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Posts tagged ‘Social Media’

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You ask, they… erm…

Openness and transparency is a great asset for a company.  Opening up a public forum to receive questions from the public can offer a great opportunity to build a positive vibe around your company.

But think it through before you agree to do it. Stempra tweeted a wonderful example of how not to do it.

Neal’s Yard agreed to take part in The Guardian’s You Ask, They Answer blog. There have been some really positive examples of companies using this blog to engage with their audience; Divine Chocolate were on last week and handled it well.

It didn’t go so well for Neal’s Yard. Straight from the off they received lots of informed questions about homeopathic remedies (no surprise from a paper which has Ben Goldacre as a regular columnist). Neal’s Yard should have been expecting this and had answers ready, even the intro to the blog brought up the subject.

24 hours in and they still haven’t responded to a single question.

So now all we have is a very widely read newspaper website listing criticism after criticism of the company with not a single response.

So what is the lesson here:

You have to anticipate what questions you are likely to be asked before you agree to take part in the forum, if you don’t like the questions you think you may get – don’t open up a forum like this.

You need to be ready to respond and properly engage with the comments you receive. When you do it well you get huge benefits from this kind of approach, when you do it badly the damage to your brand can be immense.

Neal’s Yard may yet respond (I hope they will at least do a statement), but I am imagining they are regretting this exercise and I hope other companies learn the lessons.

UPDATE:

Oh dear – they won’t be responding to any of the questions. See this comment from the Guardian Moderator

UPDATE 2:

The Guardian have done a follow up on this, agreeing it was a PR disaster.

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Social Media and Political Campaigning

Hazel Blears’ Observer piece this morning makes some strong arguments about the need for the labour party to actually engage with voters. A lot of what she says is eerily similar to John Major’s (undeniable effective) soapbox strategy in the 1992 general election.

I think she picks up on the tendency for organisations (I include private companies in this as well) to see social networking as ‘the solution’. She is clearly not impressed by Gordon Brown’s video message, coining the fantastic phrase “YouTube if you want to”.

YouTube is not ‘the answer’. Social media is the means not the end.

But she misses the point – Blears calls for politicians to spend more time actually engaging with people, hearing their anger. Used correctly, social media offers a fantastic way to do this. Gordon Brown’s problem is not that he’s using social media, it’s that he’s trying to use it in ‘old media’ ways.

That YouTube video is simply a broadcast, something politicians have been doing ever since they invented the radio. Comments have been turn off – it’s about as disengaged as you can possibly get.

A lot of politicians are getting it – where Twitter, Facebook and blogging work well it’s where the publisher engages with other users. People like Tom Harris get this. He interacts with his commentators and gets into the debate on twitter. He isn’t looking at the web as another tool to broadcast but as yet another way to meet with, listen to and engage with voters.

I think the biggest sign that he gets it is that he knows it’s just one of the many methods he needs to be using. He held a town hall meeting in his constituency to listen to his electorate in person.

Everyone looks at Obama’s election victory and get excited about social media – but it wasn’t the web wot won it for Obama – it was engaging with the electorate. Online was the right tool for certain circumstances, but it isn’t a panacea that will solve everything and miraculously win elections.

So Hazel Blears – you’re right, politicians do need to get on their soapbox and engage with the public. But don’t rule out doing that online.