The old adage “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” takes on additional meaning for companies grappling with the new world of social media. As in, just because you can tweet (or blog … or Facebook), doesn’t mean you should. Companies considering making this leap need to understand who they’re trying to reach and what they are trying to accomplish.
If a company just jumps in — without understanding the goals and objectives — it runs the risk of causing more harm than good. Case in point: Trader Joe’s. A California-based, specialty retail grocery shop, Trader Joe’s is known for smart expansion, little marketing and outstanding food selection. (And, of course, Two Buck Chuck.)
Trader Joe’s first started tweeting on August 28, 2008. The initial handful of tweets were what you’d expect: information about the store, a plug for tomato and roasted pepper soup and so on. Abruptly, they abandoned that strategy and began only retweeting positive comments made by the twitterati. No engagement. No discussion. Not even any store promotions. Just retweets.
Their approach sparked quite the conversation on Twitter — with the consensus being that maybe Trader Joe’s just needs some advice. Well, I happen to be a big fan of Trader Joe’s and want to see them do well. So, let me offer my two cents:
- Don’t tweet just because your competitors are. If you don’t have a clear strategy, you’re just wasting resources. (Interestingly, in addition to being a Trader Joe’s competitor, Whole Foods is an excellent tweeter.)
- Follow the POST method. P=understand your people and audience; O= set measurable objectives; S= develop a smart strategy; and, T=decide which social technologies to use.
- Adhere to community norms. If you decide that your company is in fact ready to delve into social media, listen first. Understand what people are saying — and how they’re saying it. Social networkers are naturally skeptical about businesses “invading their turf.” That’s why if you don’t conform to the community standards, you’re going to fail.
Countless blog posts — many of which are very detailed and very good — have been written about the rules of social media, how socia media is changing business, what works and what doesn’t. And, many more posts along those lines are yet to come. The point of this post is simple: While there are no “set-in-stone” rules for social media, businesses do need to be smart. Taking the easy way out — say by simply retweeting positive comments about your company — is not a good idea. If you’re not engaging customers in dialogue and providing valuable information, what’s the point?
What other suggestions can we offer Trader Joe’s?