Cut Companies A Break

Are you perfect? Most companies aren’t either. They don’t get everything right – in product launches; in marketing; in pricing or in any area where people are involved. They certainly don’t get everything right in social media.

The big difference for them is, when they get things wrong in social media, people often shout it loud from the rooftops.

Sometimes, though, one person’s mistake is another’s best practice.

For example, yesterday I noticed someone declaring a #fail on a large company – FedEx – that had claimed a Twitter account but wasn’t responding to tweets sent to it. At first glance, that would seem to be a legitimate criticism – why would a company not respond to people asking questions?

However, far from failing, the company may have actually been following the best practice by claiming their organization’s identity. By doing so, they were able to ensure that no-one brand-jacked their name on the service. In fact, claiming your company’s identity on social media services is something I’ve recommended all companies do, even if you’re not prepared to use the accounts yet.

The same goes for people complaining about the timeliness of responses. I’m a little sick of seeing people chastise companies for not responding mere minutes after asking a question. You know what? A couple of years ago you’d have waited a week for a form-letter response, or sat on the phone line on hold for half an hour. Now, you can take 10 seconds to write a tweet then sit back and wait. Guess what? People have meetings. They have other tasks to hand. They may even turn off the computer while they watch a movie in the evening. While it’s great when they can and do respond instantly, try cutting them some slack if takes a little longer.

From a big picture perspective, social media is still new and companies are still figuring out how (or whether, in the short-term) to adopt it. There are no standard processes across industries yet, and the best practices are still evolving. It’s about time we started to pause and look at things from outside the viewpoint of the fishbowl before assuming that a company is screwing up. Would it be lovely if FedEx were active on Twitter? Sure. Is it an automatic failure that they aren’t? Not necessarily.

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.