It’s difficult when you work in social media to not want to be first. There is a wives’ tale out there that the first one out on Twitter will go the most viral, but unfortunately, that idea is missing its partner. The first one out that provides valuable information will most likely see the most engagement. There’s a large amount of brands right now only focusing on the first half, which has left them in some pretty embarrassing predicaments. The most common consequences of the ‘need to be first’ syndrome includes making your brand look tone deaf by not providing enough context around what is going on, and/or inaccurately sensationalizing something that has not yet passed the ‘fake news’ test. This method will turn off followers, even to the point of taking the action of unfollowing you, more than it will ever attract the high engagement scores.
I recently gave a presentation and was asked afterwards by the audience how I felt about so many brands piping into current news and political conversations on social media. My response was simple –> If a policy goes against or for one of your brand’s policies, then you absolutely should speak out. If the people that work for your brand have personal opinions about something happening politically, you should only speak out if those personal opinions also reflect the values of your brand. This is an incredibly important time to draw a clear line between personal values and brand values. You absolutely have to know who you are as a brand before you enter the current news and/or political conversation.
As a social media professional, I use the following rules when I’m deciding whether a brand should strategically speak out, or not:
It Relates To The Brand
This is hard, because when we grow and foster strong social media communities, it is easy to want to use them for our own personal platforms. It’s critical to evaluate a piece of news from the brand’s perspective before ever sharing it on social media. Often times, I will even create a brand rubric to score news articles against, only sharing articles that score a certain amount of relevancy to the brand.
It Passes The Fake News Test
This is getting increasingly tougher. Even sites like CNN are finding themselves sharing not-so-reliable news due to bad sources and not doing enough research. Research, research, research before even thinking about responding to a piece of news. Yes, it takes time. Yes, this means a competitor could possibly beat you to the punch. However, it also means that you are not going to lose all credibility by accidentally endorsing fake news in front of all of your followers.
The Brand Can Supply A Unique Point Of View
Unless you are CNN, or some other major news network, you should never share news just to share the news. As a brand, you should only be sharing news when you are able to supply a unique point of view from your brand’s (not personal) perspective. For example, if you have an expert that works for you that can speak out on a certain issue, share the news article with that expert’s opinion. If you are a consumer brand, share why this news is important to the future of your products. Just sharing the news to share the news is a lazy social media strategy that many fans and followers can now see right through.
Too many companies and organizations are trying to be the news right now, rather than using the expertise and value they can add to existing conversations. People are following your brand because they are interested in what your brand stands for, not just interested in getting regurgitated news. If you use your platform to provide them with the exact same perspective they can get from major news, you will surely lose your core followers who initially fell in love with your brand’s values and products/services. Stop being lazy, and start being more strategic in how, why and when you are responding to news online.
– Marji J. Sherman