A few months ago, I wrote about the Pitfalls of Social Media for chambers of commerce and associations. Since then I've had some great conversations with staff from chambers and association about how to avoid these pitfalls and use social media to strengthen their brands and engage their members.
Recently, I found this post by B.L. Ochman about Three Top Ways to Damage Your Brand With Social Media. She makes some good points about ways you could negatively impact your organization with the MIS-USE of social media.
Start a Twitter account, then don't use it - Fortunately, I haven't see very many chambers of commerce with Twitter accounts such as the @TimeWarnerCares example in the post.
However, I have seen plenty of chamber Twitter accounts with hundreds of followers, yet they are only following a handful of people. A big part of using Twitter is listening and engaging in conversation with your followers. What does it say about your organization if you're not following your members or other businesses in your community? It seems like you're not interested in listening to them! That doesn't do much for your brand, does it?
No, you don't have to follow everyone that follows you, but you should probably follow anyone who is located in your community or has an obvious link to your organization. When someone follows you, look at their profile location, URL and bio to see to determine if you should follow them back. (In most cases, you should).
Not tracking your brand using monitoring tools - With all the free tools available, there is really no excuse for not doing at least some monitoring. See "Is your chamber 'listening' to the internet" for more info. Set up searches for your organization's name, your city name or other terms specific to your organization so you can know when people are talking about you. (And decide if/when to respond). Some tools to try include:
- Twitter Search - View results in your browser or set up an RSS feed of your search
- Google Alerts - View results, set up email alerts or get an RSS feed
- Google Blogsearch - View results, set up email alerts or get an RSS feed
- Twilert - does a Twitter search, but sends you email
- Monitter - a browser based Twitter search tool that lets you search by keyword and geographic location.
If you don't monitor the web for your brand mentions, you will probably be left out of the conversations taking place in your community. You can't do much for your reputation and brand if you don't know about these discussions.
Start using social media, but don't tell the rest of the organization - Good news, here. I don't know any chambers of commerce or business associations who have done this. Occasionally, individuals will start using social media and because they work for a chamber of commerce or assocation, the followers will assume they are speaking on behalf of the organization. It's probably worthwhile to have a conversation with all staff about the appropriate use of social media and refinforce that (whether they like it or not) they are respresenting your organization. Remember, too, to keep your board (and members) advised of what you're doing with social media. We've all had those phone calls from board members who are upset because they had to find out about something from someone else.
I have a couple of addtional ways beyond those listed in the post:
One way communications on Twitter - I've seen a few chambers of commerce that only post updates on Twitter with links to their own events, blog posts or website. There are no replies to others, no retweets and no sharing of links or resources on other sites. This practice is similar to not listening. Even when someone replies to the organization, there are no subsequent replies.
If someone answers your question or retweets your info, reply to them, thank them and engage them! Some replies are certainly better sent as direct messages (and not viewable on your stream), but having some RTs and @replies in your Twitter stream shows you're engaging your audience, not just pushing out info.
Repetitive Tweeting - Some organizations seem to post the same 5-10 things every day on Twitter. "Check out our website" or "Did you know XYZ" are great every once in a while, but when done systematically, day after day, with exactly the same text, they become the equivilent of spam.
Sure, you could argue that not all followers will see the message each time and you want to make sure you get the word out. I certainly understand that. But, you can vary your text and messaging so that you're not monotonous. Your followers will quickly tire of seeing the same message over and over again and may choose to stop following you.
What do you think? Are there other ways you could damage your organization by using (or mis-using) social media?