Brands have become almost human-like with personalities and back stories. A smoothie just isn’t a smoothie if it doesn’t have a story to tell and a slightly sarcastic sense of humour. We chat to brands now via their social media channels, expect them to deal with our issues in the public eye and to constantly share funny gifs, videos and photos. We feel as if we’re talking to the brand itself and not the execs and community managers who are all well-versed in the brand tone and voice.
When a tragedy happens what’s a brand to do? Should they have a voice on this too – even the smoothies of this world. I mean, should a tasty fruity drink really have a political opinion?! As a brand if you stick your neck out and have a voice on one issue then you run the risk of stating your political allegiance. Do they then comment on every single atrocity that happens in the world? Do the fluffy kittens, carefully crafted product shots and idyllic island snaps you’ll be used to seeing on your timelines get replaced with war, death and political opinion.
Brands all over the western world have responded to the atrocities in Paris. Does this surprise you? Would you have thought any less of them if they didn’t? For some brands it makes sense – they’re global, they have customers in the area impacted, they have a human voice. But again, the questions remains – does this open the floodgates for having to respond to every global issue? The smoothie company I had in mind decided not to acknowledge the Paris attack at all, but undoubtedly there would have been a conversation.
Here are a few examples of how brands have responded:
Whatever size business you are, if you have a presence in social media, here are a few steps you should follow.
1. Immediately check any content you’ve scheduled to go out on social media. Is it appropriate in light of the current circumstances?
2. Be present online, watch, listen and get an idea of the online mood. This can change in the blink of an eye. At first it’s often shock and horror, usually not a good time to wade in.
3. Wait, pause think. Post nothing at all until you’re sure it’s the right thing to do. Once you do you have a voice on the issue and you have to have the resource to respond to replies.
4. Do not under any circumstances jump on the trending hashtags. At worst brands have done this to promote products and services. At best we saw #Porteouverte being shared multiple times by brands and bloggers who meant well – but instead clogged up the Twitter searches. This hashtag was used as means of getting people in the midst of Friday’s atrocities to safety and not for ‘Rola Cola’ to show what a thoughtful brand they are.
5. Make sure all your channels are aligned. If you have one team/person managing your social media and another with a completely different tone/response in PR, CRM, Online then you’ll look confused.
So I guess this post is talking to both consumers and those who work in communications for a brand, no matter how big or small. How did you as a brand respond? (If you decided to respond) As a consumer, what do you expect brands to do? I’m interested as this is a new field, it’s evolving as new social channels emerge and brands become more human, available and active in the social media channels you hang out in.