If you have decided to use Social Networking technologies for your business in your marketing, public relations, employee relations, or any other initiative, congratulations – it’s a good move. However, bear in mind that there are some issues you should be aware of before starting.
As we pointed out in a previous post, social networks allow people to create communities on the Internet around shared relationships, interests, and activities. In business, social networks can be used as tool for marketing, public relations, sales, customer service, employee relations, and more. Many case studies show how companies are able to use social network services to generate new leads, strengthen relationships with customers and employees, and improve their business operations.
Here are some guidelines for avoiding pitfalls when implementing a social networking campaign:
- Filter information. Actively filter personal or private or sensively information about yourself, your company, your employees and partners, and your customers from the information you or your employees post online. Make sure that none of the information you post is covered by any non-disclosure, patent applications, or contractual agreements, which could quickly get you into hot water.
- Provide value. Post only information relevant to your audience online. Before any post, ask yourself: Is this information interesting and useful to my audience, or does it only serve us? Your audience will quickly tune you out if you continually post marketing fluff and self-serving promotional ads.
- Be truthful. Be as forthright and honest as possible. Remember that these types of media are interactive and can quickly get around. You’ll find that unhappy customers and disgruntled employees are not shy in posting negative comments about you and your company for all to see – especially if they find you evasive or less than truthful.
- Provide clear guidelines. Take a cue from IBM and provide clear guidelines on what is and what is not acceptable, and who does and does not speak in behalf of your company. Make sure your employees know the guidelines and follow them. Let them know that whatever they post online can remain there for years to come and could come back to haunt them later on.
Despite the risks of using social networking services, there are risks of not using them as well. If you don’t shape your image on the Web, people will do it for you. Social networks make it quick and easy to set up a basic profile, and that’s the first step toward gaining control of your business’s reputation online.