I attended the SME technology summit last week where I sat through a presentation on managing brand and reputation online. The presentation dealt with such things as leveraging ‘new’ opportunities such as blogging for a branded media outlet (NineMSN for example) in order to manage your reputation online. The presentations content left me feeling that this was just old media PR in a shiny ‘new media’ jacket. Pushing out press releases to social media platforms is not an effective use of social media.
While it is important to engage your publics in their preferred environment, with social media platforms the preferred platform for many. Treating social media as just another channel for your brand fails to acknowledge how social media reverses the balance of power from your brand placing and gives it to your customers.
When I posed a question of how would you manage a crisis for your brand online, the old rules of PR crisis management came out. Simply publishing a press release on your companies blog is insufficient to manage a crisis with social media.
It comes down to trust.
Over time, those participating in social media have earned social capital with those in their networks, those people trust their opinion. Often to a greater degree than information from authoritative sources such as your brand. Working to overcome this trust differential begins long before a crisis starts, establishing a dialogue with members of the social media community is a critical step in your preparedness for managing a crisis online.
The motivations for people acting as evangelists for your brand is different than journalists acting as conduits for your information to traditional media. Journalists are only looking for the scoop in the short term, another notch in their belt, they have no strong relationship with your brand, they will push your story only when it benefits their needs as a journalist.
Social media brand evangelists have an all together different motivation, they have an intimate connection to your brand which has evolved over time, they feel like your brand is a part of their life and who they are as individuals. As such they are compelled to defend your brand in the same way they would defend their own reputation. That said, there will be varying degrees of relationship along a continuum from highly engaged to not engaged, however when crisis hits, it will always be those most engaged with your brand who will create the most noise in social media, acting in your brands best interests.
Failing to leverage the social capital of these brand evangelists will leave your brand high and dry when a crisis hits. Have you changed your PR crisis plan to account for the risks and opportunities social media carries?