Social media is a collective noun

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People talk about social media as if it were a single entity which can lead to problems in communication programs.

Within social media there are a wide number of options to be assessed as part of an overall communication program, although not all of them may be appropriate for every organisation.

Social media is a collective noun covering a number of communication platforms, including Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and each must be considered individually and assessed for relevance and how each might fit into a program, if at all.

In this context we found it very interesting that a major pub chain in the UK, Wetherspoons, recently announced it was taking down its Twitter and Facebook accounts.

This might seem a bit radical, or even a stunt as some critics claim, and seems to be motivated as a social commentary on trolling, safety of personal data and time wasting.

Being selective about platforms used, rather than embracing social media as a whole, is increasingly necessary.

Trolling, misuse of data, and giving opportunities to broaden criticism are among the issues that need to be considered when deciding what platforms suit an organisation’s program.

Closer to home, some major financial services organisations must have wondered what they could do about their Twitter account following recent revelations at the Banking Royal Commission. Some social media platforms can act as lightning rods for complaints, comments and criticism and such feedback is made publicly, encouraging others to do the same.

We have often said that social media should be regarded as just another, but very useful, communication tool and as such part of the overall communications strategy. The controls and activity management needs must be looked at as part of the whole.

If developing a strategy is the first step in setting up a communication program, a number of questions about any social media elements can be looked at. These include:

What are the aims of using social media within the overall program?

  • How does this fit with other communication channels?
  • What are the choices (of social media platforms) and who are we trying to reach with each?
  • How does the company want to be seen on social media?
  • Who is authorised to represent the firm on social media?
  • How do we meet regulatory requirements with our posts?
  • What rules or guidelines for company employees need to be developed?
  • What are the issues and risks and can they be managed?
  • Who has overall responsibility and who else needs to be involved (eg Human Resources)?

If social media platforms are seen as useful in the overall communications program, the best elements can be agreed and specific activities developed that are consistent with the whole.

For example, Facebook Live may well be suited for insurance companies to give up-to-date public information on developing issues – such as what to do in a cyclone or storm or other emerging national disaster, what preventative steps householders should take, emergency service updates, fast moving changes, and even how to make claims after the event.

Tweets can generally be used to direct attention to more detailed information on significant events, such as company results and other corporate announcements and LinkedIn can be very useful in B2B programs, whereas Facebook may be less so.

Opportunities presented by different social media platforms for content should also be considered. One example is using videos and other images on appropriate platforms, as well as podcasts of meetings and seminars.

A rounded social media program should extend the reach of an existing activities, making the investment in the original even more worthwhile. Content can be developed for use in multiple ways, expanding reach and, at the same time, achieving consistency of message.

It is not a set and forget process. Social media developments need constant monitoring, as do an organisation’s own postings, to ensure they are accurate and relevant in a fluid world. Responses also need to be monitored to see if they need correcting or even circulated further, possibly using other platforms.

All this should happen anyway in any communication program, so social media activities should reflect the same approach and have controls to give the same protection.

One importance difference to bear in mind with social media, however, is that feedback is likely to increase and is also very public – while the time available to respond decreases. In the social media space, constant vigilance is the key to success.