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Lessons From the Social Media Battlefield

Social Media Warrior

Social Media Warrior

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By Roger Ewing

I recently posted a blog recounting the true story of my encounter with corporate America in the world of social media.  In that blog I detailed how, as a competitor, I was able create doubt and havoc during the launch of a corporate social media marketing strategy.  Read the entire blog, Corporate Marketing Peeps Misjudge Power of Social Media at rogerewing.wordpress.com.   There are important lessons to be learned from my experience, both from my perspective and from the corporation’s point of view.

First, social media has redesigned the business landscape, allowing even small business owners to compete for attention with corporate giants.  This is a revelation that is so powerful it cannot be overlooked.  We, as individuals, have a platform that gives us the ability to comment to large numbers of people on line at any time.  This is hugely empowering.

Mass marketing vehicles like television, full-run newspaper display ads, and expensive magazines have been out of reach to most small business owners in the past. That has changed forever.  In the realm of social media individuals and small businesses are seriously challenging the ability for corporations to manipulate public tastes and preferences.  A more urgent, creative environment is emerging where the value of unique services and products is celebrated on a global scale.

Second, corporate America is uncomfortable with the open architecture of social media.  Most have not learned that the new frontier of social media can be a wicked place, where carefully thought out initiatives and strategies are submitted for public scrutiny. Transparency it seems is not a quality corporations are particularly fond of.

Nearly everyone remembers the notorious YouTube video from April 2009 showing two Domino’s employees/saboteurs mishandling food.  Rapid response is critical in countering attacks of this nature.  Corporations generally have layers of management and cocoons of policy that must be navigated before responding to collateral damage on social media sites.

Third, interestingly, the corporation I challenged on Facebook and Twitter seemed to think that no one should question the wisdom of their marketing initiative.  In fact, the individuals from the corporation who responded to my comments on their posted “ads” seemed genuinely shocked that someone would actually counter their initiatives with public comments.  By pointing out inherent weaknesses in their new print marketing campaign, I threw a wrench into the corporate machine.  They didn’t know what to do and had no strategy in place to deal with negative feedback.

As individuals, our newfound social media power can be used for positive reinforcement, or it can be a source of negative feedback that corporations are not use to experiencing in the public domain.  The feeling is that we are just a number in the corporate machine, and an expendable number at that.  As individuals we now have a powerful voice, and as more of us become accustomed to our new power, the potential for brand damage increases significantly.

Summary:  It really doesn’t matter if you are the head of a giant corporate conglomerate, or the owner of your own pizza business.  You need a strategy to counter social media attacks from outside, as well as inside your organization.  Create a strategy that will address these fundamental questions.

Q: How will you respond to negative feedback regarding your initiatives from competitors or your own employees?
Q: Who is responsible for conveying the company message?
Q: What social media sites are your best vehicles for communicating your side of the story?

Being prepared for the rigors of the social media marketing will put you in a far better place, should your initiatives come under attack from inside or outside your organization.