Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing and engagement has become a focal point for large corporations and startups alike – for good reason. There is a plethora of articles, posts, and white papers that have been written for the sole purpose of defining the benefits of operating within the social media space. The merits of this digital tool for business development, customer care, or outreach are well established. I believe there is an exacerbated sense of risk aversion in the corporate and even political fields when the discussion of whether or not to jump into the social media environment is raised at the strategy table.
Risk associated with social media is not a new topic for analysis. Operating within the digital community is fraught with possible consequences and repercussions, planned or un-planned. We have witnessed how a social media campaign or marketing blitz can go sideways quickly, for example: McDonald’s.
Rogers Communications on Twitter
Recently, Rogers Communications decided to undertake a campaign that promoted the hashtag “Rogers1Number” atop Twitter’s trending topics. This strategy was to market a new service, spur excitement, and increase engagement across its national customer base. Unfortunately, the hashtag was used by many as a forum to vent about the company’s sub-par customer and product services. The result of this campaign was not what the Rogers’ social media team had in mind.
This unpleasant occurrence made its way into Canada’s national news cycle, along with numerous others weighing in on social media and other digital platforms. What struck me as interesting was the fact that there were different perceptions on the overall success or failure of the campaign.
The Reaction (Two Examples)
The Toronto Star published an article that drew much attention to the failure of the social media campaign, highlighting the digital community’s focus on lousy service. It was said that this tactic backfired and they graciously provided several Tweet examples from some unhappy customers.
The second example, a newsletter written by Veritas Communications Canada, took a different approach. Veritas applauded the social media team’s response to the criticism and repeatedly tipped their hat to the Vice President of Social Media, Keith McArthur, who used this as a learning tool (i.e. Rogers would be given feedback that would lead to actionable responses). They did state that the campaign did not turn out as they had hoped, but they did give it a “touchdown” instead a “fumble” (a theme of their corporate blog ranking). They also noted that Rogers understood the risk of generating engagement in the Twitterverse, but to me, they didn’t respect the risk or entirely plan for what may happen. I have always been taught that it is better to plan for what you may think is a far-fetched possibility than not to at all.
I am not here to dissect these articles or question their assumptions – there very well can be different perspectives. However, what I found interesting was that there was very limited discussion about the Rogers’ corporate structure (customer care and customer service) and realistic contingency planning in the social media space.
Customer Care/Service Preparedness
First, and what I leaned very early on in my career, was that before a company can truly operate in the social media world they must have a solid, established, and social media enabled customer care/service structure. By this I mean that if a company (usually larger) wishes to begin engaging their customers via Twitter or Facebook, they must be ready and prepared to answer questions, concerns, inquiries, and complaints.
Rogers, from my perception, wasn’t ready to open themselves up to an onslaught from their customer or market base. It has been noted numerous times that Rogers could focus more attention on their customer service and customer care staff and processes in order to rectify some complaints or concerns from clients. This is where any company, especially of this size, needs to focus their attention before social media can be effectively leveraged. If you cannot respond promptly and in detail to concerns or complaints it leads to significant opportunities of brand and reputation damage.
Before opening your company up to the social media world where input is received in real time publicly, you must ask yourself whether or not you have the resources, knowledge, and process or policy in place to respond to any type of engagement. From my perception, Rogers was not in that position, nor were they ready to field a wave of negative comments in the public spotlight.
Even though it was a promotional campaign for a new service, it was still a highlighted forum of engagement on any topic the public desired.
Contingency planning needs to be an integral part of any strategy or campaign, social media or otherwise. They may have, but was it actionable? Perhaps their contingency plan was just to spin the negativity into gained input and engagement that could be used to better the company.
I understand that the Vice President defended their decision on the grounds that they just gained a significant amount of research about their customers, their products, and their services, but at what cost? In my opinion the negative publicity on the national stage and across social media channels was not worth what they already knew.
Thought and Perception
The Vice President rolled with the punches and remained professional, but was it a decision that was fully thought out, analysed, and planned for? Or was their decision doomed from the start, but the allure of national engagement and promotion clouded their best judgement?
This was not a crisis, nor will it destabilize the Rogers brand. Was there reputational and brand damage incurred? Definitely. But it won’t change their bottom line, well at least to the extent that it will jeopardize profit. However, this little hiccup is a perfect lesson that offers some very important takeaways:
- Promotional campaigns in the social media sphere are not controllable,
- Customer service and customer care must be closely aligned with social media campaigns and engagement,
- Planning for the unexpected may be time consuming, but it yields considerable benefits,
- The digital community is always willing to raise concerns/complaints publicly if offered the right vehicle, and;
- A company cannot let the appeal of engagement and widespread promotion cloud realistic strategy.