Aimee Hudson
28th November 2018 - 8 mins read
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ritish Gas, Seaworld, JP Morgan and author EL James are among those who, to put it politely, have seen their social media chats trend for the wrong reasons.

So, what can we learn from these social media disasters? How can you do it right?

 

Timing

Timing is a key component for social media Q&A success. Holding an interactive session when you are already creating headlines in the traditional media for the wrong reasons is a recipe for disaster.

British Gas was the victim of one of the more memorable scheduling disasters, opting to give customers the opportunity to ask Customer Services Director Bert Piljls questions on the day it announced a 9.2 per cent price hike.


The #AskBG hashtag was used by thousands of customers airing their grievances and those who took the opportunity to poke fun at the energy giant.

The lesson here is clear - these social media sessions should be restricted to when you either have good news to tell or when you are not in the news at all.

 

Right person

In the same way you need the right person for media interviews, you must think carefully about who you are going to put forward for question and answer sessions.

You need someone who is senior enough to make decisions so that bland, generic responses can be avoided.

And some natural humour can be helpful.

But you also need someone who you can trust and who will need little moderation.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary is no stranger to controversy and a Twitter question and answer session a few years ago predictably created plenty of headlines.

Most controversial was his comment of ‘nice pic. Phwoaaarr’ to a question from a female customer, which led to allegations (and headlines) of sexism.

 

Memorable hashtag

Memorable hashtags can promote and create a buzz about your question and answer session. Ideally you want something short but still descriptive.

You should also check the hashtag is not being used for anything else.

And perhaps most importantly of all, make sure it can’t be misread – a lesson the promoters of singer Susan Boyle could have done with before they opted for #Susanalbumparty.

 

Show some self-awareness

Not every post you receive in these sessions is going to be on the subjects you want and some may mock what you are trying to achieve.

The key is to not take yourself too seriously and to respond with similar humour.

Although not strictly a question and answer session, Waitrose responded cleverly when its #WaitroseReasons hashtag was hijacked by posters making fun of its upper class reputation. It said it had found the tweets ‘funny’ and had ‘enjoyed reading most of them’. 

 

Prepare for the negatives

As with media interviews it is important to spend time considering the negative issues which could arise during the question and answer session.

Prepare lines to take which can be given in response and consider creating a page on your website which you can link through to for answers needing more than 140 characters.

 

Wider issues

As well as possible negative topics, it is also worth considering the wider issues which could arise during the question and answer session. These could be issues affecting the wider sector or perhaps some new Government policy which could have an impact on the industry. Currently, you could face questions about the impact Brexit or Donald Trump might have on the sector. Prepare some lines to take for these wider issues.

 

Not suitable for everyone

While a question and answer session may seem like a great way to boost engagement and get positive messages out, it is not a format that is suitable for everyone.

If your brand or area of work is divisive, the session will act like a magnet for critics and keyboard warriors.

When 50 Shades of Grey author E.L James held a Twitter Q&A it is fair to say it did not go to plan. As well as plenty of users taking advantage of the opportunity to question her writing ability, the author was also faced with more serious questions about her books promoting an abusive relationship.

Similarly, when SeaWorld held a #AskSeaWorld session it backfired massively, with people taking the opportunity to bring up animal welfare concerns and ask when the park would be closing down.

 

Promote

You need to promote your question and answer session ahead of the event. Begin posting about it a few days in advance using the hashtag you have opted for - this has the added benefit of enabling you to see any questions which come in early.

Also use your email lists and other social media networks to raise awareness of the sessions and encourage your employees to tell their friends.

 

Don’t be afraid to walk away

About the only thing JP Morgan got right about its infamous Twitter Q&A session was deciding to abandon the idea 24 hours before it was scheduled to take place.

The company found itself inundated with negative posts when it promoted a live chat with one of its executives, which was intended to be about leadership and careers advice.

 

With questions including ‘did you have a specific number of people’s lives you needed to ruin before you considered your business model a success?’ it was clear it had completely lost control of the hashtag.

Sensibly it took the decision to prevent further damage by returning to the drawing board.

 

Crisis plan

If your question and answer session does go ahead and goes horribly wrong, make sure you have a crisis plan in place to limit the damage, including how you will manage the media if it sparks their interest. 



We realise that these examples of social media Q&As could put you off holding one of your own. But that is not the aim. The idea is to make you aware of risks so that you can prepare for them and avoid making similar errors.

We firmly believe Q&As can generate highly productive conversations which can develop excitement around your brand and products. It just needs considered planning to avoid the pitfalls.

Mark Mars, Managing Director of Thirty Seven, said: “Just like an in-person press conference or an open discussion, Twitter Q&As provide a way for the audience to ask questions and hear responses directly from the host. But, all you need is Twitter. And anyone can do it.

"A Twitter Q&A is a great way to engage with your audience as it allows them the opportunity to talk to you in real-time conversation, in a more human way.

"Twitter Q&As are a great opportunity to get insightful feedback and for your audience to know you are taking their views seriously."

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

Marketing

Six benefits of employee advocacy on social media

Adam Fisher 2nd May 2018 — 6 mins read
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hat this means is that ‘employee advocacy’ is more than just some trendy buzzword.

It is something that businesses should strive for on social media and something with lots of possibilities. It is also something which some of the country’s leading brands are already doing as we will show you later.

 

Reach

Arguably the biggest reason to strive for employee advocacy on social media is one of mathematics.

The simple fact is that if your employees share your content it reaches a much bigger audience.

Many of us have Facebook accounts. In fact, there are around 32 million user accounts for that network in the UK alone.

The interesting bit is that the average number of ‘friends’ for a user currently stands at 338.

So, if you have 10,000 employees and just five per cent of them started sharing your company’s social media posts, your content would reach an extra 169,000 people – that’s a lot of extra people who could be seeing your content.

And if you have younger members of staff they will have significantly bigger networks. 27 per cent of 18-29 year old Facebook users have more than 500 friends.

If your employees are on Twitter, the reach is equally impressive. The average user there has more than 700 followers and, if you take out the accounts with more than 100,000 followers, then that average is 453.

If your staff are active on LinkedIn then they could potentially have a bigger audience, as 27 per cent of us have between 500 and 999 connections.

These numbers alone tell you that your employees are one of your most powerful social media marketing tools.

 

Trust

The great thing about your employees sharing your content is that potential new customers are seeing it through people they have a connection with and invariably trust.

In the age of fake news, it is perhaps not surprising that research has shown people’s trust in content on social media is stronger if they know the person who has posted it.

Additionally, the 2018 Endelman Trust Barometer showed that ‘a person just like yourself’ is seen as the third most credible spokesperson, showing that people typically trust their peers.

Tellingly, ‘employees’ also scored significantly higher than ‘CEO’ or ‘Board of Directors’ in the credibility stakes.

This all shows that content is trusted more when it is shared by people rather than broadcast by brands.

 

Industry experts

Not only can your employees help to spread your content and messages on social media to a wider audience, but they can also start to become seen as experts in their field and thought leaders.

The more they share, comment and discuss relevant topics on social media the more they will showcase their expertise and knowledge.

This is a mutually beneficial process. 

The organisation stands out as a brand with talented employees willing to share their thoughts and expertise and as one which is open to new ideas and collaboration.

Meanwhile, the employee benefits by building their personal brand and network, as well as from feeling trusted to talk about key issues.  

 

Empowering

It was only recently that I worked in a place where all employees – other than me who was managing the corporate social media accounts – were denied access to social media channels through the organisation’s computers.

Not only did this not feel particularly trusting, but it was also a largely pointless exercise, as technology had overtaken the decision makers and the vast majority of people had access to smartphones.

I felt at the time, and I still feel now, that a better approach would surely have been to encourage employees to talk about their work on social media channels, blogs and even forums and allow their expertise and passion for their roles to shine through.

 

 

Consistency

Some of your employees may already be posting and sharing stories about your organisation.

But is it what you would want them to share? Does it include the most up to date information, for example?

A more structured approach to employee advocacy will help ensure the right messages get out without losing that all important authenticity.

 

Attractive

Many of us have worked in places, or at least seen job advertisements, for companies that speak eloquently and glowingly about their culture.

But those messages are much more authentic when they come from current employees.

Employee advocacy can, therefore, help you attract the best talent and people who will add value to the organisation and make it more likely you will retain them.

 

Employee advocacy in action

Retailer John Lewis recently carried out an employee advocacy trial.

Just before Christmas around 100 ‘partners’ from six stores were selected to share specific content on Instagram and Twitter.

Using the hashtag #wearepartners, the three-month trial generated nine million impressions.

Meanwhile, Sky is using employee advocacy to showcase its position as an employer of choice. The hashtag #LifeatSky is regularly used by people across the organisation, including some of its big name presenters, to highlight the perks of working for the broadcaster.  

Your employees tell the best stories, they're authentic and you should be encouraging them to share on social media. #employeeadvocacy via: @37agency

 

The challenge

But employee advocacy is not without its challenges and it would be amiss of us not to mention them.

Firstly, employees are going to need some great content to share, so a solid content marketing strategy needs to sit behind this approach.

Another issue is that while some people will embrace this enthusiastically, others will be more reticent. One of the biggest factors here is a fear of doing or saying something wrong which could see them face disciplinary measures. The key to tackling this particular challenge is to have a clear social media policy and guidelines in places.

Others may not feel motivated to share content, so it is important that personal benefits, such as wider personal networks and the development of their own personal brand, are explained to them.

It is also important that leaders buy-in to employee advocacy and lead by example. If they are not active on social media and are not sharing content why should the employees? It is particularly important that middle managers, who are often more visible than the senior leaders, embrace the programme.

Finally, there is the issue of trust. As I hinted at earlier when discussing my own experience at a previous employer, if you can’t trust your employees to have access to social media at work then you can’t realistically expect them to share your social media output.

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging, informative and shareable so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a Whitepaper.

Additionally, our sister company Media First offers bespoke social media training courses

Emily Stonham
19th December 2018 - 7 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.