In our ongoing Social Media Ethical Dilemma series, we’ve discussed a number of scenarios in which clients had asked SHIFT to not only help develop their online strategy, but also lend in interacting with their publics.
In this, our final installment in the series, I’ll outline a situation that we wrestled with quite a bit, both internally and with the client, to make sure we were doing “the right thing.”
The client was a division of a large entertainment company. They came to us with a mission — to both monitor and engage directly with fans online, through a variety of their public channels. They needed dedicated arms & legs, since, despite the company’s megalithic size, the Social Media stuff was being managed internally by only one person. In their words —
“We have to be on these channels and interacting with our customers, and there isn’t the budget right now for us to hire a full team. Scale is really our key issue, and since SHIFT gets social media, we’re trusting you to be our eyes, ears and voice to these audiences.”
The client made their case: SHIFT employees were engaged on their behalf, and were being paid to serve as advocates, just as an employee would be; further, they would be treated by the client as full members of their in-house team. They’d be trained on corporate standards and agreed-upon rules of engagement; they’d have access to corporate resources, etc.
We still balked. Until they said —
“Can’t we just try it out? We trust you. And because we know SHIFT will be a good coach, it might convince the higher-ups to invest in a bigger internal team.”
We relented. As noted earlier, this is still a new area. The idea of being a “player-coach” was intriguing: we’d map and execute on the plays, until the internal team could be built up.
Here were the ground rules we worked out with the client:
• While we would not proactively identify ourselves as SHIFT, we could use our own discretion re: revealing ourselves as agency reps acting on the client’s behalf, without repercussion from the client.
• Anything that was borderline or controversial, we would flag and get approval on before posting a response.
• We would not blog or tweet as the company; this was still the responsibility of the client contact.
Guess we did okay, because after a number of months working the monitoring/response route, the client then asked us to extend our work. They asked us to proactively engage with users that utilized the client’s content but hadn’t engaged (e.g., by posting comments).
We set some strict parameters on what that interaction would look like. Basically we gently reached out to consumers, based on their demonstrated enthusiasm for the client’s content, and encouraged them to share their feedback more often; we let them know we were around for any questions or concerns.
This spadework soon created an uptick in connections, without any negative comments. The pilot work helped make the case for our internal contact that users were open to proactive communication from the brand, and potentially to even more robust dialogue… which meant that investing additional budget on internal resources was now a real possibility.
We didn’t screw anything up. Nobody was hurt. In fact, everyone all around was happy. We provided genuine value to consumers and to the client.
Like a coach who knows every play backward and forward, we are left wondering when to take to the field and when to stay on the sidelines.
Posted on: April 5, 2010 at 9:01 am By Todd Defren