The Risks & Rewards of Social Media for Business Organizations

Filed as Features, General on October 17, 2011 6:31 am

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For a business owner, Social Media presents a unique proposition. It is unique in the sense that the opportunities offered by Social Media sites like Twitter and Facebook are like a bait to bigger brand awareness. However, at the same time the viral nature of the Social Media platforms implies that a business would need a solid strategy to tap these media for business and brand promotion because an ill-conceived campaign, backed by a flawed Social Media strategy could become a major bottleneck to the areas of brand promotion, brand awareness and brand positioning.

There can be no denying of the fact that Social Media is one of the fastest media that can be employed to spread a word around. This is so true when you look at how successfully political situations from across the world have been advertised with a special mention going out to the Egyptian crisis of the Tahrir Square. On a similar basis, the natural catastrophic incidents like the Japanese Tsunami have been covered by the people who were on the ground and this has eventually resulted in a better understanding of the ground reality from the perspective of extending timely help and aid to the affected people.

Now, given the fact that political and natural catastrophes have a tendency to unite people across regions and countries because there is no selfish interest of anyone who is using the Social Media to promote a specific cause, things do change differently when it comes to tapping the Social Media for business implications. To begin with, you need to understand that a Social Media engagement for a business will have some impact for the business. In most cases, if unplanned for, this impact can bring in a lot of negative publicity for a brand or a service being advertised by the business. We all know that the reach of Social Media sites is massive; and unless your business has a Social Media strategy that seeks to address the goals of the Business’s Social Media presence, there is a likelihood that the Social engagement may result in unforeseen results. These could be good results or bad results. However, if these are bad results then the impact will be exponential because statistics from the Social Media sites do suggest that negative vibes spread like wildfire.

With more and more search engines including Google integrating the Social Media results in real-time, your business cannot afford a negative publicity going off across the web because then it will become a part of your business’s Internet history and the one that no amount of  ’Reputation Management’ can even hope to wipe off the search engine’s indexes. This brings us to the fundamental question of why would a business need a Social Media presence? The answers, unfortunately, cannot be typecast. Because, there could be a business that offers products like the fuel cards and a Social engagement with the audience may eventually result in a better communication with existing customers and new prospects. On a similar basis, if you run a service-oriented business, you could look at Social Media sites as a way to interact with the existing customers and try to evolve sites like Twitter to address grievances of existing consumers; and also to offer bargains in a hunt to get new consumers.

The success or failure of your Social Media presence will depend on how well you monitor your Social Accounts. If you monitor and manage your Social presence on an active-basis, it will mean that you are able to address any potential customer-satisfaction issues on a proactive basis and use the Social Media sites to improve a customer’s perception of the business brand. And, if you monitor your Social accounts on a passive basis, then the chances are that either your Social Media presence is nothing remarkable to talk about or there is a lack of communication between the business and the Social segment on these sites. In such cases of delayed communication or non-existent communication, there is an increased risk of negative vibes going unnoticed and spreading exponentially across other Social Media sites before your Social Media department acts out of its slumber. And my suggestion in the latter case is that if you cannot have a bustling Social Media management strategy, then you should avoid the presence in the first place. The risk to reward ratio for complacent business managers will be very high, and unless the Social Media strategy is drafted, re-defined and updated on a regular interval, the business stands to lose its trust and market with a reckless Social Media presence.Eventually, your Social Media strategy will decide your success or failure on the Social platform and an effective planning that considers all the goals, and the processes needed to address those goals should be the hallmark of such a strategy. Else, Social Media sites can turn out to be the nemesis of your Business’ reputation and trust.

This guest post is written by Andy May, who has worked extensively on Social Media campaigns for product-oriented and service-oriented businesses. His expertise includes defining marketing campaigns for European Fuel Cards.

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