What is your social media worth?

We all know that social media is growing at a rapid rate. Facebook values Instagram at $1 billion and according to a recent report by Forbes, LinkedIn is worth $10 billion and Pinterest £7.7 billion. There’s no doubt that social networking is an industry where money can be made but what about those businesses actually using it themselves? Social media is essentially a free marketing resource but it could cost your business hundreds and thousands of pounds if you make just one careless error whilst using it.

Cost of social media

There are stories all over the press daily about people whose tweets or Facebook statuses have landed them in trouble. What about Liam Stacey who recently tweeted racially abusive messages about footballer Fabrice Muamba after he collapsed on a pitch? He received a 56 day jail sentence. Or Jordan Blackshaw who was jailed for four years after creating a Facebook event page for the London riots? That’s not to mention  Paul Chambers who was fined after tweeting a joke about blowing up Robin Hood Airport or Peter Copeland who received a four month suspended jail sentence after posting racially abusive messages on Twitter aimed at Newcastle United fans.

These are all personal instances where carelessness on social networking sites have led to criminal prosecutions, but just as there is a risk using social networking carelessly for personal accounts, the same applies to business. Remember, what is put on the internet stays on the internet. Even long after you have deleted a tweet or Facebook status, it can still be found on the Internet through various sources and remembered. Once something is posted on the web, it stays there in one form, forever.

What should I do?

There is plenty you should do when using social media. Engage with your customers, promote your products (but not constantly – there’s nothing worse than constant self promoters on Twitter!), engage with other businesses and enjoy making new friends – but remember to always think about what you are posting. Who can see it? It is libellous? Could it be taken the wrong way and ultimately should I really publish it?

Social media policy

Introducing a strict social media policy will ensure that members of your business are not sending out tweets that could be interpreted negatively. Set aside and pinpoint the areas of Twitter or Facebook you could eradicate without affecting your business. For example, a celebrity expects abuse on Twitter but that doesn’t mean your business should be seen handing it out. Yes, your team’s star striker may have missed a sitter last night but you don’t want your customers to see you calling them useless over Twitter do you? Keep the personal tweets; sarcastic or otherwise, to your personal account and don’t let them be associated with your business in anyway.

Got your staff tweeting on their own personal accounts? Get them to put a small disclaimer in their biographies stating that their views are their own and not that of the company’s, just to ensure you are disassociated with anything that could potentially spell outrage.

Decide on the kind of people that you should be engaging with and keep it friendly. By following all the local hashtags – #coventrybusiness, #followbigbear and #followcoventry for Coventry – you can meet local business and make new contacts. When someone leaves your business – that is the time to change all your social media passwords to protect against potential hacks. Most importantly though, think before you publish anything online and make 100% sure that nobody can be offended by what you have written.

Keep it fun

We don’t want to ruin your social media activity by throwing in too many rules. After all, social media is and should be a fun and constructive activity, but as soon as carelessness creeps into your social media usage, so too do business risks and compromises. A policy will keep you thinking about your own social media usage and ensure that your personal thoughts never reflect upon your business. Of course, there is room for sarcasm and jokes – social networks would be boring without them but the old rule ‘if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all’ certainly has a big place within social media.

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Posted on April 25, 2012, in "public relations", "digital media", Social media marketing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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