Social media: why it’s good to lose control…

Despite social media’s osmotic move into mainstream digital marketing strategy, there still remain a great many sceptics that still cite social media as a fad and perhaps more worryingly, something to be afraid of.

One of the biggest reasons I hear attributed to this wariness of social media is people’s fear of losing control of their brand, which is understandable if viewed from (dare I say this!) an out-dated, web 1.0 perspective.

I’m not for one minute proposing a cavalier attitude to a brand – any marketer worth their salt will understand the intrinsic value of a brand, which is why the thought of ‘losing’ control can be a leap of faith too far for many marketers to make.

But whilst social media does hand over a large amount of ‘control’ to the digital democracy of your customers, this does not have to mean ‘losing’ control:

i) Staff on social media?

Imposing a stringent set of ‘rules’ defies the true collaborative, authentic nature of social media.  Yes, ‘guidelines’ need to be established in order to protect a company’s brand (and avoid any spectacular PR disasters a la Kenneth Cole, Habitat, Chrysler, Marc Jacobs etc.), but ‘rules’ and ‘control’ take us right back to the days of broadcasting and one-way marketing communications.

Your employees are often your best brand advocates: tap into that passion and expertise and add a level of authenticity, transparency and fresh thinking into your marketing strategy.  Many businesses are already reaping the benefits of doing so.

ii) Crowdsourcing

If you’re like me, the chances are that some of your best marketing ideas come to fruition when you’re working in a group and bouncing off of other people.  Social media offers a fantastic opportunity to build on this.  Without wanting to contradict what I said in my previous point, your consumers are likely to remain longer brand advocates than your staff.

Allowing them to be involved with marketing strategy through crowdsourcing does not have to mean ‘losing control’ – it invites social collaboration and provides marketers with a genuine insight into what consumers REALLY want – how many marketers would killed for an opportunity like that 10 years ago?

iii) Customer service: negative comments to positive experiences

Clearly there will be examples when this is not the case (a BP oil spill for example).  However, for the majority of businesses, negative comments are there to be turned into positive customer experiences.  Customer service is a vital element of digital marketing in the era of Web 2.0.

My recent podcast with Virgin Media showed how dedicated social media teams are reacting to queries, comments and complaints and providing fantastic customer service in real time.  Yes, anyone in the world could see a complaint about your service / business or product.  But everyone can also see your personalised response to them and how you have transformed this negative into a positive.


Of course, social media is an evolving beast and at times, its nature is hard to predict.  But in this age of digital communications where anyone and everyone has a voice, people will be able to talk about YOUR business, YOUR brand, whether you like it or not.

I genuinely believe that by standing back and avoiding involvement, brands will (ironically) run far more risk of losing any semblance of ‘control’ than they would if they were to simply jump in, get involved and be part of the conversation.

If you still have a longing to ‘control’ social media and ensure that all comments, buzz, blogs and forum chatter are positive, there’s one easy secret.

Have a good business that offers great products or services.

The rest is easy 😉


One response to “Social media: why it’s good to lose control…

  1. As a business, the company I work for is all about social media. We’re a digital marketing agency, and I’d say everyone in the business either uses social media, or is very aware of its uses. I like your point about staff being your brand’s best advocates. It’s certainly true here. Sure there are grumbles and frustrations, but by and large you’ll see comments and things being said that give a great sense of how much people enjoy being part of the company. From an internal perspective that sends out a very positive message about how open the business is to its staff talking about us on social networks. Honestly, we get all sorts of comments/tweets/updates/pics showing everything we are doing in and around the business. And it’s all self-generated. No-one’s mandating it, and we don’t even have guidelines. We’re just allowed to do it. If anyone makes a faux-pas, there are plenty of folk who will make it known privately and nip it in the bud.

    In a different light, this also serves to inform how businesses can really gain value by allowing this to happen. We have an active ethos of collaborating and provoking thoughts and ideas. If someone tweets something for example, it’ll get picked up by at least 5-6 others (from a network of at least 200 who are active on Twitter, Facebook and the likes) who will re-tweet to their followers. What an amazing way to send positive messages about your brand and how your staff perceive it. If there was a way to capture this, it would surely be commercially attractive, and companies like Klout are trying but they’ve got some way to go yet.

    Of course the other points are fully valid, from my point of view, as an internal L&D person in the HR team, these are my thoughts around how it’s beneficial for the business.

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