SOCIAL MEDIA BLOGS, NEWS & EVENTS

Four things every CEO needs to know before jumping on that political bandwagon

18 September 2014 | 06:25 am

Should attempts to ‘headline’ on Twitter be part of a planned, long-term strategy decided in the boardroom, or left to the marketing teams to react to updates and be spontaneous in their approach? We look at the potential issues of tweeting outside the box, before coming to a judgment about how you can minimise risk and maximise positive social engagement.

Newspaper editors use headlines to grab a reader’s attention. In the case of the tabloids it’s controversial, catchy or shocking front pages that sell papers. When it comes to tweeting on a business account, to some extent a similar approach can be adopted. The three main steps of grabbing attention, pulling the reader in and engaging on their level still apply with tweets. With a 140-character word limit and fierce marketing competition it quickly becomes obvious that there is no gain to be made with a bland or unoriginal approach to promoting the brand. ‘Sitting on the fence’ will not spark engagement and without engagement the reach of social media is limited.

However, reputation management still has to remain of paramount concern for any boardroom and this is where CEOs should bear four things in mind.

 

1) Be cautious when ‘trend hijacking’

Attempted humour with current affairs
American clothing designer Kenneth Cole made two mistakes in as many years, when using current events to promote his brand. The first was in 2011, during the Cairo protests “millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumour is they heard our new spring collection is now available”. The second was a post about Syria, and involved the debate about potential intervention in 2013, “”Boots on the ground” or not, let’s not forget about sandals, pumps and loafers”. In his defence Cole claimed “I’ve always used my platform to provoke dialogue about important issues, including HIV/AIDS, war and homelessness”.

Scattergun approach
Abuse of hashtags can result in serious consequences like having your account deleted. Furniture store Habitat had to apologise in 2009 for using trending hashtags within their promotional tweets to make their advertising appear in the list of ‘trending topics’. Following the launch of a new Apple product the company used #iPhone and #Apple to grab attention, despite there being no connection with their furniture products. Social media marketing is about social engagement and creating a dialogue with followers, not badgering them with product promotion.

Followers won’t believe everything you say
In 2011, Bing decided to run a campaign for victims of the Japan earthquake. It claimed that for every retweet it would donate $1 to the relief fund. Users saw this as an exploitative marketing campaign attempting to promote the brand. Bing later donated the full $100,000 as an apology.

 

2) Declaring an opinion could alienate your audience

Andy Murray surprised social media last night by tweeting his support for Scottish independence.

He had previously refused to comment on the debate, on the basis that he was unable to vote and due to previous criticism he had received when commenting on politics.

This declaration of support presents Michael Downey, CEO of the Lawn Tennis Association (British Tennis), with a problem. Whilst any CEO would be keen to separate individuals’ opinions from their brand or business, in this instance Andy Murray is closely aligned with both the LTA and the Davis Cup squad.

However, perhaps a greater challenge for Murray will be the potential loss of the Scottish fans who held an opposing political view.

A vote on debate.com showed US opinion was completely split as to whether Starbucks should be involved in political issues or remain neutral, after there were allegations that the coffee giant was supporting Israel in the conflict with Palestine.

 

3) Audiences are not consistent when it comes to opinion

The reputation of a business, in the event of a media crisis, is paramount. After only two weeks as Mozilla’s CEO, Brendan Eich stepped down when it came to light that he had donated $1,000 to Proposition 8 in 2008, a bill which sought to ban same-sex marriage. Here the problem was not that Eich took a political stance, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos has donated more than $2.5 million in support of gay marriage, but it was that his stance was unacceptable in liberal Silicon Valley.

 

4) Timing is everything

Spontaneous tweets can be hugely rewarding- see Oreo’s success at the Super Bowl last year.

Being quick off the mark allows you to be relevant and give a reader confidence in the authenticity of your social media usage.

The creativity of your marketing team can be put to good use in these situations, as Sainsbury’s found to the delight of followers, with their ‘punversation’ about fish with a customer at the beginning of this year.

 

At the other end of the spectrum, a larger company can become bogged down with its communications if the process of approving social media posts is too bureaucratic. One such example is the advertising agency, Huge, where one corporate tweet spent 45 days in the pipeline from inception to actually being published.
A clear procedure for planned and strategic brand promotion can reinforce competitive positioning and marketing messages over time. Most importantly, risks can be assessed (and in some cases tested) before they go live. In addition to this, with a well-trained marketing team, a social media policy and tools like social media management software, there is no reason why the risk of spontaneous and creative messaging can’t be all but erased within clearly defined parameters for when they should be used.

CrowdControlHQ is the UK’s leading social media risk management and compliance platform built for enterprise.