This month the Somerset House residents hosted another successful Honest Talks lunch time panel, with the focus this time being on social media. We were lucky enough to have our very own Stacey Stockwell as a guest speaker at the event. Stacey has looked after the social media for many of our clients and has helped them develop and grow their online presence, as well as being a vital guide in helping her clients navigate potentially tricky PR situations.
As discussed at the session, the world of social media encourages and promotes free speech, and generates larger conversations between communities, companies, and individuals. Sometimes however, there’s the risk that these conversations grow too huge to handle and comments are picked up out of context. So how, as a business, should this be managed?
The accessibility of social media creates great opportunities for companies to gain momentum in their fields as well as loyal followers for their brands but, the increase of exposure however can leave a brand or individual vulnerable to being involved in a public dispute.
When an opinion is expressed on social media it cannot easily be erased. The likes of Instagram and Twitter make it incredibly easy for a person to express their feelings without censorship. An inappropriate comment in the heat of a face to face argument can disappear into the air as soon as the words are spoken, apologies can be made, and the matter can often be resolved quickly. Words expressed on social media however can be retweeted and shared between different platforms and continue to insult, offend, or simply keep an ugly or awkward conversation alive for far longer than usual.
However, these conversations will be had and opinions will be expressed online whether or not a brand is present on that particular platform, so there’s a strong argument for being able to intervene and for companies to take any gripes off-line and nip them in the bud quickly.
One of the main questions posed at the session was should there be a line drawn between business and personal accounts? On the surface the answer is yes, it makes complete sense to keep a professional and private life separate – in reality it is not that easy.
There are many cases where professionals have lost their jobs because of an inappropriate comment they made on social media eight years ago on their personal account. Should they be held accountable for this? Is it fair? In many circumstances it may not be fair or logical but companies would rather err on the side of caution and disassociate themselves with the individual than brave the backlash. This however flies in the face of the growing need for transparency and authenticity online, especially when such advances in technology makes keeping any modicum of privacy almost impossible.
Like anything in life, for every pro there is always a con and social media is not without its pitfalls, but with the right guidance there is no reason why a company should fall foul to the ugly side of social media; and even if a company does find itself in a sticky situation it is Siren’s job as a PR and Communications agency to navigate that company or individual safely through the storm and often with a positive spin.
In short when managed correctly social media is an invaluable tool for reaching consumers directly.