Social Media Risk Analysis

@Chris | Measurement & Analytics, Strategy

There has been much debate recently about the level of exposure a brand should have on various social networks.  Since we’re at the early stages of measuring the effectiveness of these environments, most organizations who are skeptical have used one of two approaches:

a.) “Whack a mole” approach of spreading their company’s name all across the social web.

b.) Refusing to participate in the conversation.

Both usually end up in the same place…. an assertion social networking was not built for their particular niche.

We try and take a simple, grassroots approach to determining a course of action for when/how/if a brand should be developing a community.  We have boiled it down to one question – “Are you in business to make money?”  My reasoning? All of your customers are already living in these various social communities, sharing sentiment about issues, products, brands.  How long can you pretend otherwise?

We will concede, social media optimization is a complicated endeavor for any brand, and opening yourself up to potential critics can give any exec a sour taste.  However, the conversation is happening, so the question remains; Is it better to engage, make mistakes, admit those mistakes, and move on, or to ignore the conversation entirely?  The answer is definitely not as simple as you are hoping for and will continue to be unique depending on the goals of your organization.

While the horror stories of failed attempts are starting to gain exposure, even this week Nestle’s Facebook Fan page was overrun by critics around deforestation. These are isolated cases, and should not be the case study for why a brand should resist social media because it exposes issues that already exist. Its simply the digital form of real-world protest. Over time, the power/beauty of social media will be its ability to quickly expose.   The important thing to remember is these social feeds are a direct extension of your brand’s image.  The same way it takes time to forge “real life” relationships, its takes equally as long to harvest “virtual” ones.