Why are so many businesses socially awkward?

By Mary Fitzgerald, Account Director

Earlier this week, Mark Ward, BBC Technology correspondent, posed the question why are so many firms so bad at handling social media? The examples used to prove the journalist’s point included some cringe-inducing Twitter blunders, from US Airways accidentally including a pornographic image in a reply to an unhappy customer, to Microsoft’s artificially “intelligent” chatbot Tay tweeting racist and anti-Semitic views after been corrupted by internet trolls.

On the flip side, an example was referenced that illustrated where the red blushes caused by some tweets can be turned into humorous postings for others. Take for instance dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster which took advantage of the United Airlines forced removal of a passenger scandal in 2017 and sent this mischievous tweet:

There are countless examples of companies using social media incorrectly on a day-to-day basis, from failing to respond to customers complaints in a timely manner, to — would you believe — actually promoting their competitors in this case here.

One suspects the main reasons for these failings is because not enough thought or time has been put into making social work. But businesses shouldn’t be put off. Platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram can play a vital role in reaching a wider audience for organisations of all shapes and sizes, when used correctly. For example, some brands are more suited to LinkedIn, some Twitter and Instagram, and occasionally all. Plus, the social management tools such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and Sprout Social can help put in place approval measures so that no one in the social team can post a message without a second check from someone else.

Social media is the ideal tool for engaging with customers and potential customers and the companies that are doing it well are increasingly using it to implement a user-generated content strategy. Not only does it encourage interaction, but it also makes it easy for your biggest advocates to show their appreciation of your brand to others. A creative example of this comes from the online fashion giant Asos.

Shady just got a brand-new meaning 😎 📸 @the.dight 🔎 ASOS DESIGN jumpsuit (1228608)

A post shared by ASOS (@asos) on

Encouraging followers to generate their own content referencing your product or service is the 21st century version of word of mouth which is always the best form of advertising.

Without a robust and appropriate social strategy and presence, businesses potentially lose valuable insight into what resonates with its audience who spend a lot of time on these channels. These insights allow organisations to take on feedback from a range of demographics to ultimately improve their business offering.

Consistency of message, professionalism, proper data collection methods and creativity are key ingredients to what we believe ensures social media success. Showing a human side and having some fun need to be in the mix too if companies are to become socially confident and less awkward.

Finally, our recent Whiteoaks Insights social selling webinar covers some of the social media ‘management’ points that I’ve made here, plus of course it delves into what social selling is and how to start on that journey. You can watch the webinar on-demand here on our website.