The idea that social media appears to be the preferred platform for receiving news and information for millions of people still seems a bit unreal to me. I have accepted it. However, I remember a time when there was no Internet. No Email. No Facebook. No Twitter. No Instagram.
I’ll never forget the day a fellow journalism student I was working with at TSU-TV (Troy State University Television) back in the mid-90s first told me about email. My first question was, “Do I have to pay for each message I send?” I couldn’t believe it when he replied that email was free. Then one day, while living in my off-campus apartment, my husband came in the door (yes, I got married as a young college student) and said I wouldn’t believe how he was able to see all these things on the computer by using the Internet. Our kids now think we are ancient since we lived in a time before the Internet, smart devices and social media.
Fast forward to 2020 and small businesses and corporations alike rely heavily on the Internet and social media to function on a daily basis. Without them, I question whether they would be as profitable and influential. Businesses today depend on the many social media platforms to relay information, maintain relationships and communicate with their customers. Social media managers handle those pages for the most part. But many times, other members of the organization often speak their opinions on social media and from my experience that is not always a good thing.
Facebook has the option to include your place of employment. As the person who handles her company’s social media pages, I have seen our employees list our company. I personally have decided against sharing their information. But some people do like to post where they work and I do not discourage it. However, I’ve encountered problems because of it.
One employee got into cyberfight with a Facebook user. The guy knew where our employee worked. But even if he had not known, our employee had “invited” the person to come to our business so they could “handle” the problem. In other words, he invited him to fight on company property. This person, who could have been considered an opinion leader at our company since he dealt with customers on a daily basis, had previously made posts that did not align with our company’s mission and I was contacted by a lawyer so that our company could be made aware of the situation. He contacted me since the employee had listed our business name on his Facebook page. Soon after these embarrassing situations happened, that employee was let go.
I have also worked for company leaders who did not understand the importance of social media and its influence on customers. The leader did not understand there is no distinction made between a personal or professional social media account. The leader’s tweets and retweets were often politically charged and had nothing to do with our company. The leader believed since it was a personal feed that there were no topics that were off limits.
In the article, “How Leaders Can Use Social Media to Communicate More Effectively” by Brian Honigman, he explained that although almost 90% of executives use social media, many of them do not use it in a way that ties back to the company’s objectives. This is of obvious concern to social media managers like myself. On one hand, can you tell a company CEO to stop posting about things they are passionate about but have nothing to do with their company? Or do you just let it slide and hope that a crisis does not develop as a result of it. I think you can reach a compromise by pointing out individual posts and explaining on a case-by-case basis why that particular post may not be best for the company. I think the message may be well received if handled that way.
We as marketing and social media managers have to be one step ahead and ready to handle whatever is thrown our way. Customer reviews, whether good or bad, have to be handled with speed and compassion. Word travels fast and you have to be in tune to what is being said about your company. Word-of-mouth marketing, as described in “Understanding word-of-mouth in the digital age” is spot on when it states that this is a “natural phenomenon that occurs and is as old as human communication and trade”.
If a customer has one bad experience because of a purchase or something they read online about the company or by an opinion leader, it can be detrimental to the company’s reputation. And if that bad experience makes it online in the form of a review or testimonial, it could live forever on the Internet.
When I am looking to make a significant purchase or even learn someone’s opinion on a particular subject, I always go online. I check the reviews. I read comments on stories. But depending on what I search, I may or may not get what someone else might receive. Eli Pariser’s TED Talk on called “Beware online ‘filter bubbles’” explained it perfectly. Although this talk was done in 2011, it is still relevant today.
Pariser demonstrated how two friends received very different results when they typed in a term in the search bar of Google. We are living in a time when companies like Google and Facebook want to give us more personalized searches. While I can appreciate their efforts, it doesn’t come without issues.
I have had problems in the past explaining to some people within our company why they may not see our business show up as the first result when they search for us. Explaining that there are many factors that determine what you see doesn’t go over well. Sometimes they look at me as if they do not believe me or I’m just making up an excuse.
On the surface, getting personalized results might sound like a good thing. But it may not be giving us the different points of view that we might need. I prefer to know what people are seeing when they type in my business name so that I can address or even prevent any problems. Algorithms controlling what we see might seem like a more efficient way to handle it. But I sometimes think it hurts more than it helps. But with the ever changing digital age that we live in, I have a feeling that more changes are on the horizon.