How Social Media Could Destroy Your Brand

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Social media sites are a ubiquitous presence in our day-to-day lives now whether we like it or not. Facebook and Twitter in particular have overtaken even the broadsheets and the tabloids in terms of how we receive our news and when. It all comes down to convenience. Social media is instantaneous and has the potential to reach thousands, nay millions of people in seconds so it’s no wonder why it’s latched onto the public consciousness in such a vital way. Social media can be a double edged sword though.

Facebook, Twitter and even lesser known entities such as Pinterest and Instagram have the power to make or break careers, reputations, even lives. In fact, they have done and will continue to do so. There is no such thing as ‘damage control’ anymore. Thanks to social media, damage is instant, terminal and immortal, so fledgling businesses looking to gain a foothold in the marketplace should be sure to tread lightly.

How is social media used?

On paper, social media is a flawless and cost effective means of getting your business, your brand and your product real, tangible market traction. In practice though, it’s far from an ideal platform. For years now, businesses have been using social media to flog their wares. Before Facebook it was Myspace (a company now little more than flotsam amidst the jetsam) and before that it was ‘Friendster’. So the platform has changed but the basics have not.

In fact, the general idea behind social networking has been around as long as business itself. In essence social media is little more than an (albeit powerful) tool, used to ‘spread the message’, unfortunately though, this message doesn’t always translate particularly well to the public.

So for some businesses and brands, social media can prove quite detrimental to ‘the cause’. Here, we’ll be examining how and why.

The public just don’t get you

It’s a harsh lesson to learn, but some personalities just don’t gel comfortably with the general public and if such a personality is the social face of your brand, it could be doing potentially irreparable damage to it. Of course you don’t need to be inherently ‘likeable’ to run a good business, but if you want to have some semblance of a social media presence, it certainly helps.

One of the biggest mistakes that people make is using the platform to share their own personal beliefs and ideas. A recent obvious example would be the employee of ‘KitchenAid’ in the U.S who ‘tweeted’ an insensitive comment about Barack Obama’s grandmother during a presidential debate. The resulting social media fallout was catastrophic for the company and the employee in question was of course fired.

It lasts forever

Whilst posting a tweet or Facebook comment might seem like a disposable aside, on social media, nothing ever dies. If you start a thread or a conversation it could spiral out of control and go on potentially indefinitely. Even when said thread is finally put to bed, it can be brought up and referenced at any point in the future as Twitter and Facebook don’t delete old posts, especially ones that bring their site a significant amount of traffic.

The ‘domino effect’

Social media operates on a domino effect where one person sends a link to 5 others and each of those 5 send the link to 5 of their friends (and so on and so forth) and this spiralling vortex can be incredibly destructive if the popular link in question negatively implicates your brand in some way. One bad word spoken can echo through the ages and it’s almost impossible to change people’s opinions once the cat is out of the bag.

Passing the buck

In some circumstances businesses can completely underestimate the power and reach of their social media profile and could pass responsibility of the account onto an inexperienced intern or low level employee. You need somebody reliable in charge of your social media though, somebody who you can trust to accurately analyse data, engage the audience base on a level which is both formal and yet ‘friendly’ and have the foresight and intelligence to always see the ‘bigger picture’. Many businesses have been hiring specific ‘social media managers’ of late but in many cases it might simply be beneficial for some companies to stay out of the game altogether.

Things to look out for

If your social media profile is having a detrimental effect on your brand, the warning signs should be abundantly clear and you should be able to spot them before they spiral out of control. For example, if you’re losing followers on a steady basis, you’re obviously doing something wrong. It’s also worth comparing your negative and positive comments/messages. If the pile is stacked heavily in the favour of the ‘cons’, chances are you’re on a social media ‘downturn’ that you’ll want to pull out of before more damage is done.

 

Matthew Marley

Matthew Marley is a Social Media & Search Specialist from Glasgow Scotland with a passion for the web and emerging technologies.

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