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Antisocial Tendencies: the dark side of social media

Social media is, without doubt, one of the biggest cultural phenomenons of recent times. With roughly 1.96 billion active social media users worldwide, a figure that is predicted to rise to well over 2.5 billion by next year, it’s safe to say that nearly everyone you know, and everyone that matters, is on some form of social media.

With such sizable audiences it makes sense that businesses of all kinds are flocking to ride the social media wave, as companies ranging from the global pharmaceutical giant to the local artisanal cheese shop attempt to engage with the new-age consumer through the medium of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like. However, although there are clear and numerous benefits to a business social media presence, many companies are unaware of the potential pitfalls of such a presence. So it’s often with genuine shock that the owner of the bespoke pottery workshop discovers that creating social media accounts for their business on every platform available not only doesn't magically increase sales, but actually has decidedly negative effects on their brand image and customer relationships.

The truth is that the world of social media is not as easy to navigate as some think. If your 12-year-old nephew has 10 000 Twitter followers it can’t be that hard for your business to do the same, right? Wrong.

A simple spray and pray approach won’t work the way you hope, and there are subtle intricacies to each social media platform that require an intrinsic understanding of these unique beasts to successfully leverage for your brand. If you’re going to attempt to traverse the treacherous social media landscape as a business, it’s crucial that you have a clear strategy in place, or you may find that you fall victim to some of these unpleasant, and sometimes irreparable, consequences.

Airing out the dirty laundry

When you establish a social media presence for your business you open it up to (very public) engagement with your customers and the online world at large. This engagement is desirable and, provided it is effectively managed, can foster genuine and mutually beneficial relationships with your customers. However, it is often a double-edged sword, as the disgruntled customer loves nothing more than making their grievances known in a public forum. Though you may get a healthy dose of praise and ‘brand love’ splashed across your Facebook wall, you’re just as likely to get droves of haters complaining about how their chicken curry was five minutes late, with a subsequent demand for a free meal. What’s worse is that posts and comments of this nature will sit and fester in a space where the rest of your customers/followers can see them.

This is the unfortunate conundrum of social media, particularly for businesses that service a large customer base: you simply can’t always please everyone and you’re going to have to take the good with the bad, the love with the hate.

Successfully navigating the social media minefield is, more often than not, about how you handle the haters. Responding to a bad review, an angry tweet or a scathing wall post with priority, haste and tact can turn a bad situation into a chance to transform an unhappy customer into a brand ambassador.

If you’re not ready to handle the hate, you had best think twice before diving headfirst into the preferred domain of the infamous Internet troll!

Neglect has a negative affect

Building a social media community around your business takes considerable time and effort. Simply creating a few accounts with your basic information, contact details and the odd picture, and then never looking at it again, is far worse than simply not having a social media presence.

Yes, it’s often a great idea and very valuable to engage with the various social media channels, but if you aren’t prepared to invest in your social media offering (either dedicating internal resources to running your social accounts or hiring an external company on a recurring basis) then it’s a good idea to give it a skip.

Social media’s main value proposition lies in engagement. Your customers engage with your brand, the content you post and others who are interested or invested in your brand. If you have a social presence, but aren’t engaging, you’re missing the point entirely. The modern professional spends a considerable amount of time on social media and, as such, is choosing to engage with the brands they prefer on social channels instead of more traditional mediums such as call centres, website contact forms etc. Anything from complaints to compliments to queries and more are likely to be directed through social channels. If you receive such engagement and aren’t actively monitoring and interacting with your community, what are the chances you will respond? Let alone respond in a timeous manner? This will only lead to the customer feeling neglected, unimportant and subsequently spiteful. Where they may once have held an affinity for your brand, animosity soon grows. You’ve lost a fan, possibly gained an enemy, simply because you weren’t paying attention.

No immediate ROI? Why even try?

The hard bottom-liners out there often struggle to see the value in social media. They salivate at the prospect of millions of active users and an engaged, real-time audience, but their eyes quickly glaze over when they realise that many of these users aren’t interested in buying anything; they’re too caught up in sharing cat videos and Trump memes.

You’re probably going to have to accept the fact that you won’t see a significant increase in sales from your social media efforts for at least a year or longer. You could sit and grind away for ages to organically grow your follower community, with awesome content and great deals, or you may even take the shortcut of boosting your posts and making use of paid content and social media advertising. Either way, you are more likely to see a far greater ROI in the short to medium term from traditional marketing channels than you will from social media.

You may be entirely put off by slow growth and insignificant sales leads and pull the plug on your social media efforts entirely. This is business after all, and who has the luxury of throwing money at something without seeing a decent return?

If you aren’t prepared to possibly sacrifice resources in the short-term, whether time, money or labour, for long-term benefit, then you may want to avoid social media entirely. But if you can afford to be patient and put in the effort, you may find that your future harvest is bountiful indeed. Growing an active and engaged community of followers will not only help you to convert brand ambassadors, but create a general feeling of affinity with your brand amongst said followers. This often leads to the word of mouth effect as your followers feel compelled to share your brand with their friends and family, and you may find that eventually your ROI is far greater than the cost of maintaining your social media presence.

It’s a jungle out there, don’t go it alone!

The difference between social media success and failure is often defined by the slightest of margins, and this is in turn determined by how well you understand and leverage the various social media channels.

If you’re relatively new to the world of business social media, don’t take the risk of simply diving right in without some form of strategy in place. You need a clear vision and set of objectives, with subsequent action plans to achieve these.

If you really want to nail your social media strategy, experience and insight will be invaluable, and this is exactly what we offer. Chat to us today and let us help you conquer the social media jungle!