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Is Your Social Media Strategy Off Target?

Public criticism posted on Facebook and Twitter means companies should get off social media, right? Wrong!
The mainstream media is currently full of it. Full of the news that Target, like Channel Seven, Qantas and others before it, have experienced a social media backlash, that is.
In this instance, it all started with a comment on Target’s Facebook page from a mother and primary school teacher Ana Amini that the retailer is selling clothes that makes young girls ‘look like tramps’. Other people – lots of other people – clearly agree with Mrs Amini, with her Facebook page attracting some 60,000 likes and 3000 comments.
All of which demonstrates the reach and power of social media, and the content disseminated through it. So why are commentators queuing up to imply companies should exit social media as the benefits of being on it are outweighed by the risks?
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Gabriel McDowell of Res Publica, an adviser to corporations on social media strategy, said recent missteps had been compounded by the wrong people running company Facebook pages.
‘Control should be taken from advertising and marketing agencies, who are used to pushing a message, and handed to public relations people, who are better equipped to deal with fallout. “Even though the social media process can’t be totally controlled, it needs to be managed,” he said.’
Fair point, you may think, until you realise Res Publica just happens to be… a PR agency! So the Herald has used a quote from a self-interested party to support the angle of its story. Talk about disingenuous.
The point of social media
Social media is not about public relations. Social media is about interaction, about engaging with customers. Yes, people may question or even criticise, but someone like Mrs Amini clearly felt she had a genuine point to make. And the fact that she made it has given Target a chance to consider her well-made points and address her concerns.
To say this ‘scandal’ is proof that social media has the potential to do far more harm than good to – and for – companies is completely wrong. Social media has empowered consumers, has given them a voice – and a collective voice – at that that demands to be heard.
Companies and marketers should always be listening to their consumers – it’s how you know if you’re doing the right thing by them and providing the products they want. So to get off social media or, worse, to simply view it as a means for scoring some PR points would be the worst thing possible.
Moreover, just because you may no longer be on social media doesn’t mean social media itself no longer exists. Consumers can still criticise you (or praise you, for that matter) on Facebook, Twitter, etc, but your absence from the conversation denies you that right of reply, that ability to say to people, ‘I’m listening, I’m hearing what you say, I understand your concerns and I’m going to do something about it.’
The content solution
Technology may be evolving at an incredible speed, but people aren’t. Our innate human needs remain the same and one of them is that when we deal with people, we want to know that we matter to them, that we are listened to and that our concerns are heard. Social media lets companies do that by monitoring the conversation and engaging with people.
And there is now an extra reason to do that, with the ruling handed down last week that companies are responsible for the comments posted by others on their corporate Facebook page. So if someone has posted something racist, sexist, otherwise offensive or libellous, the company is responsible.
Monitoring social media has therefore become a necessity, so why not see this as an opportunity to engage through it. Accept criticism and ask others if they feel the same way (as they obviously do in the Target case) as a means of improving your offering to customers.
The content you create – in terms of responding to customer comments – can turn social media into your best friend. Running away from it, on the other hand, is a sure-fire way of making it your enemy.

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What NOT to do

It’s always good to learn from your mistakes. But it can be even better – and certainly far more entertaining – to learn from the mistakes of others. Which is definitely the case with these entertaining examples of content marketing gone wrong. So sit back, cringe, and thank the marketing gods that it wasn’t you who made the call.
The tweet-slip
Leaving a less-than-enthusiastic staffer in control of your Twitter account can have some pretty embarrassing ramifications, as many of us are aware. Possibly the ‘best’ slip-up, however, came from the official Chrysler account, because it was just so damn topical.

In itself, the slip-up wasn’t too much of a disaster – after all, with platforms like Tweetdeck it can get confusing trying to run multiple accounts, and in general the public is pretty forgiving as long as the company in question ’fesses up. What happened, however, is that Chrysler released a tweet insinuating it had been hacked, rather than admitting its entry-level agency staffer had made the gaff.
Here’s a tip: if you’re going to try and cover something up, don’t sack the guy whose silence is integral to said cover-up.
The McDonald’s hashtag fiasco
Like many big companies, McDonald’s wanted to start a conversation with its customers. Unfortunately, it chose to focus on a ‘quality ingredients’ standpoint, something that – inevitably – drew plenty of ire from many a witty tweeter.
The hashtag (originally #MeetTheFarmers, but which McDonald’s marketers changed to #McDstories) soon became a channel for people all over the world to voice their disapproval of fast food. Here are just a few examples:

Qantas’ freefall
And coming in at number one is last year’s Qantas Twitter fiasco. After grounding the entire fleet and forcing the government to act against the industrial action that was taking place, Qantas self-appointed role as ‘Australia’s airline’ was called into question by disgruntled customers as its reputation fell faster than its share price is doing at the minute.
And what do you do when you need to get back into the good books of a bitter public? Why, give away a free pair of pyjamas of course!
Qantas began a Twitter competition offering 50 pairs of First Class amenities kits, complete with Qantas pyjamas, to the best tweets describing your ‘dream luxury in-flight experience’. Here’s a selection of some of our favourite responses…

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The dying kangaroo?

At a time of falling profits and job losses, Qantas’ content marketing strategy is again backfiring
Yesterday, Qantas announced an 83 per cent fall in profit compare to the same period last year. The news even made The Wall Street Journal, with the massive downgrade largely due to the grounding of all Qantas planes towards the end of last year.
As a result, Qantas has announced the loss of some 500 jobs, with thousands more under review. These are clearly worrying times for the Australian airline – and its workforce.
When the industrial action that led Qantas to grounding its fleet took place, the airline was widely criticised through online and social media content for its ‘poor’ handling of the situation. Its response was to hire a full time social media team who may have a won a small victory for the airline at much the same time as its poor fiscal news was announced.
As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘a satirical Twitter account masquerading as part of the Qantas PR team has been suspended at the airline’s request’, claiming it was ‘misleading to the true identity of Qantas and breached trademark legislation’.
Again, social media content consumers have been less than impressed with the airline’s response, tweeting comments including ‘Shutting down @QantasPR just really drives home they’ve got no clue’ and ‘Wow @QantasAirways really doesn’t know how to laugh at itself at all does it?’
Which just goes to show that in the content marketing world, having the content alone isn’t enough. It is how you use that content to engage with customers that is crucial.
The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.