Ignoring social media because you think you can't prove results? Here's what you risk.
Social media ROI has always been a touchy subject. You'll find divided camps: those who emphasize that social media should not be expected to perform like a direct response tactic and those who can provide all kinds of empirical formulas for calculating social media ROI. But one move will have more measurable impact on your bottom line than the number of Likes, mentions or +1s will ever have: ignoring.
Popularized by former Kodak CMO Jeffrey Hayzlett, the so-called 'risk of ignoring' references the dangers for companies that choose to turn a blind eye to social media while everyone else in their world embraces it. Here are those risks.
Conversations Go On Without You
If you're MIA, you better hope people are saying positive things about your company because you won't be there to defend yourself. If people want to talk to you and can't find you on social media, they'll talk about that too, and then their friends and connections will see you're absent. These are all the wrong kind of amplification effects.
You Miss the 24/7 World
Even brands that have social media accounts have learned the hard way that they really can't ever "go dark" in our 24/7 world. I recently attended a conference where Travelocity revealed a social media "war story" where a mommy blogger started complaining over a weekend on her blog about her Travelocity website experience, and because Travelocity wasn't monitoring the social media sphere over the weekend, her complaints only got worse.
You Can Become a Target for Hackers
If no one at your company is paying attention to social media, could you wind up like ExxonMobile who ignored Twitter in its naissance and wound up having a poser create a faux account in the brand's name?
Or, if no one is minding the social media ship, at what point will you notice that your account has been hacked? When the Associated Press's Twitter account was hacked just this week, it caused temporary havoc in the stock markets. At least they were paying attention.
Competitors Get a Leg Up
Ignoring social media gives your competitors an advantage. You seem archaic or clueless; they can portray themselves as hip and current. Your competitors can also monitor your brand mentions on social media and respond to complainers with offers or other means to woo you away. For example, in my book I cite an example provided by Gini Dietrich: After Avis failed to come through for her despite her being a long-time Preferred Service customer, Dietrich tweeted, "@AvisWeTryHarder No, you don't try harder...at least not in this case." Within two minutes, Hertz tweeted Dietrich, apologized for the hard time she was having with Avis and offered her a car at her location along with a 20 percent off coupon. Now that's smart use of social media!
You're Blind to Existing and Potential Employees
If you choose to ignore social media, you probably also lack a social media policy. If you do not set boundaries for how employees can use (or not) social media on the company's behalf or during work time, you have less recourse if an employee puts your brand in harm's way. At least with the notorious Domino's 2009 "gross-out" video, the employees were rightfully terminated, but apparently the franchisee still suffered: His location could not recover from the scandal and ultimately went out of business.
On the flip side, if you ignore social media you miss the opportunity to see, connect with and ultimately hire that perfect new employee. You know, the one who didn't know you had a job opening, who wasn't necessarily looking to make a switch and you didn't have to pay a recruiter to find.
Falling Rankings in Search Engines
Social sharing now also impacts your search engine rankings. Simply put, if you're absent from social media, don't expect the rest of the world to help your falling search rankings.
Outsourcing Still Needs Your Attention
If you've outsourced your social media management, don't think you have that base covered and you can now move on to more important things. You still need to provide your outsourced agent with guidance and monitor their activities. You can find plenty of stories of social media blunders related to outsourced accounts, so pay attention.
Silence and Abandonment Embody Your Brand
When a crisis does occur, in today's social media age, you cannot be silent! When a recent computer glitch stranded hundreds of passengers, American Airlines turned out in force on its social media accounts to help keep people informed and issue apologies. Passengers were still frustrated, but many credit the airline for its swift, savvy handling of the problem.
Abandonment is another form of ignoring. Company blogs with the last post dated over a year ago or a Twitter account with no activity in weeks or months instantly tells your prospects and customers that you either don't care about the impression you make or about what others have to say to or about you. Is that how you want to be perceived?
Client advocate, digital strategist, and thought leader HOLLIS THOMASES, founder of Web Ad.vantage, helps companies navigate the complexity of the ever-changing digital marketing landscape and develop digital strategies. @hollisthomases