Anita Brightley-Hodges, Managing Director of Family Business Place knows that social media tools can be an invaluable part of any family business’s marketing strategy. But companies also need to be aware that every tweet, status update and photo share has a consequence, whether it’s good or bad.
There’s no disputing that the recent phenomenon of social media, namely Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest has transformed the way the world works.
Companies can no longer read from the traditional marketing text book, they need to study their client’s buying behavior online and adapt their strategy appropriately. Can they build a loyalty to their brand through Facebook? Manage their reputation on Twitter? Network with prospects on LinkedIn?
Marketeers will tell you, there’s no handbook for social media. It takes strategy, management and monitoring in order to adapt on an almost daily basis. Get caught snoozing and a dozen of your competitors will have already overtaken you and be speaking to your customers.
However, lets not forget that online social media platforms are exactly that: social. Whilst companies spend millions agonising over how to reach their audience online, the average Joe is oblivious and is more concerned with seeing their friends’ pictures from Saturday night, watching videos of a latest dance craze and stalking their favourite celebs.
Whilst for most of us this is harmless daily fun, for many involved in a family business, the impact of what they say and share online can have significant consequences. There is often a huge blur between the work and private life of someone at the helm of a family business. Sure, their PR team have probably told them that it’s great to get their name out there, raise their profile a little and let customers engage with them directly. But unless what they are saying is being monitored, this could cause all sorts of problems.
I recently started following someone on Twitter who runs a large family business manufacturing food. At first I was intrigued to see some behind the scenes photos of the factory, hear what he had to say about new regulations and gauge his opinion on trends in the market. But after a few weeks, I was ready to unfollow him. Many of his tweets were full of profanities, and shameless plugs, he was constantly attacking other brands, never replied to my questions and I had absolutely no interest in his weekly knees up with the boys.
A real shame, when his family business brand is one of family values, integrity and customer service.
But in a completely opposite example, I’m also connected with a tiny family company local to me who produce organic products for the home. In this instance, the business owner IS the brand.
Her updates are funny, useful, relevant and totally in line with the values she portrays for her business. I feel like I’ve really got to know her, her passion for the company and the organic market at large. When I asked her a question, she replied immediately and invited me down to her shop. So I popped in and bought my mother a beautiful hamper of products. When I got home, one of the bottles was damaged so I sent her a message on Twitter to ask if I could come in and buy another one. Instead, she had two more delivered to my home as an apology.
Here are two distinct examples of how social media platforms can be used. On one hand, it can do more damage than good. The food manufacturer clearly doesn’t have a PR team to manage what he is saying online. It also makes me think that he’s not a particularly nice man to work for and I have deliberately steered clear of his products in the supermarket. I wonder if he realises the consequences of what he’s saying in his 140 twitter characters?
On the other hand, social media can be an invaluable tool in engaging with customers, managing complaints and ultimately, making a sale. The organic lady is a great example of how to make social media an integral part of your business. If you make a plan, discuss with your team what message and values you want to portray, and ensure they whole business believe in it, you’re on to a winner.