The views of individuals and organisations regarding social media range from apprehension, uncertainty, opportunity to risk. Whatever your view is, you probably have several examples to support your position.
It is not uncommon for an organisation to start out seeking to exploit the opportunities in social media. A couple of unsavoury experiences later and they are ready to give it all up. What frequently starts as a love relationship may soon become one of suspicion or hate. At this point, it becomes a frustrating experience for all parties – the decision makers (within organisations), the marketing communications teams (responsible for managing the brand’s engagement on social networking platforms) as well as its customers. For some organisations (like the public institution I mentioned earlier), it may become an “us versus them” mentality.
This is not how the script was meant to play out. Typically, in scene one, the brand signs up on social networks. In scene two, the customer is thrilled that brand has finally adopted social media. During scene three, the honeymoon begins, as the brand and the customer appear to be getting along. Scene four reveals that cracks are beginning to emerge. These test the resolve of both parties. In scene five – efforts at mending the cracks become inadequate. This is the stage for buck-passing and name-calling. More often than not, one or more of the parties reduce the amount of investments (effort, time, money, etc) they put into this relationship.
How to overcome social media resistance?
The following is an approach organisations can take to overcome the resistance people may have to the brand on social media.
Identify the root causes of resistance
Sometimes resistance to a brand on social media can be attributed to a lack of trust. Mistrust can arise from a history of failed promises or persistent service failures. The inability of a brand to bridge the promise-expectation gap may inadvertently alienate even its early advocates on social networking sites. There are brands whose turnaround time for resolving customer complaints on their social media pages is significantly faster than the time taken to resolve the same issue through their non-digital channels. This is a frequent source of disconnect as it creates varying service delivery standards for different channels owned by the same organisation. Not every customer would take to social media to resolve issues with a brand. It is up to the brand to treat every transaction with each customer with the utmost diligence it deserves irrespective of the channel the customer uses.
Break the silos – involve other stakeholders
This is a good time to share your findings with those who are directly connected to the challenges and/or the solutions. The making of a social brand is everyone’s business in that organisation. Their input is invaluable in creating and sustaining the efforts at rebuilding the brand’s equity on social networks.
Create a plan
The cross functional team should come up with a short to medium plan of action to address the issues highlighted. The plan should contain tasks, responsibilities, timelines and dependencies. It might include how to turn key internal skeptics into supporters. They should consider the organisational culture and determine what needs to change in order to support the brand restoration drive.
Train the team
Improve the competence of the team involved in managing the brand’s social media pages. They need continuous experiential training and retraining to keep up with the trends. They also need to understand how to better measure and report the performance of the brand on social networks. They should periodically share successes and learnings with the cross-functional teams who are directly or remotely involved in promoting the health of the brand. There are many cost-effective ways to build capacity — from free webinars to industry leading blogs and events, etc. Training should be at different levels — decision makers, cross-functional teams and the managing team.
Empower the team
Responsibility without empowerment is a recipe for frustration and failure. An empowered social media team is proactive about meeting and exceeding stakeholder needs. They go above and beyond their call of duty to ensure that potential problems become opportunities for engagement and improvement. They are able to take ownership of customer feedback and follow through until a win-win conclusion is reached in a timely manner.
Create your internal social media advocacy and research team (SMART)
One great thing about social media is that it challenges organisations to create environments where people feel safe to learn and evolve. Don’t wait for your external customers to get mad at you first. Identify your internal advocates who can help you create and nurture a healthy internal environment where constructive criticism and helpful insights can be shared. Again they should be empowered with the tools, training, recognition and support necessary to function optimally. The fine details of how this team is composed and how it operates would vary from organisation to organisation.
It is down to A.B.C.
Social media is not going away any time soon.
At the heart of social media are people connecting to share experiences. Some of these experiences would be about brands – the good, the bad and the ugly. A brand’s key to doing well here is to continuously build a healthy relationship with its stakeholders. This relationship needs to be seen as a long distance relay and not as a 100-metre sprint.
In the race for sustainable competitive advantage, brands need to be short on talk and long on delivery. By under promising and over delivering, they might reduce the resistance to their brand on social networks.
In order to do this, they must be prepared to be Authentic, Believable and Credible (ABC). The question is, “what is stopping your brand from being A.B.C?”
This post also appeared in the Punch Newspapers. Click Here