There is a voice among hospitality professionals, saying “People talk about my company and my brands all the time on social media sites. What should I do? Do I need to hire somebody to watch it 24/7? How many employees do I have to hire for this thing?!”
I understand their frustrations, but if we think positively, it is nice to have people talking about the company/brand all the time on the internet because by default, Google Search will display the results pulled from multiple sources for the keyword(s) being used (e.g. the official websites, Wikipedia, news, pictures, videos, blogs, customer review sites, etc.). The more people talk about a company/brand, the better this company can “optimize” the search engine results.
It is out of the question whether a company must manage their social media presence. The questions is probably how or which person (position) should be hired to manage the conversations on social media sites.
Today’s Wall Street Journal shared three best-practice approaches by Southwest, Wholefood, and Best Buy in terms of managing a company’s Twitter account. Tweets are the “voice” of a company or a brand. Whoever manages the account must be well-trained and know what to say and when to say the “right” things. If tweets are ill-considered, a short message (≤ 140 characters) can cause a disaster for a company. A Chrysler agent, for example, tweeted: “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f--- drive.” Certainly, many followers were not happy about this tweet. If the accounts are in good hands, however, Twitter is a very useful tool.
Southwest Airlines hires about 10 employees to handle its twitter account (@SouthwestAir) that has 1.2 million followers. Initially, Southwest placed its Twitter account under the Advertising Division but moved it to the Public Relations (PR) Department later. The Twitter team works closely with the customer-relations team and responds to tweets between 5 am and 11 pm central time when its flights are in schedule. Because customers often tweet about the problems they experienced, understanding the operations and offering solutions are important.
Whole Foods (@WholeFoods) has 2.1 million followers. Surprisingly, the account is managed by one single employee, the Global Online Community (GOC) Manager. Whole Foods answers customers’ questions and tweet about the recipes. The company now also has separate accounts for local stores. The GOC Manager still checks the Twitter feeds many times a day and hosts a weekly Twitter chat for an hour every week.
With 40 thousand followers, Best Buy has a main account plus multiple accounts with specialized handles, such as @BestBuy, @BBYNews, @BestBuy_Deals, and @BBYCEO. Best Buy puts the accounts on the hands of about 3,000 Best Busy employees who have signed up for the tasks. Best Buy lays out the terms and conditions for these employees. They must use their Best Buy credentials to sign in to the company’s Twitter account. The company also has a social media policy in place. Employees are informed what information can be shared and what cannot.
So, what do we learn from these three examples? Here are my summaries:
- Companies must manage their social media accounts (please create one if you still don’t have any at this point).
- Whoever manages the account needs to provoke discussions online about the company/brand.
- The person in charge of social media must know operations. Hotels and restaurants customers often talk about their experience or complaints on social media sites. Without a good understanding of hotel or restaurant operations, this person would find it very difficult to provide good solutions.
- Companies need to check the updates of their social media presence many times a day. I believe it is important to give customers timely attention and responses.
- Be very careful of the languages used on social media. It is never a good idea of making fun of the followers (e.g. Chrysler and Kenneth Cole as mentioned in the video and the newspaper).
- Companies do NOT need to hire a big group of professionals to manage their social media presence. They can hire one or a team of social media managers. Or they can empower their current employees to do the task.
- No matter who they hire, companies must have a good social media policy in place and provide good training/guidelines to the professionals.
Have I missed anything? What else can a company do to better manage its social media presence?
Holmes, Elizabeth (2011, December 9). Tweeting without fear: How three companies have built their Twitter Strategies; Burned by Baldwin. The Wall Street Journal, B1 & B7. Also available online.