Who is really in control?

Many brands hire specialty agencies to manage their social media programs. Outside of additional resources and a solid strategy, most of these decisions are made to help monitor, and to an extent manage, that particular brands image. Ah, but the best laid plans…

In the spring of 2011, someone from Chrysler’s social media team accidentally Tweeted the F-Bomb. Even with great social governance policies, the rogue employee sometimes just has his or her way… like what happened with VodafoneThe list goes on and on. Sometimes a brand sponsors the wrong person or event, sometimes their account gets hijacked and sometimes they say it got hacked when it was really someone on their own team.

What’s the message? Do your best to try and stay in control but deep down, in that place where you have spent time, money and effort to build up your brand bank account full of equity you know it to be true. You are not in control. At all. And it isn’t going to get better.

The reality of dynamic retail is that this loss of control isn’t only about social media. Show-rooming means even in your own environments, digital or physical, you can’t control the messaging or pathway to the buy. The line between traditional ad channels like television and outdoor are blurring with digital channels like Twitter thanks to innovative companies like Mass Relevance. Loyalty programs become “gamified” making everything a competition. Do a partnership with the wrong company (just ask some Groupon merchants) and instead of making deposits in your brand equity account you will be making withdrawals.

So what to do? You really don’t have any choice but to admit to yourself that while you may control the seeding of a conversation, what your :30 looks like or how your product looks in-stiore what happens after that is out of your reach. Some guidelines:

1.  Open Communication: either choose to enable the conversation or get directly involved in it.

2.  State Of The Union: write social governance policies and do your best to police.

3.  Fess Up: if you did something wrong assume everyone will find out. React fast and with transparency.

4.  Embrace Trends: don’t try and block show rooming or live shopping comparisons, make it easier for your customer to do it and use your footprint instead of a competitor’s.

You can do all sorts of research to help. Mashable, as do many sites, come up with fun but informative inforgraphics to help provide a lay of the land. Use your team and your partners to help strategize and execute. But I promise you one thing, if you try and put off the inevitable you will lose. Just ask Anthony Weiner.

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