript of a recent chat I moderated on this subject with a few of my co-workers on Intrapromote’s Social Team!
Mary: Thank you for joining me in this discussion about having an authentic voice in social media! What is the number one mistake that you believe companies/brands make with regards to their “voice” within social media?
Dylan: I think a lot of companies make the mistake of trying to “cloak” or hide behind some type of veil; i.e. – no transparency. The problem in that is you will never be able to display any personality and the social audience doesn’t get a chance to engage in real relationship building conversation.
Katie: Another big mistake is not having a unified “voice”, like having multiple people managing the account without one vision can cause discrepancies in information/conversation.
Annalise: I have a handful of “voice” peeves, but this is my biggest: Social is often run by marketing. Marketing is not a communications department. I cringe on a daily basis when I see grammatical errors in official posts from companies or something that feels different from every other communication device they have out there.
Linda: I believe the number one mistake is to try to be something you are not willing to stand behind. Really staking a claim to being “Authentic” means you have balance between the business and the human element of transactions. My biggest peeve is posting one-way marketing messages for fear of what critics may say about the on-line persona, but it’s what you don’t say that is just as important.
Mary: Companies often have multiple departments providing input for their social media channels. How do you suggest handling the “too many cooks in the kitchen” syndrome?
Annalise: Hire an agency… Actually, I think that for larger companies, having a “social media” department is important. Let that department funnel the requests from comms, PR, marketing, education, etc. and create a unified voice.
Dylan: Create a bottleneck in one Community Manager; give that person the authority over the content schedule and all posting rights or a small team of community managers that work together.
Annalise: But, if they can’t do that , every Company should have a style guide for all communications. Create an editorial calendar that aligns with initiatives around the organization, and work social media initiatives into the yearly planning meetings.
Katie: Create some kind of system where different departments can submit input to a team of community managers with a schedule of posts, so everyone’s information can get out there.
Dylan: Turn the ovens up real high and bake everyone else out of the kitchen.
Linda: I agree with Annalise. As a company’s social presence matures, so should the conversations and invitations to their prospects, customers and other stakeholders.
Annalise: I love the idea of community managers, but in many organizations, those people are interns at best, and sometimes entry-level. That’s one of the major issues. It’s a professional marketing and communications role and organizations do not treat it as such.
Linda: Generalities aside, best practice is to get support for the right resources so that the silos for companies are broken down and support is dedicated towards communications metrics. Show the conversations, the sentiment, the moves from neutral or negative to positive feedback for reputation management. While early metrics won’t show an overnight success, your online legacy will. Authenticity isn’t an overnight sensation.
Dylan: That’s another great point – community management is not respected in most organizations…so hire an agency!
Linda: LOL! Exactly.
Katie: Agreed agreed agreed. Everyone should just hire us and avoid these issues. Best of the best.
Mary: What about crisis management? I think of the recent social media crisis that McDonalds experienced with the #McStories campaign. How do you remain authentic when handling a campaign that is spinning out of your control? Or even a Customer Service problem that is spinning out of control?
Linda: Acknowledge, apologize and state what you are going to do to fix it. Satisfy the human element of these transactions early.
Linda: If on the other hand, you “feel” you have been wronged by the attention an issue is getting, don’t get defensive. In other words, don’t get “hooked.” To dovetail on my prior comment., integrating metrics and information about what customers are saying in other venues and channels can only help. If the role of Community Manager is truly in the communications department, good communicators know what else is going on.
Katie: Nicely done, Linda! I think it’s really important to decide as a brand how situations are going to be acknowledged. In really big issues, it is just going to cause more problems if the company ignores the campaign. By acknowledging a mistake that was made, it will create more of a human conversation between the brand and users.
Annalise: I agree with Linda. Many companies fail to have a plan in place for when/if a situation arises that calls for crisis management. Who are the key stakeholders that need to sign off on a message? What’s the chain of notification? Which situations are a code yellow versus a code red? All of these things should exist for every company so when something does happen, the crisis can be responded to quickly – in the right voice – and hit the right message.
Dylan: Being straightforward is huge, and it’s got to hold an heir of dignity as well (speaking specifically to the McDonald’s crisis), so although there may be necessary apologies to be made, don’t turn it into the worst thing that has ever happened to the brand. The audience will ultimately respond in kind to the brand’s response and messaging, so being sensationalistic should be avoided at all costs. Did I just say heir? Good Lord – It must be Monday.
Linda: Great point Dylan…I think companies can set the tone for the follow up they’ll receive.
Mary: Any parting words of advice for companies/brands on remaining authentic and transparent in their social media channels?
Dylan: Invest in your Community Manager! It is its own profession, and should be treated as such; not a PR manager, not a journalist, not a communications manager, but all of these things with a marketing background. An agency (such as Intrapromote) has these fine professionals waiting for them!
Linda: Not necessarily in order of importance: Stay the course on what is meaningful to you and your brand. 2) Balance the business and human needs in transactions and don’t forget about the individual person. 3) Know what you are talking about and be sincere and thoughtful in how you communicate depending on your audience.
Linda: Oh, oh! Always ask how you can add value.
Katie: Don’t be afraid to show a little bit of a personality instead of just stating facts about offerings through social channels! Give your fans/followers something to smile about!
Annalise: A lot of companies are using social as new customer acquisition. It’s important to remember that in many cases, their experience on Facebook or Twitter may be the first one with your brand or business. You have to treat it like they’ve just walked into a brick and mortar location. They should be able to experience your authentic brand on all social channels, in your locations, or through your print ads. That’s the difference between the companies that convert and the ones who die trying.
Linda: None of these practices and pitfalls are anecdotal. You are either willing to work at it or not. If you truly want to succeed, your authenticity will prevail.
Dylan: Linda for the win!
Linda: COLLABORATIVE. Love my coworkers.
Mary: Couldn’t have said it better myself! 🙂[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://blog.intrapromote.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/mary-nov-2011.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Mary is one of Intrapromote’s social butterflies and you will often see her out and about at events around Cleveland. With an extensive background in marketing and sales in a variety of industries, including automotive and music/entertainment, Mary joined our Social Media department in 2009. A proud Boilermaker, Mary ensures that we keep our college rivalries brewing. Mary is known to walk into a Nordstrom Rack and leave them empty handed and she sleeps soundly knowing that her vast shoe collection will come in handy during the zombie apocalypse (stilettos are perfect for impaling). When she’s not battling for the mayorship of her local Starbucks on foursquare, you’ll most likely find Mary at a concert, cooking something delicious, watching football or finding the latest trends in Social Media. Mary’s thirst for the latest apps, sites and strategies keeps our inboxes full, our brains turning and our clients constantly impressed.[/author_info] [/author]
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