Is it possible that there are some companies that might just be better off avoiding social media all together? “The brands that do well in social media are the brands that look good naked.” – Don Tapscott, Wikinomics

This image is from the SSE 4M blog.
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I’m a big enthusiast when it comes to social media. In order for companies to make a relevant social connection with their communities, they’ve got to make an effort to “do” as well as “dialogue.” For most companies, the best way to “do and dialogue” is through corporate volunteering and…? You got it – social media. And not just a tweet here and there – I’m talking about a robust and authentic social media presence.

But…what if I’m wrong?

Is it possible that there are some companies that might just be better off avoiding social media all together? I’ve just finished reading an excellent blog post by Vanessa Meyer, CSR and Social Media for a Troubled Brand. SSE 4M is a blog by the students in the Marketing and Media Management masters program at the Stockholm School of Economics located in Handelshögskolan, Stockholm.

As part of the Sustainability Marketing course, Vanessa’s team was assigned the task of developing a proposal for the European energy company, Vattenfall (meaning waterfall in Swedish) which is a wholly owned by the Swedish Government. Apparently Vattenfall is not perceived as the most trustworthy company in Europe and has struggled with considerable weakness in their CSR and brand image. For example, Vattenfall owns 20 coal powered plants in Europe (none of them in Sweden), three of which are estimated to be the dirtiest in Europe.

In preparation for the task, Vattenfall explained that one of the six tools used to communicate their CSR initiatives was social media. While Vanessa and her team applaud Vattenfall’s temerity in venturing into this area, they rightly suggest that the company step back and take a hard look at who they are and what they actually believe. “In Vattenfall’s case, social media will most likely not save the damaged brand and, if mismanaged, will only shine a brighter light on the flaws.”

Too Much Nudity in Corporate Social Responsibility

Vanessa’s right. Social media might actually be the worst thing for companies that have little or no sense of what Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) actually requires. For those who think CSR is cause marketing or a nifty PR strategy to confuse environmentalists, tragedy awaits. Our most recent blog chastised this misconception in response to a bizarre article in the Washington Post written by Chrystia Freeland, global editor at large for Thomson Reuters.

“As Don Tapscott says in his book Wikinomics: “the brands that do well in social media are the brands that look good naked. Because if you’re going to be naked online (which all brands are), you better be buff, in shape and ready for it.” A statement which hardly describes Vattenfall today.”

Vanessa cites a great “come to Jesus” list for companies to consider before accepting CSR and social media. Mitch Joel, author of Six Pixels of Separation, developed and posted the list on Twist Image Blog.

Maybe Social Media is the last thing you should be doing if…

• The majority of people have nothing nice to say about your brand.
• Your customer service center is over-worked with complaints and issues.
• Your current brand strategy revolves around trying to make your products sound better than they are.
• You don’t have the time, passion and/or commitment to do Social Media with transparency, credibility and authenticity.
• You really don’t care about customers and only care about selling.
• Your heart isn’t into it.
• You feel like you don’t have the time to do it.

All of this brings us to the best part of the blog, where Vanessa writes: “So, how do we propose Vattenfall redesign their online and social media communication strategy to achieve such a level of interaction, dialogue and engagement?”

Check out SSE 4M’s blog for a list of 5 great insights for companies wanting to be honest about whether or not social media is right for them.

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

Chris Jarvis & Angela Parker
c: 317-371-4435 | chrisjarvis@realizedworth.com

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