Social Media Is Not Going To Solve Your Image Problems
June 3, 2014
The use of the hashtag is one of the best ways to organize fans around your brand and cater to them on their preferred platform. But it's important to be honest about your station or show and what it stands for before thinking that hashtags are going to work for you.
The "BashTagging" that recently occurred when the Washington Redskins communications department turned to Twitter to advocate for its team name should serve as (another) cautionary tale.
It all started when the Redskins tweeted this:
It only took about three minutes for the dark underbelly of Twitter to surface (even propelling #RedskinsPride to one of the top trending topics in the United States):
The hashtag #RedskinsPride is right up there with #AskRKelly, where people tweeted snark over past allegations of sexual behavior with underage girls rather than legitimate questions.
Or #MyNYPD, where folks responded with pictures of alleged police brutality rather than feel-good stories the NYPD was hoping for.
Not to be undone by #JennyAsks, where actress Jenny McCarthy, known for her fight against vaccines for kids, was schooled by Twitter when she asked people what they look for in a mate:
The common thread of these Twitter embarrassments is that each brand's image is tangled in part conflict. And people speaking for these brands mistake social for a communications tool – which leads to flawed thinking. They believe a little PR hashtag campaign will fix or distract from its problems.
But social is a connection tool.
And without more earned social allies than detractors, to expect or force positive tweets with a rash "tell us how great we are" hashtag, is just asking for trouble.
Smart lawyers rarely ask a witness a question they don't already know the answer to. Similarly, smart social managers have to consider the outcome before they throw out a hashtag with an invite to comment.
In social media as in life, you reap what you sow.
Smart brands know this. They know when to say something and when to stay quiet.
- They are in tune with the current image of their brand, its voice and consumer expectations, and work from that origin.
- They speak as though they are people - without losing the maturity and business sense that helped build the trust and capital among fans.
- They believe every person counts and works continuously on their social reputation in order to earn a positive exchange with fans.
The next time you think about tapping into cultural trends, ask if the campaign can be used against you. If so, attempting to create organic, user-generated content via hashtags is likely to backfire.
The key is to know your brand's values, how to communicate them socially, and exceed expectations. And if you aren't sure about the perception of your brand's social reputation or you aren't sure about how to start a hashtag campaign, ask the opinion of an outside voice. Don't bring embarrassment to your brand.
Audience perception has a bottom-line effect. When you have a real handle on social, you'll find an increase in the positive image of the brand; a boost in the likelihood fans are trying it out, and that they're recommending it to others.
There's nothing better than a hashtag campaign that invites fan participation and elevates their voice. But just because we can push our brands on Twitter (or other social platforms) doesn't mean it's necessarily a good idea.
Think it through.
Reach out to me anytime on Twitter @lorilewis.
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