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Keep Twitter from turning fans into foes

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in The Integrated Marketer

Seems like Twitter is the topic du jour at business networking luncheons.  And it should be – Twitter is a brilliant (and free!) way to build a brand, engage a following, become an influencer, and even defuse customer complaints.  Unfortunately, it’s also a brilliant way to turn mildly frustrated fans into foes.

Example: Stung by fans who booed mistakes during a particularly ugly win, a Washington Redskin rookie vented on Twitter.  Robert Henson tweeted that fans were “dimwits who work 9 to 5 at McDonalds.” The media immediately got hold of the story and the Washington Post wasted no time running the headline, “A Redskin Feels the Heat from a Tweet.” But it was no longer just about Henson.  Suddenly, radio talk shows were filled with callers wondering if Henson’s comments reflected the way Redskins owner Dan Snyder and the entire team felt about them.  

Imagine if one of your employees vented about customers – on Twitter or on Facebook, a blog or other social media platform.  That could be all it takes to lose control over your brand and your business.

Don’t have employees?  You can still lose control the moment you go “off message.” 

A business consultant I know was very successful at building a large Twitter following.  He’d positioned himself as a trusted source of information on health care and was receiving a steady stream of projects from clients who first got to know him on Twitter. Then he let loose with a tweet blasting certain players involved with health care reform. The angry, highly opinionated tweet was a troubling disconnect with the cool-headed, consummate professional his fans thought they knew. Perhaps would-be clients didn’t like his views. Or perhaps they were concerned that his now-obvious bias would affect the independence of his work for them.  Whatever it was, he saw an almost immediate fall off in his Twitter following and his business.

Bottom line: marketing today is a lot more than websites and eblasts. It’s literally everything you say and do.  So while you can’t really stop employees from sending tweets and making postings on blogs and Facebook, you can get everyone on board with your brand.  Make sure they understand your specific value proposition, differentiators and your commitment to customers. Make it more than lip service, too.  Offer specific examples of what does and does not reflect the brand. Model what you want to see by integrating the brand into what you yourself say and do. Defining your messaging and keeping it top of mind gives you a far greater chance of controlling the messages  – and far less chance of turning fans into foes.

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