Four Ways Brands Should Conduct Themselves On Social Media
“What Happens on Social Media Stays on Social Media!” This phrase has a haunting impact as the internet is forever and thus your company’s online reputation, whether good or bad, plays a huge role in how your brand is perceived by customers, competitors and potential clients. Brands require the ability to actively listen, engage and respond to customers on social media platforms as this has become the primary channel for customer engagement and a new networking space.
In the past few years social media has become an important and intrinsic part of marketing communication. The use of social media is dynamic, fluid and increasingly powerful in its ability to capture a community’s sentiment and structure the conversations we have with each other about brands and beyond. With this comes a degree of vagueness as to what constitutes ethical behaviour when participating online in a commercial capacity.
In today’s constantly evolving interactive world, with opportunities to deliver messaging across countless platforms and devices, it can be difficult for brands to navigate the best way to ethically, accurately, LAWFULLY and consistently conduct themselves on social media. With an increasingly vigilant internet population, a single mistake on social media can make or break a business. The pressure to be “first” and the call to constantly produce content does not make the process of social media etiquette any easier. If social media is a part of your business strategy, you need to take heed of the social media laws and regulations. Here are some fundamental principles to keep in mind when conducting your social media presence.
Be Transparent in Your Communications
“Take the long way. Do the hard work, consistently and with generosity and transparency. And then you won’t waste time doing it over.” – Seth Godin
Social media provides the tools to have targeted conversations with customers who can directly drive advocacy and word of mouth on brands, however this valuable two-way dialogue doesn’t go without any risks, hence it is important to note that in this age of social media people demand that brands be as transparent as possible.
Transparency in business is when a brand upholds transparent, truthful, and on- hand communications and relationships with internal and external stakeholders. Transparency is always the best blueprint when doing social media. According to research, 89% of consumers want companies to act with integrity at all times. Acompany that’s transparent has laid down its own ground rules, values, processes, and policies, and demonstrated that it has nothing to hide.
But it’s not just about talking the talk — a brand has to follow through on its values and promises to really prove its authenticity. A transparent brand proves that a brand is genuine and trustworthy. Not only can it attract more people, but it can also lead to a higher rate of customer retention.
For example, a brand should be transparent in disclosing to the audience that a “material connection” exists between a speaker (also referred to as an influencer) and a brand. A “material connection” is any connection between an influencer and a brand that could affect the credibility audiences give to that influencer’s statements about the brand, and may include any benefits or incentives such as monetary payment, free product, discounts and/or gifts. Transparency is required when the influencer is connected in some way to a brand and is promoting the brand in a way that might influence the actions or opinions of the audience. Depending on the situation it may or may not be important for them to reveal particular details of the relationship (e.g. when, why, or how much they were paid or given, for instance) but it is important in all cases that they alert the audience that a material connection exists. This can be done by using a prominent hashtag that is understood by potential audiences to mean that a material connection exists between the influencer and the brand. For example, this could include standardized hashtags such as “#Ad” and “#Sponsored” and it shouldn’t be buried in other text.
Be Accuarte and Aware of Confidentiality
Posts should be accurate, fact-checked and capable of substantiation. If you do make a mistake, ensure you correct it promptly. Any criticism should be able to be backed up with solid evidence. Any seemingly objective statements your brand makes must be truthful and not misleading, and you must have substantiation to support such statements.
Secondly, only reference information that is publicly available. Do not disclose any information that is confidential or proprietary to the organisation, its clients or any third party that has confidentially disclosed information to you. Examples of confidential information would include brand performance, business forecasts, strategic plans, trade secrets or any legal information. Do not cite, post or reference clients, partners or suppliers without approval from the relevant party within the organisation.
Be Professional and Respectful
Always act in a professional and constructive manner and use sound judgement before posting. It is imperative that you are ALWAYS polite and respectful of individual’s opinions, especially when discussions become heated (because they sometimes will). Show proper consideration for other people’s privacy. Consider carefully how customers might perceive you as the representative/ambassador of
your brand. Be careful in posting comments or content that may damage you or the brand’s reputation. Areas to be mindful of are the use of exaggeration, colourful language, derogatory remarks or characterisations.
When it comes to posting content, do not post content that is obscene, defamatory, threatening or discriminatory to an individual, brand or entity. It is also advised not to post comments that you would not say directly to another person and consider how other people might react before you post. If you respond to comments (whether negative or positive) from customers, always be accurate and professional.
Be Smart With the Legal Aspect of Social Media
The last thing any brand needs is a lawsuit, so we STRONGLY suggest that you avoid this at all costs. Respect other people’s intellectual property including trademarked names and slogans and copyrighted material. It’s best practice to assume that all content online is protected by copyright. Make sure you have permission to post copyright items and properly attribute the work to the copyright owner where required. In addition to the laws pertaining to copyright and IP, respect all laws and regulations in relation to privacy, spam, and other applicable laws relevant to your client’s industry or products/services when posting content online.
In closing, at C-Suite Legal and Marketing, we understand that the above information may feel like a lot to take in when utilizing social media platforms for your brands marketing purposes. Remember, social media is not for robots and automated content but for building a community of like-minded people who may in future turn into brand advocates. The use of social media marketing could be the key that differentiates your business from your competitors and is able to ensure greater and sustainable success for your brand.