Monday, 16 January 2012

Social media-The good the bad and the Indefensible-A masterclass from CityPress' Paul Smith

As people who live and work in Manchester know-we have a lot of social media experts plying their trade.

I don't think Paul Smith of Citypress would describe himself as a social media expert but what he had to say at MMU last week in a guest lecture about social media,brands and crisis management was worth a listen.

Whether social media has changed our life,well it did for Paul who had an accident about seven years ago which left him in a wheelchair.

He found people from around the world who shared the situation that he was in and it was his first real experience of the social side of the internet. “It has so hugely changed what we do as communicators” But for brands it was an eye opener in more ways than one-they suddenly found that people were coming back to them and it was easy for rivals to set up.

The power of social media comes with a trade off and businesses have to develop a thicker skin,predict the unpredictable and be prepared to anticipate issues that they may never have thought.

Before the days of twitter,a crisis management plan gave you a certain time to respond but social media has flipped those timescales on their head. News distribution changed when the 24 hour news channels hit the airways,but the importance of news is no longer necessarily been determined by the media.

Twitter has now become part of the story now with reaction being part of the story itself.It has helped to topple regimes,that is it power so organisations need to be aware 2012 is the year he says that social media will go mainstream for businesses.

Many are still ignoring it and failing to engage.The next generation of customers for these businesses are the Face book generation and will expect to be engaged in this way. Previously crisis management was a relationship with your customers engaged via the traditional media.

Social media has thrown a massive spanner in the works says Paul and the old rules of being honest,responding quickly and carefully although still applying,no longer rule the roost.

Paul told the story of the Cadbury Salmonella outbreak in 2007,before the days of corporate social media and tried to imagine what that story would have done in the age of social media.

Cadbury were not on social media then,but this week they became one of the first companies to launch a brand on Google +,how times have changed. We are still in the early days og Google + but Paul believes that brands will embrace it because it strips out any anonymity along with this week’s announcement that Google is to take more notice of + when it comes to search. But back to the strategy.It was always based on you know your critics.

Our natural instinct as a species is to seek out the alternative view and argue.The internet makes it easier to do this because we feel we can air our views without consequence.(Just read the comments on You Tube videos).

Many brands struggle with that unparalleled feedback and the skill for the next generation is how to cut through that noise. Engagement opens up a “Pandora’s box” says Smith.

GAP decided that it would rebrand its logo,going through all the cost of redesign before throwing it open to the world and ended with thousands of angry responses and decided to abandon the redesign.Rather a “kneejerk reaction according to Smith Starbucks has had four changes of logo.the first three were in the age before Social media,the fourth produced the same reaction as for GAP but decided to crack on.

A lesson to learn perhaps?

It stems from having a wider crisis management plan when it comes to social media which involves thinking of a response to every single negative question that can come out in the age of social media.

His top tips for brands in this situation is to try to respond to the questions as soon as possible because that is what people are expected and secondly where you can try to take the conversation people off line.

In conclusion says Paul,driven my the mobile revolution,social media will continue to dominate the way we communicate.

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