It’s here—the social media tidal wave. You know you need to dive in, but where and how? How do you start? Do you “Tweet,” “Facebook,” “Friend,” “Blog,””Post,” “Follow,” “Poke,” or “IM”? There’s a whole new list of verbs my high school English teacher never even imagined. When do you do it? How often? What is the message? How do you monitor, and how do your manage it all? All of these questions can stop you in your tracks. And for good reason. But the power of social media is undeniable—now a potent, mainstream driver of connection and engagement. However, like any high-octane tool, you should consider and plan for the consequences—intended and unintended.
Even Oprah’s doing it. According to market tracker Hitwise, traffic to Twitter went up 43% in a before and after survey of the “Oprah Effect.” Additionally, on April 17th, the day of Winfrey’s first Tweets, 37% of visits to Twitter.com were new visitors, Hitwise says. By comparison, Hitwise says Facebook’s ratio of new visitors in March were 8%. And Ashton Kutcher’s recent competition with CNN put charity tweeting on the map! He emerged victorious in his broadly publicized race to be the first to line up over one million followers. Now Mr. Kutcher, or for the Twits out there—@aplusk, will donate $100,000 to the “Malaria No More” fund to diminish the spread of the deadly disease through net distribution.
Still, the question looms large— How do you maximize the impact without jeopardizing your carefully crafted and protected nonprofit brand? You may have heard about the Domino’s pizza employees who caused the company severe heartburn recently with their less-than-tasteful YouTube video that featured disgusting food-handling techniques. (We’ll just leave it at that.) Here are the details if you are so moved. It had hundreds of thousands of views before Domino’s reacted with a positive message on YouTube where this started. So what if something like this happens to you? Here are some recommendations:
1. Set up Google Alerts. Monitor what people are saying about your organization online. Keep tabs on Twitter (via Tweetbeep )and YouTube.
2. Assess the message, the messenger, and the audience. Are you dealing with one crazy loose cannon with no audience? Or if you feel the message is hitting your audience or it is picked up by traditional media, you may want to draft release a credible response. Ignoring it could backfire.
3. Respond quickly and responsibly. Slow reactions have a negative public relations impact. Web 2.0 replicates messages exponentially. You don’t want something to expand outside your sphere of influence. Just be authentic and sincere. Avoid a defensive posture. “We are addressing this issue or the source of this misinformation, etc.”
4. Respond in the right context. Respond to a Tweet on Twitter or to a video with a video on YouTube—thus containing the controversy in the community where it originated.
5. Stay in the conversation. You cannot spin it with a press release. Invite response, address questions transparently—and be prepared to engage in a continuing dialogue.
How are you monitoring your brand and your message on the social media frontier?