The tragic unfolding of violence and protests at U.S. embassies around the world in response to the hateful anti-Islamic film created by an individual in the U.S. and posted on You Tube in an edited form, begs the question of why we can’t do a better job of managing inflammatory and potentially dangerous content before it reaches such heights. Freedom of speech is an incredibly important right to protect, but the new availability of social media channels means that hateful messaging can receive far wider exposure more quickly than what was possible in the past.
The responsibility for managing the availability of such content surely lies with its creator, but those in charge of the platforms themselves such a You Tube must also consider the rising specter of such circumstances. Here is a 3-step suggestion for how to handle this situation:
1. EARLY WARNING SOCIAL LISTENING SYSTEM: Provide an early monitoring system, much like an earthquake monitoring system, where content that receives a sudden and negative response is flagged and categorized according to the subject matter. Parties then directly responsible for the content including its creator, platform owner and relevant parties (political, institutional, corporate or non-profit) are informed of its existence and rising resonance.
2. CRISIS PROTOCOL: Beyond the obvious step of taking down the content and tracking it’s various iterations around the web, both regulatory and clandestine bodies such as Anonymous can be engaged to minimize the spread of the hateful content.
3. REDRESS STRATEGY: A crisis protocol should be established, as exists with almost every large brand, that details, step-by-step , how to damage control the situation. This includes PR efforts that range from apologies through to a variety of content across all media channels that contains, contextualizes and redresses the issues.
Obviously this approach begs several questions including:
1. At what point do the rights to freedom of speech and privacy supersede the explicit or implicit intent of a piece of content.
2. How do you define hateful and where do you draw the line?
3. Whose responsibility is it to monitor, moderate and manage such situations?
These questions still elude answers but the volatility of international relations has thrown this issue into stark relief. Many factors beyond this film have played into the embassy attacks ranging from food prices and terrorism to frustrations surrounding the Arab Spring revolutions, but this situation demonstrates how inflammatory content must be carefully managed now that media is in the hands of citizens and customers potentially putting innocent lives at stake.
Do you think it is appropriate to intercept hateful content on open social media channels? If so whose responsibility is it to manage it?
UNICEF demonstrated an inspired moment of creativity when they tapped into the undeniable materialism and self-interest of platforms such as Pinterest and The Fancy, and turned them on their head by dramatizing the humble desire of a 13-year old girl in Sierra Leone.
In so doing UNICEF threw into stark relief the relative luxury of so many first world lives giving pause to the tireless obsession with “more.” It’s this simplicity, creativity and directness that is required to cut through the clutter both in the for-profit and non-profit world.
As we each strive to make our brands more purposeful and our non-profits better marketers, let’s mine each new social technology for fresh opportunities to point out fundamentally human and timeless truths that transcend the latest platform. Only then can they be enlisted to serve those in need as well as our latest wants. To achieve this consider three keys steps:
1. Identify the core values that underpin the platform.
2. Ideate around how to leverage platform’s values to highlight your brand values.
3. Invite your community to share with others to spread awareness of the contrast.
To support Ami and UNICEF, click here.
Much has been made of arguably elusive, fickle and distrustful social consumers equally adept at social media, exposing your products or services, and moving on to the latest social technology. Yet approached appropriately, the media-savvy consumer is equally disposed to serve as your brand champion using their own social media channels. Here’s a breakdown of how to inspire such a relationship based on your engagement goals and tactics.
CONSUMER ENGAGEMENT GOALS: In terms of deeply connecting with your customers and building a community that will drive the success and profit of your brand, here are the engagement goals.
1. Develop/maintain deep customer relationships around their core issues and values.
2. Determine and commit to what investment/budget/staff are required to find/engage/retain customers.
3. Explore how engagement strategies differ across social media channels and strategize accordingly.
4. Explore how these engagement strategies change depending on how customers respond and manage them consistently.
5. Provide ever more personalized services, products and experiences to customers.
6. Structure your team to respond to customers in real time, especially the critics.
7. Regularly measure brand reputation, customer satisfaction and ROI to ensure the sustainability of your business and customer community.
8. Maintain the sales/life balance in your content throughout so that your brand has personality as well as products and services to sell.
CONSUMER ENGAGEMENT TACTICS: In terms of the content you provide and the tactics you use to generate engagement, here are several suggestions:
1. Always answer questions from customers and educate new ones about your brand.
2. Celebrate what other brands do, even your competitors, as it fortifies your brand confidence and leadership position.
3. Ask your community for opinions, feedback, and criticism on a regular basis.
4. Start conversations that other brands wouldn’t consider to spark engagement.
5. Host competitions, rewards, polls or incentive programs to reward your customers.
6. Do something surprising for a customer occasionally just for the fun of it.
7. Celebrate your brand advocates across the community providing them with social capital.
8. Periodically restate what your brand stands for to reconnect with the values you share with your community.
With the right goals in mind, astute tactics in place, and a constant eye on measurement to motivate management, the social customer is far less elusive, threatening or fickle than you imagine. Once you identify the values your share with your customers and the common purpose you are working towards, your brand will become an indispensible part of their identity and lives.
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