Over the last few days Aussie clothing retailer Target has been the latest in a long line of brands to suffer the backlash from a foray into social media.
Marketers from the company pushed Target’s latest product line – girl’s clothing – via its facebook pages with the presumable aim of reaching an audience of highly-engaged mothers.
But it backfired. The mums saw the clothing as too adult-like for their seven year olds. Criticism picked up pace until the issue made headline news in the morning papers.
What Target planned as a simple product advertisement on a free channel, has now turned into an exercise in crisis media management with the comms team picking up the pieces. (On a side note, I don’t believe in the long-term the Target brand will be damage badly – there’s been as much positive feedback on the lines as negative anyway.)
And, what’s happened to Target is a great example of just where social media management is going wrong in companies at the moment.
”Historically, it’s been all about their [the brand’s] own content – namely ‘What are we going to post on our page?’ Now it will be the other way around – what are users going to say on our page,” he said.
Yes, what’s gone wrong is that fact that on the whole, the strategy, execution and day-to-day management of social media sits with marketing teams.
And the battle goes like this: CEO/management team decides the company needs to be on facebook. CEO/management team thinks hey, this could get us more sales / hits to our website etc. So CEO/ management team surveys current departments and thinks well, that’s just what our marketing team currently does.
But, whilst this may seem like a common sense approach, the reality is vastly different. Because what marketing teams don’t do is have conversations with their audiences, deal with positive/negative feedback or manage reputation and sentiment. They very skilfully promote products and services to drive business, but not the company’s corporate image and profile to drive reputation – nor have to prepare responses when promotion is not well received. Marketeers buy coverage, they don’t earn it.
I read an interesting report on Trends and Issues in Corporate Affairs 2012 from recruiters Salt& Shein earlier this year which has stuck in my mind for a while now.
This extract from page 16 is part of a dedicated section on the battle over social media in companies in Australia right now:
‘THE EXPERIENCE OF ONE HEAD OF FUNCTION IN THE RESOURCES SECTOR SUMMED UP THE CONUNDRUM FACING SOME COMPANIES:
“We have an ongoing debate about who owns social media, and you do get knee-jerk turf wars developing. The corporate affairs department argues it should sit with them because it’s about managing the message, but the marketing department sees it quite differently. For them it’s about corporate brand. But in reality social media runs across the organisation and it is just as important to customer service and the help desk as it is to the guardians of corporate reputation.”’
I think the point is that to achieve success in social media, it needs to be everyone’s business. If social media currently sits solely with your marketing team you NEED to start asking questions. Start asking what will happen when it goes wrong. Are we getting the results we need. What value could other areas of the business add and can we get champions from across the business involved in the strategy. At the very least, a joint approach is needed to every strategy and campaign. Marketing and Comms working together for shared goals.