Social media is a two-way street, a conversation between brands and consumers that’s never been possible before. Every brand dreams of having an active, engaged online community that shares opinions, discusses its products and invites others to join. Until it happens, that is. Then the brand starts to get nervous. Why?
To truly get social, you have to give up a little control over where the conversation goes. You can give direction, suggest topics and even try to steer your community down a certain path with incentives. But you can’t stop members of your community from taking a conversation down an unexpected path, making negative comments about you or associating your brand with undesired topics or people. And that scares brands, understandably.
What can you do to keep the conversation civil?
- Stay Positive — Discuss what you (and others) do well, and stay away from negative mentions of competitors. Respond to community members who take the time to comment, even disgruntled ones. Oftentimes, a simple acknowledgement of someone’s distress and apology (if your brand caused said distress) will calm down upset members. If additional action is needed (i.e. replace a faulty product), take it. Always communicate what you are doing, so others can see you being responsive.
- Be Honest — Don’t try to mislead your audience about your brand in any way. In the digital age, that won’t fly. Transparency and honesty lead to trust, which is the new business currency. If a community member asks a question, tell the truth. While all brands should strive to be good corporate citizens, no one is perfect. Lying to your audience or overstating your efforts won’t build trust in your brand. Editor’s Note: This doesn’t mean that you have to allow incorrect information to be shared about your brand. Feel free to step in and correct anyone (with a smile) who is misleading others about your brand.
- Acknowledge Differing Opinions — Community members can disagree with your brand (or other community members) without being hostile or uncivil. Perhaps some members don’t like your new website layout or a new product. Listen to these members, as they may have valid points that can be useful in future discussions. At least acknowledge them and let them know that you value their voice.
- Do Your Research — Some brands have had issues with their hashtags for new campaigns or chats being hijacked. A little research into current consumer sentiment about your brand can prevent this awkward situation. Is your brand the subject of negative PR at the moment? That may not be the best time to throw your CEO on Twitter for a chat. Test the temperature of the market’s feelings about your brand before holding a special event or launching a new campaign online.
With a little foresight, patience, honesty and positivity, your brand can build and enjoy a thriving online community. Just remember that you can’t control fate, or the conversation. If you’ve built trust with your audience, the conversation about your brand will be one you’ll want to share.
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CCC’s Head Superhero,