Putting your head in the sand could have dire consequences!

Putting your head in the sand could have dire consequences!

In part 2, we address staying silent, being a target for hackers, losing out on talent that can help your business and how all of this can impact the direction your business takes.

You Can Become a Target for Hackers

If no one at your company is paying attention to social media, could you wind up like ExxonMobil who ignored Twitter in its naissance and wound up having a poser create a faux account in the brand’s name?

Or, if no one is minding the social media ship, at what point will you notice that your account has been hacked? When the Associated Press’s Twitter account was hacked just this week, it caused temporary havoc in the stock markets. At least they were paying attention.

The ramifications of this are truly daunting.  If you don’t even know you’re are being part of social media, how would you know you were hacked?

Client A spends hours using every search engine and keyword string imaginable to try to find information, comments, feedback, etc. about their business.  Luckily, they have a pulse on what should be where in terms of their social media program.  Unfortunately, the one person doing all this leg work is also trying to run the day-to-day business and desparately needs a more effective way to moderate the world wide discussion.

As you can probably guess, Client B is only minimally aware of what social media their company is “reviewed” on.  Reviews are the only thing that catches their attention.  They have spent hundreds of dollars with each of the various review networks thinking that they can have negative comments removed at will and also that they have more control over their reviews because they are paying for something – it’s just that they are not to sure what they have actually paid for.

As far as our investigations, we have been able to confirm that neither business has been overtly hacked.  No questionable reputation scarring issues have arisen, except for the missteps of dealing with a customer service company.

Competitors Get a Leg Up

Ignoring social media gives your competitors an advantage. You seem archaic or clueless; they can portray themselves as hip and current. Your competitors can also monitor your brand mentions on social media and respond to complainers with offers or other means to woo you away. For example, in my book I cite an example provided by Gini Dietrich: After Avis failed to come through for her despite her being a long-time Preferred Service customer, Dietrich tweeted, “@AvisWeTryHarder No, you don’t try harder…at least not in this case.” Within two minutes, Hertz tweeted Dietrich, apologized for the hard time she was having with Avis and offered her a car at her location along with a 20 percent off coupon. Now that’s smart use of social media!

Client A will often run promotions that they have seen through their international professional organization.  Some have worked, some have not but they have not been truly able to harness the strength of social media to include a larger world-wide audience.  They have had to keep to their client base and local delivery recipients.  They have had a good response to contests and challenges.  Through their feedback pages on several of their sites, they have been able to foster a virtual WOM (word of mouth) social program where new clients look for positive and negative feedback from other customers before they become new customers.  Some customers have even commented that they are calling and using Client A because they have noted great comments on customer service in particular – something that have not been able to get dealing with competitors in Client A’s area.

In the eyes of Client B, competition was never something they worried about.  In a time when their industry was not saturated with brand new locations, competitors featuring highly trained, highly skilled work forces, Client B was able to not concern themselves with what other people were doing.  In recent years, their particular industry has grown exponentially on an international scale.  Metropolitan areas have been inundated with competitors for Client B.  These competitors are using every source of social media, print and traditional media advertising, even advertising as destinations to potential customers on an international level.  Client B’s representatives wonder aloud sometimes as to why Competitor D has a line out the door in the middle of the week and they don’t; how events can be booked on weekend days at Competitor G’s location, but not in their’s.  Meanwhile, suggestions of “Frequent Buyer Programs”, licensed apparel, books and other products to send the business into diversified areas and lead to a larger reach have fallen on deaf ears – dismissed as “making more work for us”.

You’re Blind to Existing and Potential Employees

If you choose to ignore social media, you probably also lack a social media policy. If you do not set boundaries for how employees can use (or not) social media on the company’s behalf or during work time, you have less recourse if an employee puts your brand in harm’s way. At least with the notorious Domino’s 2009 “gross-out” video, the employees were rightfully terminated, but apparently the franchisee still suffered: His location could not recover from the scandal and ultimately went out of business.

We stress to each and every client the importance of customer service – ours to them and they to their customers.  Client A has requested of us a complete Social Media Analysis, reviewing what is in place and what can be modified to make better use of Social Media without further taxing an already busy staff.  Bringing all accounts under one dashboard, creating teams within heir organization and enabling team members to be active parts of their organization while retaining reviewing control of what can actually be published to their accounts is the course of action they have chosen to begin with.  They wish to utilize e-mail marketing and promoting various promotional programs they offer for schools, religious and community-based organizations.

Client B is a stalwart; change is not good according to them.  This “social media thing” is simply Facebook and Yelp and for just those two entities, one of the co-owners can handle that work.  Unfortunately, “handling” is not what needs to be done.  Client B misses the true focus of Social Media and that is engagement.  Putting out fires when someone writes a scathing Yelp review is not the only thing that needs to be done to “handle” your company’s social media presence.  Proactively engaging your returning customers and your prospective customer is to invite them to learn about you and what you can do for them in terms of services, products and promotions.   Several Yelp reviews that cited the same issues focusing on “just in the door” customer service at Client B’s location are seen as the clients’ inability to understand them and their rules and do not address a bigger issue of how customers are led to feel once inside their doors.  Client B “handles” their bad reviews and customer interactions the same way – they do everything a Social Media Consultant will tell you not to do – the co-owner answers almost immediately, addresses clients by name, almost challenging them to a debate, offering to have them “make the choice to come in again” but scolds and chastises them for their opinions.  The danger here is that the industry Client B is in still has a heavy leaning on word of mouth and in a local area, that can spell trouble.

On the flip side, if you ignore social media you miss the opportunity to see, connect with and ultimately hire that perfect new employee. You know, the one who didn’t know you had a job opening, which wasn’t necessarily looking to make a switch and you didn’t have to pay a recruiter to find.

As you can probably gleam from this case study, Client A has gone to contract with us and has hired us to build a social media program specific to their needs.  Client B has taken over six appointments with us over the last two years; they have told us that two of the hour long meetings were not remembered, that after review of all the services we offer they did not know that we did “this type of stuff”, and as you guessed, have not given us a definitive answer on hiring us.  They have had the opportunity to harness some great staff over the course of the last twenty to thirty years and cannot seem to deal with the trust issues that might impose – to let a talent handle a job and make them look good.

Falling Rankings in Search Engines

Social sharing now also impacts your search engine rankings. Simply put, if you’re absent from social media, don’t expect the rest of the world to help your falling search rankings.

The industry Client A is in is not regulated by any agency on a Federal, State or City level so a medium sized store like theirs has to worry about competition from the big box stores as well as home-based part timers who may or may not be saddled with similar overhead issues.  Placing first on every single page of every single search engine is extremely important to their bottom line.

The old way of thinking is holding Client B back from having their doors explode.  Their industry has nothing but potential written all over it and ranking high will help every other part of a Social Media Plan, as well as putting more people in the seats by offering new even non-traditional events, items and more.  They are missing out on high placement because they feel it is not necessary -“everybody knows where we are, what we do and how we do it – and they like it that way”.  They struggle with an aging client base yet site that they don’t know how to get to the younger people.  The saddest part is that the co-owner in charge of their “Social Media / Facebook Page Program” is involved in other organizations (religious and community based) that are specifically using Social Media to reach their intended targets – the demographic of young professionals with higher incomes, who like to go out and will look specifically to social media before anything else to get ideas.

Outsourcing Still Needs Your Attention 

If you’ve outsourced your social media management, don’t think you have that base covered and you can now move on to more important things. You still need to provide your outsourced agent with guidance and monitor their activities. You can find plenty of stories of social media blunders related to outsourced accounts, so pay attention.

The main difference with our company is that we live to show you exactly what it is we do – we want to show you every step of the way what we are doing, why we are doing it and what the results are.  We look to our clients for continued input and feedback to let us know where to refine our focus and get the job done for them.

It is the most important thing you can do for yourself  – to be a true “boss”, to find the talent to bring your company to the next level, hire that talent and empower that talent to do the job well.  Oversight has to be a positive thing here – you must keep an eye on what is planned, implemented and what is done.  If you don’t understand something, have it explained or do some homework on your own.  Make sure the talent you hire is reputable and trustworthy.

Silence and Abandonment Embody Your Brand

When a crisis does occur, in today’s social media age, you cannot be silent! When a recent computer glitch stranded hundreds of passengers, American Airlines turned out in force on its social media accounts to help keep people informed and issue apologies. Passengers were still frustrated, but many credit the airline for its swift, savvy handling of the problem.

A friend of mine was stuck in an airport for over three hours over a holiday weekend.  Upon her arrival home less than six hours after the delay, she had an e-mail with an apology from the airline, an offer for 7,000 frequent flier miles and a $500 voucher for use toward a future flight.  She may have been agitated by the delay but today on Facebook, she had nothing but nice things to say about that airline and, most importantly, that she will be flying that airline again and again.  The problem was not even the airlines but rather a round of horrible storms that had affected the area.  That is the greatest level of customer service when a company will compensate regardless of who the inconvenience was caused by.  Smaller businesses may find this a little daunting but an e-mail from a smart phone before the customer calls to complain will sometimes go further than one could imagine.

Abandonment is another form of ignoring. Company blogs with the last post dated over a year ago or a Twitter account with no activity in weeks or months instantly tells your prospects and customers that you either don’t care about the impression you make or about what others have to say to or about you. Is that how you want to be perceived?

So the one thing to take away from this case study is ENGAGEMENT.  That is the most effectual product of using social media – you engage, you will be engaged.  Tread softly, listen to what the masses are saying and react professionally.  But most of all, be sure to do just that REACT – don’t wait on the sidelines to see how this whole Social Media fad goes.  You want to be part of the game – not the one sitting on the bench with no followers/customer and profits.