Practicing Safe Social

A few weeks ago, I unearthed an old presentation I made to clients and company presidents in 2009. The goal of the presentation was to explain the importance Web 2.0 and to convince them to take the plunge. Although the information was well received, there were no takers. For years, TTI North America’s stance on social media was avoidance at all costs, especially by our legal and safety teams, who dug-in their heels and would not budge.

Now keep in mind, we make tools that have sharp, whirling blades that can inflict great harm if not used properly. People being people, our legal team spends a fair amount of time in court because everything under the sun can be used as evidence. Additionally, others within management weren’t crazy about the idea of folks potentially posting negative comments about our products.

After years of entrenched resistance to our pleas to explore digital media, seemingly overnight, the naysayers changed their minds. Social media, in all its forms, was given a bright green light. And approval was accompanied by a flood of requests.

Although, we dared not ask why, we realized that the in-house Torque creative team didn’t have the manpower to handle the resultant tsunami. Setting up Facebook and Twitter accounts was easy. Bringing people on board to promote, monitor, write and coordinate an all-and-everything social media presence wasn’t.

Torque and our clients eventually decided that a shared approach would result in a more agile social media machine. Product marketing groups would form the front line of social media—monitoring and responding, as well as coordinating with safety and legal. Torque would continue handling interactive—website creation and maintenance, web campaigns and promotions, e-blasts, media buying, analytics, and dogs and cats. So far, so good.

It’s almost halfway through 2014 and I’m now more comfortable both with how fast new platforms pop up and with our team’s ability to respond. I’m amazed that within two years I’ve gone from being the nervous new kid (25-years older than everyone else…) at the Twitter party to thinking this is pretty great. What used to strike fear in the hearts of many is now part of every launch and campaign. Instead of, “Hey, you know all that great print, TV and video we did? Let’s put it on Facebook,” we now feed our social streams through a more-considered process.

New media, however, still has its sometimes unforeseen pitfalls.

Photo and video shoots are loads of fun, right? People new to the experience love taking pics of the sets and crews. While planning a recent shoot for a new spot we were doing for RYOBI®, our client asked if we could capture some behind-the-scenes footage and stills shots which we’d later edit into an engaging social-sharing video for our customers. Seemed like a cool idea, so I agreed.

At the pre-production meeting, I casually mentioned what we were going to do and our production person said, “Great idea, except we’ll need to re-negotiate with the talent—and some of the crew may get bent out of shape if they’re in a web video without permission.” And that thing about people snapping photos on set that never used to not be a big deal? Well, when virtually anyone’s image can go up online instantly, it’s A BIG DEAL now. What if someone posts a selfie including a not-yet-released product? Or there’s a safety violation? I cringe to think about the meetings we’d be in with product, safety and legal then.

Practicing “safe” social media, when social media is evolving at a precipitous rate is a challenge. While packaging, POP, broadcast and video are scrutinized at a molecular level—social media? Not so much. And since social media is, well, social, controlling content once it goes live is limited which makes vigilance paramount.

You can’t control it all, but you also can’t ignore the potential issues that can derail your social efforts. It reminds me of when I got wrangled into being an assistant scoutmaster years ago. After a stressful day of trying to herd a bunch of 12-year-olds, the scoutmaster, sensing my frustration said, “Look, it’s not your job to control everything. It’s no fun for them and it’s no fun for you. Your job is to create an environment that’s safe and fun. Then you can ease off the drill sergeant routine and enjoy yourself.”

Wade Franks is SVP of Creative Services for Torque Creative, the in-house agency at TTI North America.

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