I got to see what’s up before it gets me down is a line in a song by Common in his Finding Forever album.
When you look at most of the online crises that got the better of the companies involved, the common denominator is that they were caught unawares. Getting caught with your pants down is the worst thing that can happen to your business in this social media age and especially so if you have not put measures in place to mitigate the fallout. And by measures, I don’t mean that stuff you have been doing for the past decade. It’s a new world! Mitigating issues arising in new media channels is a different kettle of fish.
It is important that you as the management understand and appreciate IT. The businesses that will really scale in this age on new media are those which have leaders who have a keen eye on IT and who are open to the emerging technologies. Social Media is changing the way most businesses approach issues from marketing, customer care, PR, Research and Development, advertisement, among many other business functions. And to be able to integrate social media within these critical business functions, it must be with the blessing of the management (leadership). But this will never happen if the management fails to understand and appreciate the potential of new media. And that will be the reason most of these Kenyan businesses will be caught unawares when sh*t hits the fan online.
When you have a management team that has sanctioned your participation in social media, the first thing to do is always monitoring mentions of your company name online. This is never a one-off thing but rather a continuous process whose intention is to get you on top of every mention of your company – positive, negative, or neutral. The reason you do this is to get a feel of the real sentiments about your companies and more important still, to get on top of potentially explosive negative comments about your company or products. But that again calls for a different set of skills altogether. Many companies have destroyed their brand images even further by failing to respond appropriately to negative mentions. Inappropriate responses usually exacerbate an already bad situation and hence the need to have in place a proper response mechanism – something a social media strategy/policy would have covered.
People can be brutal and a thick skin is always an asset. Mind you, I have said a thick skin, not head. Whatever is said about you, don’t get into a pissing contest but rather learn to manage the reactions while keeping your cool. The best response is always to be helpful. Nothing shuts up a ranting mouth better than immediate helpful feedback/solution. The silly thing to do and which most people will be tempted to do is delete the negative comments. The better, more mature, and long-lasting thing to do is tackle the problems head on. Be helpful when the issues emerges and go even further to tackle it in a blog post if there is further explanations needed. Square it out by laying it bare and reach a mutually beneficial outcome.
If you are one of those businesses that think we are not yet there or use some other internet penetration levels excuse for not taking a keener look at your online presence, a look at the most visited websites in Kenya should be sobering enough. We are already there. Social Media websites is where people are spending a majority of their time online. It is where your presence is needed. If you ignore it, you will find yourself down with no clue at all about what hit you. You won’t see it coming. So take Common’s advice; “See what’s up before it gets you down”, it’s common sense.