I saw a presentation from Lego regarding their social media presence back in about May, and I was jealous (this article summarises Lego’s approach). They have it all; a solid strategy for their online presence, a global team to support it, a growing community, user generated content, and co-creation.
It was presented as something attainable for all of us but I had my doubts, after all Lego has a simple, versatile product. A product that connects to childhood, play and creativity.
Social Media is increasingly important for companies, it is often where customers first look for a company or ask a question, but not all companies can use social media in the same way. There have been a few examples over the past year where companies have tried to use social media according to all the principles of openness that that should work – only to have it backfire. Most notably JP Morgan who last month tried to launch the hashtag “#AskJPM” encouraging Twitter users to take part in a Q&A with Vice Chairman James B. Lee.
It sounds like a good idea; banks need to increase the openness and trust they have with customers, at least that’s how I imagine the idea was sold internally. But JP Morgan has been hit by waves of financial scandal and at the time of the invitation tweet was in the middle of negotiating a huge settlement over mortgage issues. The Twitter backlash was fierce – you can still read it next to the original invite tweet.
It’s easy to see that there’s a difference between the emotion people have for Lego, vs that they have for banks. Particularly after almost five years of crisis. But what about a “happier” brand, perhaps a coffee company. Well last year Starbucks launched a hashtag #SpreadTheCheer around Christmas – sounds festive. Except that Starbucks were right in the middle of a tax controversy so that hashtag was soon hijacked.
So what does all this mean – should you stay away from Social Media every time there’s a “public relations” issue? No, that would be a short-term and self-defeating approach. Instead your social media strategy should include how to act when there is a reputation question, your social media experts should be flexible and able to handle both positive and negative situations. And perhaps most vitally companies need to realise that for the customer there is no difference between PR/communications/marketing – anything said about your company in any medium is fair game.
I’ve been thinking of this along the lines of Herzbergs two factor motivation theory. Herzberg theorised that there were some factors that were motivating in a workplace, and some factors that were not motivating by their presence but were de-motivating by their absence. I’ve been thinking about what needs to be present for people to be motivated to support your brand and how that might relate to the traditional ideas of an engagement ladder. This is what I’ve come up with so far.
The engagement ladder is the engagement companies should aim for, traditionally it’s thought that people take small steps along it. Of course it’s possible that if your company is facing a high profile legal issue that your customers will share content about you – but it’s unlikely to be positive.
Companies that are working with a “hygeine” strategy can still work on co-creation, but then not via social media, do it with core groups at specific innovation days.
There isn’t a one size fits all answer on how to use social media successfully. It will depend on the industry, the target audience, the business strategy and the reputation of your company. But every company can think through a strategy, and every company should be thinking about social media both from a motivated/marketing perspective and from the hygeine/reputation perspective – and be ready to use both sets of tactics.