Socially acceptable media

Social media - a boon for those wanting to publicise their business or the devil’s own work?

MANY see social media differently and embrace or avoid it accordingly. However, used correctly it can be the making of a business.

For most, social media, in the workplace at least, is just a tool to reach their potential target market quickly, efficiently and – hopefully – inexpensively. However, few do this well. Why? Because their activity adopts a scattergun approach where content is created and fired off without any real planning, thought about the business or any real care for followers.

Susan Gunelius, ceo of Keysplash Creative, says that to succeed with social media means understanding that you need to listen to what your market is saying and what it wants. Gunelius offers nine other ‘laws’ of social marketing that include focus, quality, patience, compounding, influence, value, acknowledgement, accessibility and reciprocity.

But there’s a further point to be made here and it’s one put forward by Patrick Cuttica at Sprout Social, a US-based social media management firm.

He says that there’s so much content being created by firms, brands and consumers as well as agencies – in all forms of media - that we don’t have the capacity to absorb everything that is available. The winners will be those who are not only the noisiest, but also the most relevant.

So how should firms drive traffic to their business via social media?

The first step is to recognise that you need strongly branded social media pages. You need to post about and link to products, services and news that represent you and your ethos. It clearly won’t hurt having comment from satisfied customers – nothing beats a verifiable recommendation.

The raison d’être of social media is the propagation of thought and comment and so by definition you need to carefully place material in the right places that will lead back to you.

An alternative is to create and post instructional videos that help consumers should choose flooring. Place them on YouTube and create your own channel and then use your social media accounts to point back to YouTube and your channel.

Social media involves being on a two-way street where you post and others comment. The corollary is that you need to use those comments as a way of starting a conversation with and between followers and be prepared to handle negative comments.

Social networks are unforgiving. What can seem like a good marketing idea at the time can backfire and rapidly inflict serious damage as followers seize on the slightest social media faux-pas. The cause may be an ill-judged message or campaign, or an unthinking employee – either way, the effect can be the same.

In the early days of Twitter, furniture retailer Habitat thought it would be a good idea to get more attention to their brand by including unrelated trending hashtags (such as #trueblood - a popular TV show at the time) in promotional tweets. The reaction was immediate and angry from other Twitter users: ‘Naughty, money-grabbing furniture outlet. Bad bad bad. Now I’m glad I can’t afford your overpriced Ikea replicas’.

The problem with the written word is that there is no voice to give meaning to the text. This is why saying something online in BLOCK CAPITALS is like shouting. Similarly, posting the same old thing and time again is going to do you no favours and will lead you to being un-followed.

And then there’s etiquette about reposting. Some suggest that Tweets should only be re-tweeted within an hour. And what of reposting hoax Facebook postings? In January 2016, Piers Morgan, former newspaper editor and TV personality was caught out reposting the news that artist Tony Hart had just died. While the tribute was fitting, it was seven years too late.

Consider your time too. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Tumblr are just a few of the social networking sites available. You can join one or join them all, but if you’re to do it well there’s a real risk of spreading yourself too thinly.

The huge growth of social media has created new opportunities. However, it is not difficult to set up a Twitter or Facebook account that impersonates a brand and the negative impact of this can grow exponentially if false offers, scams, malicious information, spoofs or jokes get shared on social media networks.

Nigel Miller, a commerce and technology partner at law firm Fox Williams, says that using a third party’s trade mark could result in trade mark infringement ‘if it creates a likelihood of confusion or association with the third party’s products or, if the third-party trade mark is a very well-known mark and the post takes ‘unfair advantage’ of the mark.’

Users should keep their account details secure. In early January (2016), Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, had his Twitter account hacked which led to a series of foul-mouthed posts published on his feed including one that said: ‘davey cameron is a pie.’

 ‘You also need to note that Unfair Trading regulations prohibit using the media to promote a product or service where a firm has paid for a promotion without making that clear,’ says Miller. He adds that the regulations also prohibit traders posting content that falsely creates the impression that the trader is a customer.

At the extreme, now that the Advertising Standards Authority’s powers have been extended to cover online advertising, you could, for example, find a social media campaign banned by the ASA.

Under the Communications Act 2003 it is an offence to send a communication (including social media posts) that is grossly offensive or indecent, obscene or of a menacing character. To illustrate the point Miller notes the case of Azhar Ahmed who in 2012 posted an offensive Facebook message following the deaths of six British soldiers. He was found guilty of sending a grossly offensive communication.

Lastly, staff need to be reminded not to share company confidential information on social networks. The Daily Mail reported that health secretary Jeremy Hunt breached patient confidentiality in July 2015 when he posted a photo of a hospital visit on Twitter where patient names could be read. It’s possible the same could happen to you with a ‘harmless’ customer photo you post.