By Dr. Maurice A. Ramirez
Social networks like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have put the power of the media in the hands of average citizens. Entrepreneurs, information marketers and college students have learned they can be the media for audiences large and small. They’ve also discovered that the nightly news and traditional print media will share their stories. This shift in the “power of the press” carries with it these three rules of social-media marketing for businesses:
- Silence is not golden … It's guilty.
- The first story told is the story most retold—and the story most believed.
- Buzz is the bomb. It can propel you to the top or blow up in your face.
Silence Is Not Golden … It's Guilty
In high school science, we learn that nature abhors a vacuum. Nowhere is this truer than on the Internet. If a business fails to comment on an event, good or bad, the social media will rush to fill the void around the corporate brand. It's very simple: The construction of search engines and social media is such that there will never be silence associated with any brand.
Whether the brand is iPhone, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Disney, Universal Studios, or an unknown convenience store on the corner of Smalltown, USA, if something happens, somebody must comment. That’s the nature of the Internet and social media in the 21st century.
With the advent of Internet-enabled cell phones, YouTube-enabled smart phones, text messaging and location-enabled Twitter, everybody is not just a news reporter, they’re a video historian. Watch the evening news in any market, anywhere in the world, and you’ll see a YouTube video broadcast about a news event that happened that day. Nothing is more powerful than eyewitness testimony, both in a court of law and on the six o'clock news.
It’s important to remember it’s not just the occasional user of the social media who’s making these reports. It’s the regular blogger, Twitter broadcaster and YouTube poster. They have followers, and their followers have followers. The average reach of these individuals is more than 20,000, and their audience is reliable. This means companies cannot just broadcast a message in the social media when something happens. They must have a presence 24/7. The social-media presence of a business must be part of an ongoing plan and deliberate social-media optimization process that ensures the business has an audience, and the audience is larger than that of any customer who may come through its door.
The First Story Told
Social media is a cultural phenomenon based on a conglomerate of social norms and behaviors that span age groups and demographics. As a result, the rules are difficult for many entrepreneurs and executives to negotiate.
But one of the rules that’s constant across all social-media platforms is the first story told is the first story believed. Furthermore, in social media, the first story about a major event―positive or negative―will be retold, retransmitted and shared among users. It will be converted to e-mail and re-sent. It’s also the most likely story to make the transition to traditional media. In other words, it will become news.
Because of this, it’s not enough to respond when a message appears on one of the popular social-media platforms. When an event occurs, a business must have a prepared statement ready to transmit immediately through an established social-media optimization program to ensure the corporate message is the first story told. Ideally, this message will even precede those messages, blogs, tweets and YouTube postings that may be coming from customers actually involved as participants in the event.
In social media, the saying "The best defense is a strong offense” is completely true. The only way to counter a negative message is to send a positive one, even before the first negative message can be transmitted.
Buzz Is the Bomb
In the social media, what’s said absolutely matters. The sentiment surrounding the brand determines the degree of influence a message has and the action taken by those who receive it. The goal of all marketing is to influence potential customers to make a purchase. In the social media, that means they must be influenced to reach for their wallet and make the purchase.
Positive buzz means there’s positive message activity around your brand. There’s positive buzz when people are sending your message to their friends, and their friends are sending it to their friends, influencing someone to make that positive buying decision.
If the sentiment surrounding your message is negative, buzz can blow up in your face. Research shows a negative message will be sent on four times more frequently than a positive one, thus doing four times the damage, influencing four times as many people not to buy.
The easiest way to ensure something good is said is to influence those who influence others to say something good about you. Again, this is done by having a constant positive presence in the social media, even before anything noteworthy happens at your place of business.
There are three rules of social-media marketing for businesses large and small. Turn on the news any night and you will see big businesses that have failed to follow these three simple rules, whether it’s a cruise ship with a passenger falling overboard and 124,000 tweets telling the story of how they left him behind, or a major amusement park with the most anticipated theme ride in a decade breaking down, trapping riders for 45 minutes and generating 50 YouTube uploads. To succeed in the social media remember: Silence is not golden; businesses must be in the social media early, regularly and constantly; and the first story told is the first story retold.
To be the one telling your story, influencing others to retell your story, businesses must take ownership of that message, or someone else will fill the void and tell your story for you from their perspective. Buzz is the bomb, but that buzz must be positive so the bomb doesn’t blow up in your face.
Dr. Maurice A. Ramirez is founder of the consulting firm High Alert LLC. He’s a renowned speaker on the importance of social networking and has presented to national organizations. As a consultant, Dr. Ramirez assists companies to align business continuity plans with personnel and customer behavior during adversity. He’s the founding chairperson of the American Board of Disaster Medicine and a Senior Physician-Federal Medical Officer. For more information, visit www.high-alert.com .