6 Basic Rules for Social Media Campaigns

Beyond my purely geeky jobs, I've worked in or collaborated closely with comms and marketing for a dozen years. When something happens in the news related to a company's handling of design, marketing, comms or PR, I usually pay attention.

So I was rapt recently when the Gap's marketing machine momentarily imploded with the under-the-radar-yet-incredibly-noticed launch of their new logo. I have to admit that I was completely amazed at the entire debacle that ensued.

What most struck me was that Gap – much like Nestle and, most recently, Marie Claire magazine – started doing something in one sphere and their actions became an issue in social media.
  • Gap changed their logo on their website. Quietly. But people noticed. And boy did they voice their opinions in blogs and on Twitter.
  • Nestle had a PETA video removed from YouTube and the conversation took off in Facebook and blogs.
  • Marie Claire Magazine posted some really controversial articles in their print magazine and blogs and the conversation started on blogs and Facebook.
Now, I do believe that Nestle was blind-sided: they had no idea that the Interwebs would rally so quickly, and with such volume and breadth. But they were one of the first really big names to get into so much trouble online. A lack of planning on their part for sure, but they probably had no idea.

Anyone coming after Nestle has Really. No. Excuse.

So I've decided that if you really need them spelled out, here are Spydergrrl's 6 basic rules for social media campaigns: (specifically for B:C interactions)
  1. The conversation is happening with or without you. Better that it happen with you.
  2. Don't get distracted by shiny things. Treat social media like other comms: traditional media and social media are just communications platforms, vehicles for communicating your message. The how shouldn`t blind you to this fact.
  3. Plan, plan, plan. Plan your comms strategy, plan your editorial calendar, plan and write media lines, plan for crisis comms.
  4. Everything you do is recorded. Everything. It's in Google, it's in the Wayback Machine, it's on blogs, it's on countless feed aggregators. Once you send something out over social media, retraction is very difficult. Possible, but difficult.
  5. If you do mess up, swallow your pride, apologize, and move on. An honest mea culpa can go a long way. Social media participants are forgiving but they are often the first people to poke holes in canned or insincere messages.
  6. You still own your brand. Don't hand over control of your brand and your message to the online community. Engage. Listen. Participate. But always remember it's still your brand.
And a bonus item:
  • If you plan to reach out and promote your brand directly with bloggers, keep this in mind: Bloggers are a double-edged sword. It can be hard distinguish between the ones blogging out of intrinsic love for a brand/product vs those who do because they it gets them free stuff. But don't underestimate their presence, reach and power. They're like a billion Oprahs. Screw them and the world will know. Treat them with respect, treat them like other media, and they will treat you like a good corporate citizen.
Everyone can see what you do online. Make sure you spend the time to do it right.

Got a rule of your own to add to the list? Leave a comment!

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