I see it happen time and time again, a good brand compromised by short sighted social media postings by an employee, key personnel or owners.
Everyone sees your posts, the best and worst of you, everyone. I almost feel like I should repeat that statement in bold, caps and underlined!
So far this year over 10 students who had been approved for admission to Harvard have had those approvals revoked because of their social media postings and this has happened countless times at universities across America. Every day applicants for jobs get passed over because of what they post. Customers leave one business and go to their competitors because of what has been posted in social media.
Not many people write into their business plan that they only want to serve a particular political party, social group, sports team, school or other clique. They don’t because that would be insanely short sighted and leave a lot of money on the table. All businesses begin with the right intention in mind, to serve all customers that have a need for their product or service. Somewhere it all goes sideways all too often.
An old mentor of mine a couple decades ago told me he had two rules for any client interactions I had: No politics and no religion, they are among the most polarizing of topics.
At the time we did not have Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snap Chat or the myriad of other options. In my mentors world you were either on the phone with clients or face to face and people generally had a good sense for how far to take any professional conversation.
The challenge is that for some reason when we get in front of a social media account we forget that there are people on the other end, that we still have to be on some level of reasonable behavior and that our message goes farther, faster, than it ever did in the past.
Our connections self-select whether or not to align themselves or do business with us based on the messages we post and the tone we use. In some cases it may not even be you, rather the messages your friends post, that you comment on or allow others to post on your timeline.
Let’s take the universe of your optimum potential customers, maybe that is 100,000 consumers surrounding your business. A lot of opportunity there but you probably have some competition so lets say you can capture 30% of that market in a perfect world. Now, remove the roughly half that may have different political views, you are down to 15%. Remove those that might be offended my someone posting bad language or offending jokes, use one third for that, you are down to 10%.
In a few quick swipes you have lost access to 60% of the customers you could wrestle away from your competitors! All for the rewards you get from posting on social media?
And this could happen on your business page due to postings from employees or customers. Always monitor those pages and never hesitate to delete a post or comment.
I am not saying to stay off of any social media platform, only that you have to be very cognizant of what you and your friends post where potential customers may see it and make buying decisions based on it.
I had an entirely different topic in mind for this column when, during one of those breaking news stories about a senseless violent act, I see snarky political posts from the two Founders of a well-known growing franchise brand. Then their friends piled on, some in much more offensive ways, which amplified their message across countless thousands of people and possibly made it publicly available outside of the private and friend only settings that they use.
Now, here is the thing… I love these Founders, they are awesome, their franchise is great, they are and will be leaders in our industry. They are good church going people that I have never had anything but an uplifting conversation with. But on Facebook we all see those hidden alter egos where statements are made that I have never heard from them in person.
But if I was shopping for a franchise, I might think twice.
I and they have spoken about this in the past, I suggested that they be very cautious about these postings, that they use privacy settings (which are only private until someone else comments or likes the same post, even most group setting are public) and I suggested that if nothing else they use a name different from theirs. Some of those precautions were taken, but still these postings are going across the country, can be attributed to them without having to hire a private investigator and are easily searchable.
How do I manage my brand?
On my Facebook page all postings that I am tagged in by others have to get approved by me, and I screen very carefully. My posts that are available to friends, not public (but that still has no real privacy), are vacation pictures, cars pictures, BBQ recipes, dog rescue (please consider adopting a dog) and gym posts. And yes, for my old mentor, generally no politics or religion.
My comments on my posts or any others are carefully thought out and if the subject of someone else’s post might be offensive I will not comment or like.
If I feel that a comment I make or their post might be taken wrong I tend to send a private message.
Remember, to all of these social media outlets you are not the customer, you are the product. The more they can spread your posts the more valuable you are to them, that is why there is no privacy.
Vast sums of YOUR future wealth can evaporate with each negative or offensive post. Be the positive message in people’s timelines, not the negative one.
Choose your posts wisely, you will rarely know when your future wealth has departed.
George Knauf is a highly sought after, trusted advisor to many companies; Public, Independent and Franchised, of all sizes and in many markets. His 20 plus years of experience in both start-up and mature business operations makes him uniquely qualified to advise individuals that have dreamed of going into business for themselves in order to gain more control, independence, time flexibility and to be able to earn in proportion to their real contribution. Contact the Franchising USA Expert George’s Hotline 703-424-2980.