A familiar challenge for corporate communicators is how to present your case in the best way. It's not easy and there's growing criticism of corporate-speak and spokespeople who don't engage with the audience. Social media is often hailed as a more authentic means of communication than the traditional media. It's a place where communication is expected to be more personal, more honest, more rough and ready.
If companies get social media right, the prize is considerable. You can talk directly to customers (without intermediaries getting in the way) in a forum where they're listening and often willing to meet you half way. This should lead to higher sales and stronger advocates for your brand.
Getting social media wrong, not only makes you look ridiculous, however. One of the reasons for the greater authenticity of social media is because it's a space mostly populated by amateurs and friends. If 'officialdom' comes into that space and acts like a tax inspector at a wedding the group of friends will just move away. That's easy to do on social media because there are lots of available platforms and low cost of entry.
There's already evidence of this happening on blogs and social networking sites and even some emerging evidence that people are being more savvy on Twitter because of fears that their space is being invaded.
So if a company gets it wrong on social media (as many self-styled 'social media experts' do on Twitter) then the most important, influential people just shut up shop and move town.
This isn't intended to warn all companies away from using social media to spread your message when it's important, targeted and promoted in the appropriate way. But do something crass and you'll not only become a pariah yourselves but reduce its value for everyone else.
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