Social media pitfalls for brands

23 Nov 2008

Brands can benefit hugely from user-generated content (UGC) on their sites, but must tread carefully.

UGC on company websites is being seen increasingly as a powerful marketing tool and a great opportunity for brands to engage with actual or potential customers. However, insufficient planning and bad practices in relation to this area can end up seriously compromising the value of social media initiatives.

UK-based Chat Moderators, which provides content monitoring services for a range of clients, including BBC, EMI, Friends Reunited, Orange, Sony and Vodafone, has compiled a list of the top 10 mistakes made by businesses when introducing online social-media schemes.

Top of the list is the belief that the audience won’t mind if their submissions are removed because the brand is not prepared to accept valid criticism. According to Rob Marcus (pictured), director at Chat Moderators, users certainly will mind, and any attempt made to prohibit justifiable criticism will only serve to undermine the integrity of the initiative.

Other common mistakes to avoid, according to Chat Moderators include:

·     Not publishing a straightforward set of rules for the creators of uploaded material. The company recommends creating a set of house rules for users that are easy to find on the site. These rules should explain what kind of behaviour is deemed unacceptable – for example, being vulgar, offensive, disruptive or breaking the law

·     Not creating a sophisticated set of rules for the judges of uploaded material. For moderators of the site to be fair and consistent in their judgements, they will need to have a more detailed set of rules, which should be a written document, signed off by moderators and brand managers and only changeable by agreement of both parties.

·     Not verifying the email addresses of users. Where users do not have to register with a confirmed email address before submitting content, it is very difficult to ban them from posting if they become abusive. Likewise, the company will not be able to target them for marketing purposes.

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