When I arrived at work yesterday I received a serious shock. All the Twitter accounts run by our company, including our primary @affilorama account, had been suspended. Months of hard work building up a sustainable following disappeared. Not only could I no longer communicate with our followers, who have come to expect our daily updates of affiliate and online marketing news as well as the latest updates on Affilorama, but communication with potential business partners was lost. While this fortunately turned out to be a human error on Twitter's part, and our accounts were restored last night, the incident was a massive wake up call. A reminder that no matter how much work I put into maintaining our social media presence, at the end of the day, someone else controls it.
Whether it's our Twitter accounts, our YouTube channel or our Facebook groups, the fact remains that all of these accounts exist in someone else's virtual property. Like a landlord, these social media sites set the rules. What they say, goes. Now this isn't usually a problem, and most social media platform's standards aimed at protecting the community against spam and offensive material are generally very reasonable and effective. But what happens when they get it wrong? If you're inadvertently marked as spam or have your account suspended for the myriad of the reasons listed in their TOS - what do you do? You submit an email to their support system and hope against hope that they might actually reply.
Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of social media marketing. However our Twitter issue yesterday got me thinking - what if our accounts hadn't been restored? How would it have affected our brand? What could we have done to recover the lost contacts and relationships that we have built through Twitter? That line of thought led me to jot down a few practices that I will aim to implement from now on to protect us from any future social media 'glitches'. These are just ideas - I'd be really interested to hear your feedback in the comments below.
Always lead people back to your property:
This is the same principle that I learned from Mark on why he never posts affiliate links on articles he posts on third party sites, rather, he links back to his own site. Why? Because when you write an article on a third party site with an affiliate link, you might generate some sales from it, sure, but you're not creating an asset - you're building someone else's. The same principle applies in social media. Having a Facebook fan page with 1000 fans is great - but you don't own the page, Facebook does. Now of course I don't mean to imply that you shouldn't try to have 1000 fans on Facebook; what I mean is that you better make sure those 1000 people are also coming to your website regularly. Don't allow the action of going to your social media page to replace the action of going to your site. Your social media page should act as a funnel - bringing people in to your site; your property. And while you can certainly use social media to communicate with your customers - make sure they know other ways to reach you. Social media hasn't replaced email; it's only supplemented it. Make sure that there is still an email address that is publicly available that you can be reached on. It doesn't have to be your main address, but given how easy it is to set up another email address, there's really no excuse for not having one public address or support form that people can reach you on.
Don't rely exclusively on one social media platform:
Are you putting all your effort into building your Twitter following,
but neglecting your Facebook page, blog or YouTube channel? While not
all social media platforms are appropriate for every business, you
shouldn't be completely dependant on one. Here at Affilorama, if we had
actually lost our Twitter feed, we would still have our Affilorama
Facebook Page, our Affilorama YouTube Channel and of course our
Affilorama Blog which has thousands of subscribers. This is in addition
to our email lists and membership databases.
My point is that while losing our Twitter feed would have been really disappointing, we would not have lost contact altogether with the majority of our network. And if there are any contacts that are of particular importance to you, for example business prospects, great information resources, etc, make sure you either have an alternative means of contact, or have their information backed up somewhere. Don't, whatever you do, rely on your memory to recall every single contact or prospect that you were following on Twitter! By it's very nature, social media - especially real-time services like Twitter - exist only in the now. How many of the people you are following on Twitter would you be able to remember if they didn't post daily updates? I'm not suggesting your write down 1000 names if you're following 1000 people - but at least record the important ones somewhere!
Separate your business from your personal social media accounts:
There are numerous reasons to keep separate personal and professional social media accounts - not the least of which providing some semblance of separation of business and personal life which I think is important at a minimum for one's own sanity! But there are two other important reasons. First, your personal accounts provide you with a back up if you have any trouble with your business accounts. You can contact people from your personal Twitter if you lose your business account (like I had to do yesterday!). Secondly, just in the same way that registering a company separates liability from the person to the business (to an extent!), separating your personal and professional accounts will mean that you shouldn't lose your personal ones if your business accounts are banned. While some platforms like Facebook insist on tying business pages to an individual's account (and you're far more likely to lose both if you register multiple Facebook profiles), others like Twitter have no problem with multiple accounts.
Play by the rules, and don't associate with people who don't:
I'm something of a social media purist. I see social media as a
revolutionary invention - connecting the world; unregulated by
authoritarian forces (think Twitter in Iran); I could rant on and on,
but I think you get the idea! While in my work I try to use social
media to promote our business, I am always aware of going 'over the
line' into over-commercialization. Social media is about creating
relationships with your customers - not incessantly promoting to them.
This means that I typically stay well inside the guidelines set out in
the terms of service (which is why I was so surprised by yesterday's
Twitter fiasco!). However, while reading up on Twitter account
suspensions yesterday, I read somewhere that you can sometimes be
implicated if you are willfully associated with someone who does break the rules. Sometimes in attempts to fight off these 'spam rings',
innocent people who add everyone who adds them can be inadvertently
targeted. The moral of the story is don't add/friend/follow people who
are clearly spammers or breaking the TOS. Even if you don't get banned
because of it, you have to ask yourself, how do these connections
reflect on you? People do judge you on your associates - so are you
keeping good company?
I hope you enjoyed these general musings of the potential dangers when using social media to promote your business. I'd be really interested to hear feedback on this one. Do you agree/disagree? Have you had any of your own social media horror stories? Did you also lose your Twitter account yesterday? Were you as blindsided as I was?!
Looking forward to hearing from you.