by Jodi Petrich, Senior Director at Fast Horse

More brands are turning to social media to engage consumers. Social media are a great tool for launching new products or services, sharing promotional offers, hosting contests or simply connecting with loyal fans.

One big challenge is that the approval process in many companies doesn’t lend itself well to social media. For example, consider the process involved in the development of a print or TV ad. A strategy is created and a creative brief is written; creative teams develop concepts; concepts and copy are routed to clients and legal; clients and legal provide input; and the concepts are revised and approved.

It’s a process that (perhaps) works when creating an ad, but it lessens the opportunity for impact when applied to social media. The intent of social media is to be interactive, to share news in a timely fashion, to be authentic and relevant, and to allow for instantaneous or even spontaneous connectivity. Processes of the past simply aren’t nimble enough to allow companies to take full advantage of all that social media offers.

But what is the right process for new media? Take this tale of two brands on Facebook.

  • Brand A is mired in heavy process. Anyone who wishes to post content on the page must fill out and submit a request form a minimum of five days in advance of when the post will run. There are only five posts allowed per day, and only one per region, which can post on select days. The brand has a great following, but users are the recipients of very calculated messages.
  • Brand B has no process. In turn, many of its individual properties have created their own Facebook pages and post content freely. There isn’t a consistent brand presence, there are no standards in place to guide postings, and postings are often completely irrelevant to the business (actual Tweet example from a franchisee: “I got to work today and have on two different shoes. LOL!”).

On the one end, the five-day process ensures that messages are appropriate and approved by everyone, but it doesn’t allow the opportunity to react or respond to news or announcements that might help the brand be more relevant.

On the other end, the lack of process allows freedom and flexibility but creates the risk of ultimately hurting the brand’s reputation.

Social media can be a powerful tool for brands when used appropriately and timely. Doing so requires a level of flexibility and the ability to let go of processes of the past. Should brands have a social media strategy? Absolutely. Should there be a process in place to ensure messages and content are brand appropriate? 100% yes. Should the social media content that brands produce be held to the same standards as traditional marketing? Even more so. Should every Tweet and Facebook post be routed for approval? That’s where things get sticky.

Every brand needs to develop its own comfort level, and the keys are trust and education. You trust your employees to represent your brand everyday, why shouldn’t you when it comes to social media? Consider taking the time to educate your team on the essential brand messages and character you wish to convey. Draft up some key brand attributes and circulate them widely. Let people know how you want your company or brand to be perceived. Then trust them to deliver the messages, just as they do every day in the off-line world.