A cursory browse of someone’s Twitter or Facebook pages will reveal their interests, beliefs, associations, their social life, their fashion and more.

Consequently, everything that an individual posts online will contribute to the overall impression that others have of them. The same applies to businesses where social media could be the first and only point of contact that individuals have had with the company. Social media is an excellent tool to connect with people across the world, but businesses must be vigilant about their social media presence and avoid making costly mistakes.

Most people will form a large proportion of their opinions about a brand or their corporate messaging after a short browse of their social media platforms. Everything the company shares online will generate a picture of what that business values and how they interact with their customers.

As well as the content, frequency and consistency of social media, sharing will also be taken into account; for example, if you haven’t shared anything on Twitter for weeks or months then people will begin to wonder if something is wrong. Equally, sharing too frequently, or sharing irrelevant content will make people question the authenticity of that business. If there is no social media presence, this will give the impression of an antiquated business that probably isn’t worth time investment.

Dell is a great example of a business using Facebook to share helpful information. They have a support section where users can ‘get fast and friendly support without leaving Facebook’. They give the impression that as a brand they care about their customers, making the business personable and responsible. Toluna, who provide industry-leading online community technology, reviewed the Dell for business Facebook page – giving it an 8/10, see a full review of this here.

Vodafone has recently been voted as the best at Twitter customer service. They benefit from highly trained employees on hand to answer Twitter questions and share useful content, making them a devoted and knowledgeable brand.

Accenture uses YouTube to share updates about their services and ideas, as well as video interviews with industry experts. As a result, they show they are connected, modern, innovative, and people orientated.

Social media can be leveraged by businesses to obtain commercial advantage, but it is vital to remember that the immediacy and permanency of the internet means that it is very easy to be misrepresented.

A good example to demonstrate this is Tesco, who, at the start of 2013 was embroiled in the horsemeat scandal and yet failed to turn off their prescheduled tweets:

 

tescotweets

 

At best, this exposed them to their 77,110 followers as lazy tweeters and showed that the regularity of their tweeting wasn’t authentic. At worst, people thought that they were indifferent towards the horsemeat controversy and the PR disaster they were facing. They’ve since recovered reasonably well, but this tweet hasn’t been forgotten and it invited a great deal of criticism at the time.

The power of social media is abounding. It’s so easy to give the wrong impression, and once opinions are formed, they are hard to change, so it is important for businesses to invest time and care in building reputable social networking campaigns.

By Jocelyn Medhurst