Corporate social media: ‘Don’t be afraid to take your hands off the wheel’

Social media: 'Please see it as customer care'

Social media engagement is a fact of business for nearly all food companies, but many are still getting to grips with how to use it, according to social media expert Adrian Moss.

Moss is the managing director of Focus Business Communications, which specialises in business-to-business social media marketing, including for food companies.

“We have moved past the ‘is this a passing phase?’ for most companies,” he told FoodNavigator, but added that many have struggled to understand who owns the conversations that take place online.

Who’s in charge?

 “People are using it to allow them to use their voice to express an opinion. Some organisations are still taking the approach that ‘our Facebook pages are ours’…Please see it as customer care,” he said.

The food industry is in an unusual position among businesses, as people particularly enjoy talking about food, taking pictures and sharing their likes and dislikes online.

“Don’t be afraid to take your hands off the wheel and let someone else drive. Coca-Cola is a good example because their Facebook page wasn’t theirs,” said Moss, explaining that instead of trying to stamp out the ‘unofficial’ social media, Coca-Cola formed a partnership.

Another common sticking point for businesses is working out who is in charge of managing the company’s social media. Although Moss insists that it has value for all business departments, too often social media management is the hot potato that no one wants to handle. Companies are then left in a position where they lack the ability to react quickly if something goes wrong.

“You need your life boat drill before the ship gets in trouble,” he said.

Food Vision 2015

Adrian Moss will be speaking about social media in food manufacturing businesses at Food Vision, taking place in Cannes, France on March 18-20. Click here to find out more, and to register for the event: 

http://www.foodvisionevent.com/

So how should companies react when things go wrong?

In the event of online public relations blunder, a sourcing misstep, or even something as serious as foodborne pathogen contamination, Moss advises that the worst thing to do is to stay silent and let the problem fester.

“React. Fess up. Apologise. Take it on the chin. Don’t give a weasly excuse …Show that you are listening and responding,” he said. “When something goes wrong, you have got to move fast.”

Sometimes, the company may not have much it can say in these situations, but Moss suggests explaining what you are trying to do to address it and how many people are working on it. If you say nothing, you risk all kinds of incredible rumours entering the public domain.

Moving online conversations offline

Despite these worst case scenarios, Moss says there is no good reason for a company to lack social media presence. Above all, it can be a good way to make contact with potential customers or business associates – while remembering that most business is still done face to face.

“Social media is only effectively an introduction. What you want to try and do is pull them off and maybe take them into your own communities,” he said.

It can also be a very cost effective way of broadcasting your company’s presence at upcoming events, raising your profile, or getting out a particular message, such as your investment in R&D, apprenticeships or the local community.

However, Moss warns against making social media communication too corporate.

“It is more conversational marketing, and if it is conversational, it is two-way, so don’t stop comments,” he said. “Think about it from a holistic point of view. …You could miss a customer question or a sales opportunity. It is about getting your organisation sorted so there’s someone to respond.”

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