Do Honchos At Least Understand Social Media?


Geller, Lois

August 20, 2013

My friend Patrice Merrin up in Toronto serves on so many different  Boards, I thought “Who better to ask if Board members use social media?

No,” she said immediately. “Most people on Boards have never typed their own letters and you expect them to Tweet?

Well, no, I don’t, just as I don’t expect them to drive their company trucks. But I do expect them to have someone, or several someones, handling social media for them. And apparently a lot of companies don’t and many of the ones that do, do a lousy job of it.

In far too many companies, social media is like Rodney Dangerfield, “… no respect, no respect at all.

I understand the reluctance to get engaged in Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, YouTube, Google+, Flickr, Tumblr, LinkedIn and all the others of which there is an amazing number. Good list of social networks: LINK

For starters, social media interactions are hard to control, both incoming (OMG, someone said something bad about us) and outgoing. Directors and executives like to see everything well in advance, discuss it to death, tinker with it, and iron out all the personality.
Plus all the new forms of communications scare the pants off them. Will outsiders, customers and employees have access to company secrets? Do we have our own Edward Snowden, our own Bradley Manning?

And I’m not going to downplay the risks. They’re real, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. But there are important factors beyond risk.

For starters, outsiders, customers and employees are already talking about your company in social media and if you’re not involved, not handling it, you don’t know about it. Worse, there’s nothing you can do about it.

More important, perhaps, social media can do your company a lot of good.

Social media seems to level the playing field.  Newer corporations understand how to collaborate better, and they understand the need to learn how social media can impact their businesses oh so very quickly.

The new entrepreneurs create content. In fact, I was looking at a website yesterday for an insurance business. The CEO had created a video of the challenges the company had endured in recent months and was asking customers to be patient with their claims.

He was dressed in a work shirt and a baseball hat. He didn’t create confidence for me; maybe he wasn’t trying for me but for a different target market.

I can like your business or not, based on you, the owner, and how you come across on YouTube videos, or on the letters you include on your website, or the tweets or Facebook posts you use.

Entrepreneurs need to know the skillsets it takes to create and keep a body of social followers. That means the people in charge need to disseminate information the right way all the time and handle crises quickly and effectively . It takes a while for Social Media people to find the right personality and a group of influencers that will participate with them.

As the Head of your Company, you need a Strategy for Social Media.

Let me give you a couple of simple personal examples that will let you compare the right way and the wrong way in real life.

Last week I went to Philadelphia for a few days of meetings and a family visit. Lo and behold, the US Airways 6AM flight was cancelled, and the next one was 4 hours later. No apology at the counter. The 10AM was cancelled, too, and I had to scramble to get on a flight from Fort Lauderdale to Charlotte then on to PHL, late, very late.

Then it got worse.

After a few days in Philly, I was tired and ready to go home. I got to the airport early and was horrified to learn that my reservation had been cancelled! Why? Well, since I’d missed my original flight to Philly, they’d scrubbed my flight from Philly!

Mad as blazes, I started tweeting to my universe of friends (21,000 of them), and even took some photos of the sullen ground crew who never once said “I’m sorry, Ms. Geller”.

On Twitter, I learned from the chorus of friends that this seemed to be SOP for US Airways. Since the airline’s head office seems to be a 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, operation, it took them a while to respond to the Twitter furor. And it was weak, canned, something about how their people are trained to be responsive and pleasant. Grrrr.

Compare that to an even worse experience last year, this one on American Airlines. My flight was supposed to go from Fort Lauderdale to Dallas/Fort Worth to Calgary. The first leg was cancelled and somehow I was shuffled off to Chicago where there was no promised flight to Calgary at all. So I got on Twitter.

American Airlines responded. They apologized, said they’d made lots of errors and I even received a call from a Vice President of American Eagle to ask me how they could “right” their wrong. We became friends.

Two difference customer strategies. One worked, one didn’t.

Thanks to the power of social media, companies have to be more agile, friendly, approachable. The Honchos have to be constantly learning about the newest and best ways to communicate with, almost literally, everyone.

They’ll have to organize teams that can do the work with goals in place. No more canned messages. It’s not easy, but it’s worthwhile whether you’re running an airline, a dating service, a hamburger chain or a CPA firm.

The best part of it is that the entrepreneur, maybe you, who understands social media, understands the value of influencers, embraces the opportunities, will be on top of things. I’m not sure about Boards of directors of large secretive companies.

It’s all still so new.

Let me know what you think of all this. I love comments

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