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Risk analysis: an essential new skill in social media marketing

Author's avatar By 14 Mar, 2012
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How to control social media ‘bush fires’ to protect your brand

Prior to the digital social media era, brands could control most marketing and communications channels.

Marketers could determine which messages were conveyed, to whom, where and when, thus ensuring their precious brand image was preserved intact.

Enter social media - the tinder to set fire to a previously dry marketing environment.

Social media’s power and reach deliver real power to consumers

Social media lets consumers refer, recommend, vote, score and comment positively or negatively on anything they feel or experience about a product or service.

A particularly big dose of fuel is added to the 'brand communications bush fire' by social media’s interactive real-time capacity to broadcast messages. Reach is potentially unlimited, extending through compelling multi-media formats, such as pictures and videos ‘taken on the go’ with smartphones.

Brands must be more open, honest and transparent

On social networks, attempting to hide or disguise important consumer issues, for example, service quality, is only likely to fan the flames of discontent.

Fearing loss of control, many organisations are holding back on social media adoption; either because they once had their hands burnt or someone else in their industry did. There are lots of examples.

There is a solution. Let’s face it, there has to be. No organisation can dig in and hope social media will blow over.

Unlike most marketing channels, social media initiatives call for a risk assessment. For most marketing practitioners, marketing risk assessment won’t have been covered by any marketing course curriculum.

Well, it’s time to learn a new skill and process…………..

How to carry out a social media risk analysis

Social media risk assessment is about how to analyse the potential negative consequences of a marketing initiative and handle a potential flare up about your organisation.

If you already understand marketing is a science, in particular, a social science, then you will buy into the following few broad principles that need to be adhered to:

  1. Remember you are now dealing with individuals, not markets.
  2. Test social media initiatives on real people (not sample groups) by asking for their reaction before running the campaign – take care in gauging their reactions.
  3. Understand what motivates users to participate in online social communities and think through the reactions you are likely to get – create scenario plans.
  4. Check your initiative builds on-going engagement and isn’t just another marketing campaign (playing to social media’s real strengths as a medium).
  5. Check you are being open, honest and transparent.
  6. Never be corporate or official in your responses to negative posts.
  7. Assign skilled resources and technologies to monitor social discourse.

Making sure the social media fires you ignite set people alight with enthusiasm for your brand, rather than inciting them to burn down your headquarters, requires marketers to adopt new specialist skills; risk assessment and damage limitation are two vital skills to create successful social media marketing and communications.
Editor's note: Paul Fennemore has written a couple of other excellent social marketing posts quite recently; get strategic with 'A new adoption framework for social media strategy' ‎ and a revealing post on McDonalds Twitter promotion gaff - worth a look if you haven't already read them.

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