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Be social, but mind pitfalls

Published: 
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Bunji Garlin, left, and Machel Montano onstage at the Sunset Festival on December 21 at the O2 Park in Chaguaramas. It was after this appearance that Montano extened the offer of a collaboration to Bunji Garlin on social media. PHOTO: COURTESY OVERTIMETT

Social media is being used more and more as a tool for marketing and advertising by businesses, celebrities or anyone who has a message they want to spread widely. However, there are times when people use social media inappropriately or fall foul of what the experts call “social media etiquette.” 

In recent years, there have been several high profile “social media fails” like the pornographic photo sent out in error by US Air in April 2014, or public feuds between celebrities like rappers Azealia Banks and Iggy Azalea. 

Local celebrities in this country have also had public misunderstandings on social media sites like Twitter and Instagram. The most recent was an awkward exchange between soca stars Machel Montano and Ian “Bunji Garlin” Alvarez after they shared the stage at a concert. 

The exchange between the two rivals on photo sharing site Instagram, in which Montano asked the Differentology singer to embark on a collaboration, was seized upon fans who didn’t hesitate to give their—largely uninformed—opinions. 

To find out more about the proper use of social media in this context, T&T Guardian asked Karel Mc Intosh, lead communications trainer at Livewired Group. 

“If Machel and Bunji were accustomed to working together, chatting over social media would have gone smoothly, however, their situation is different,” she said via e-mail. 

“From what the public has seen, Machel and Bunji have a tense relationship. If you have a contentious relationship with someone, don’t try to have a conversation in public. It makes the person defensive. Why? Because they’ll feel like you’re putting them on the spot, or that you’re trying to corner them.” 

She added that the great thing about social media is that you can use it to reach people you don’t know, and to deepen relationships you’ve already built. 

“You can approach people online, and let them know that you want to work with them. You can pitch an idea, or try to sell your service or product. What matters is the context of your communication.” 

McIntosh believes it is imperative that the parties involved know each other well enough to conduct business online, whatever social media channel is being used. 

“Machel, like the rest of us, knows Bunji’s communication style. He knows that Bunji is straightforward, and can be blunt. Bunji may also still be apprehensive about working with him,” McIntosh said. 

“If your gut tells you the person may not feel comfortable, use traditional channels, like the phone. Do it privately. If the person isn’t interested at that point, sometimes you have to be patient, or let it go.” 

It is possible that after their appearance, which was so well received by the public, Montano was excited and felt that collaborating was the next step but McIntosh believes Montano should have probably stuck to the photos he posted on Instagram, acknowledging the moment, and subtly expressing his hope that they could work together 

“Try to negotiate in private. He said he’s called Bunji several times before, but maybe Bunji might have taken his call now, after performing with him. Any sales person will tell you that initial rejection or disinterest is part of the process sometimes.” 

Wording is also key when negotiating online as you can say things differently, and give the same message, but not trigger the person negatively. Show your interest, but don’t put the person on the spot. 

“Similarly, Bunji could have phrased his response differently. After all, the fans are watching, and when it comes to soca, Machel, and Bunji, people get emotional. So he wasn’t just communicating with Machel. He was also communicating with his fans and Machel’s fans indirectly.” 

The lesson from all of this, she stressed, is to know your audience, and craft how you communicate around the type of relationship you have. 

“For example, I sell in-house training and public workshops, and I get business from social media marketing. I don’t use the same approach for everyone. I have a different approach for prospects—people who have never interacted with Livewired Group, another approach for leads—people who have interacted with the brand, but haven’t booked a workshop as yet…and I use a different approach for customers—people who have used my service, and who I maintain relationships with. In marketing jargon, we’d call that social selling.” 

To successfully use social media for business, the person using it must master the art of dealing with people, understand their triggers, watch how they say things, and know when to stop relying on social media or e-mail, and go the more personal route of making a call, or scheduling a meeting. 

Content manager of news Web site LoopTT.com, Laura Dowrich-Phillips, believes it’s all a matter of perspective and discretion. Dowrich-Phillips told the T&T Guardian, this is because the proper use of social media sites really depends on the type of business that has to be conducted. 

“A mainstream business using social media to promote its products or to create awareness for a particular brand should stick to that and do little to deviate from the product which they are promoting,” she said. 

However this approach may not be useful for someone like a promoter who is trying to spark conversation and may purposely try to use controversial topics to gain more attention. 

Dowrich-Phillips pointed to the US where many artistes and celebrities take to Twitter and have public fights and these are later discovered to be marketing ploys to promote a new album, movie or product. 

“Celebrities sometimes also prefer to have public hash outs on social media sites because their words will not be distorted or misconstrued by the mainstream media, so it gives them the opportunity to say exactly what they want without any misquotes. 
“People should always be mindful of what they put on the Internet because it never disappears, even if they delete it, it is stored somewhere. Always think before you press post!”

Even though some fans’ curiosity may be piqued because of public battles, an online stunt may also cause fans to become divided in their loyalties and this may result in less interest in the long run, she warned. 

T&T Guardian technology writer Mark Lyndersay said all of social media is based on conversations, but it should be remembered that not everything that has been said has been made public.

“Some conversations take place in small private groups, some between two individuals. Once a conversation goes public, the participants should always be aware that it carries the same weight as a debate in traditional media,” he said in an email. 

“This is very important for people who use social media to remember because lots of people will have opinions and won’t be shy about expressing them, regardless of their level of understanding of the issues and background of the matter being discussed. 
“There are ways that a public online conversation might benefit both participants, but it is an opportunity that is balanced on razor wire and can go bad very quickly,” he said. 

Lyndersay who has been writing about technology and new media for many years, said public figures should also always be mindful of being consistent with the presentation of both their public persona and their private personality. 

“If the two are only remotely related, they should limit their posts and discussions to one or the other, depending on which works to their best advantage. It would be ideal if the private and public personas were in perfect synchronisation, but that rarely tends to be the case and most consumers of celebrity news don’t want to deal with two people, they want to hear from the person they are a fan of, not this other person who washes clothes and changes diapers.” 

When using social media one of the biggest mistakes a person can make is insulting the other participant in the conversation. 


“Slights travel fast in the imperfect world of hastily written words, so the most basic guiding principle in social media, as in life, should be respect for your fellow man, and ‘nuff respect for people who support you.”

SOCIAL MEDIA DO’S AND DON’TS 
Key pointers from Karel Mc Intosh, lead communications trainer at Livewired Group
1. Don’t make it about you. It’s about your audience. Put people at the centre of your social media strategy. Imagine who your audience is. What do they like? What do they care about? This will help you to connect with them. 
2. Remember what you want people to feel, when they interact with you. 
3. Know why you’re using social media. Don’t just use it because everyone else is. Have specific and measurable goals. 
4. Add value. Be helpful. Don’t just promote your brand. Social media isn’t sales media. People don’t like it when you only promote your products. If you add value, you have their permission to market your stuff when you really need to, and they’ll be more receptive. 
5. Build relationships. Don’t use people.
6. Don’t be boring. And don’t hire a boring social media administrator. 
7. Listen, so you can have richer and more relevant discussions with people. 
8. Stand out. So many local brands use the same corporate voice. Say things differently to how everyone else is saying it. Don’t imitate other brands. Don’t be afraid to stand out. That’s one of the ways to make your brand come alive, and to help people notice you. 
9. Remember that you’re communicating with human beings. Be natural and relatable. Show some personality. People connect with you when you’re personable. Craft a personable voice. Look at how you say things. 
10. Be social. Don’t be antisocial. Engage your audience. Start conversations with them. 
11. Give great customer service. 
12. Respond to people in a timely manner. 
13. Share interesting content. Mix it up. It doesn’t have to be all business. Balance human interest/light content with serious content. 
14. Be consistent with your brand. Have a consistent voice, but change your tone, depending on who you’re interacting with. 
15. Be genuine and transparent. Respect your audience, and their intelligence. They can read between the lines.

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