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You could have a very successful business, but being unaware of what not to do could end up tarnishing your reputation or destroying your company all together.

Along with Burger King, there were other instances of failure by companies attempting to use social media innovatively. Skittles for example changed their website homepage to their Twitter feed. It was a constant update of other people opinions but it was passive and not engaging – most importantly, they forgot about their audience and the need to reach out to them to establish the relationship, not the other way around.

This already breaks most of the guidelines I’ve shared before…. They led with a tool. There was no push to create a sense of community with added value in their social media tactics,  or to show interest not only in what your audience says but respond to them – generate a lasting connection deeper than brand recognition. They didn’t show you are listening, or build trust. Another element Skittle’s tactic is missing is transparency; it’s not a look into the company as a whole or into the life of the CEO – there’s no face, no value to the Twitter feed, when they aren’t interacting as well.

What you need to avoid when using social media to build relationships with stakeholders… Even if you aren’t going to implement a social media strategy, you want to listen to what your audience is saying; they are going to talk about you no matter what, avoiding it would only be a missed opportunity. Secondly, if you are going to respond to your audiences’ comments and interact, don’t be fake- you need to be a real person, with real intentions of establishing a relationship. However, you don’t want to be too “real” as to overstep the boundaries of the already established guidelines of these online communities – be an informed user. You also want to avoid thinking of this relationship as a short-term goal or a means to a sale. This means that you should not be thinking in terms of selling your product, but instead, understanding your audience so they make the decision to invest, buy, or follow your brand. Also, your company needs to approach social media together as one; avoid different teams using different media and sending different messages. Lastly, do not forget that you are trying to accomplish a goal with your social media presence; therefore you must have a way to measure your progress.

But it is most important to remember- you’re biggest mistake is fearing the use of social media. Yes, it does take time, experience, and extra responsibility and yes, it does put the power in the hands of your audience.  The risks do not outweigh the benefits. The value of transparency and more intimate relationships is greater than be afraid to allow your employees too much access to the internet during work hours. The negative criticisms are important feedback to work with in terms of bettering your company. A law suit is little to be afraid of if everyone has the right training on social media etiquette and as long as your guidelines for social media interaction reflect those already in place in your organization, the power to have a voice won’t be abused.

Skittles has since changed their website, full of YouTube videos, links to their Facebook and Twitter, eye-catching pictures and invitation to interact. This is a more successful way to engage your customers – plus, it’s an experience where you can almost “Taste the Rainbow!”

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