Brand enhancement via social media is still viable but vigilance is required.
There are branding benefits that can be derived and measured for brands that choose to participate in social media. However, practicing a “set and forget” social media strategy can have negative branding repercussions.
Content explosion and fake, well, everything
As evidenced from the chart below social media platforms have become overrun with spam and fake accounts. Not only does this undermine the credibility of the platforms but it can also damage a brand’s reputation by association.
Now, brands involved with social media face multiple challenges. The first, not surprisingly, is privacy concerns and data protection of their users. Second is producing quality and credible content. Third is navigating social media user profile targeting.
Protecting user privacy and their content
Social media works because participants are willing to share their thoughts, photos, videos and stories with other like-minded people. This self-published content should be treated like any other copyrighted material. Show respect for copyright laws. If you borrow a quote or reference a research paper, give the author credit and provide a link to the document.
Producing credible content
It is incumbent on those brands to formulate and adhere to editorial guidelines. These guidelines should revolve around the following principals:
- Fact check and verify all brand attribute/benefit claims
- Responsibly report any and all errors or omissions
- Develop an editorial staff of journalists to act as social media content producers
- Create social media best practices guidelines as to what is acceptable content to publish and be associated with the brand personality/promise, and what is unacceptable.
The list can go on but you can see where this is going. Any deviation from producing truthful content or serving a nefarious agenda via social media posts, video, tweets, or retweets only serves to weaken and call into question the integrity of the platform upon which it is posted.
Secondly, social media should not be viewed as a means unto itself. Posted content is too easily hijacked — no matter the brand’s best intention — to post and forget.
Original content and responses have to be monitored and responded to in a timely manner to be perceived by the consumer as having value and being worthy of their time.
User profile targeting
The strength of these platforms is also their Achilles heel. Being able to micro-target audiences based on their stated preferences, likes and dislikes is the holy grail of permission based one-to-one marketing. It also allows bad actors to take advantage by creating fake websites, inflammatory content and procurement of user data without their permission. If someone wants to sell your 500,000 impressions for $75.00, buyer beware.
In my humble opinion, brands need to rethink their use of social media platforms. Analytics are needed to define and measure the value of social media activities (content production, technology requirement and utilization, end result benefits) as to the contribution to revenue generation social media can provide.