Friday, April 29, 2011
Social media: Avoiding the kick in the nuts

A few weeks ago, I was in Dublin on business with my boss. We landed at Dublin airport's new and swanky Terminal 2, and walked through a glass tunnel in search of the taxi rank. We saw the taxis waiting on the level below us, so took the long escalator down and out of the terminal building, deep in conversation about the meeting ahead of us.

Then, BAM! It hit me. A small metal bollard at the bottom of the escalator - painted the same grey as the pavement so it was perfectly camouflaged and exactly goolie-height - connected so hard with my nether regions that I turned instantly pale, started sweating, and honestly thought that the next time I visited the little boys' room I'd be seeing red.

I took a closer look at the bollard. Do you want to guess what was printed on it? It was the health and safety information for using the escalator. The irony!

So what, I hear you ask, does that have to do with social media? Good question.

Lots of companies know that they should be doing more in social media. So they start a blog, Twitter account, or Facebook page. And what happens? They get blindsided by an unexpected problem.

Here are some classics:

1. The corporate blog isn't planned well, so the content dries up and it starts to get out of date, damaging the company's reputation.

2. Knowledge of Twitter isn't rounded enough, so employees start using it to try and sell stuff, and the whole thing ends up looking spammy.

3. Facebook wasn't the right channel for the business goals, so the corporate page ends up taking away valuable resource that could be better spent elsewhere.

See the parallel with the nut-cracking bollard? It was put there with the best intentions - to warn people how they could potentially hurt themselves on the escalator. But poor planning meant that the very thing that was supposed to stop people hurting themselves turned out to be the thing that did most of the hurting. If the architects had thought about it, they might've said "You know what? Let's move these, and paint them bright yellow".

The same can be said of social media marketing. A bit of thinking up front will mean tactics are in line with the outcomes the company is looking for, and a plan can be drawn up to achieve them. At the same time, any potential problems can be ironed out in advance.

Without good planning, you just end up with ideas that - despite being based in good intentions - could end up becoming eye-wateringly painful for everyone involved.

Luckily for me, the encounter did no lasting damage. But you might not be so lucky...

Pic by thienzieyung.