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I stumbled upon an article on AdAge Digital this morning, reporting on another client lost due to a misstep on Twitter by an agency. You can read about how the Redner Group lost their biggest client over at AdAge, which got me thinking about social media and how easy it is to say the wrong thing and cause a major PR mess. There are countless stories of agencies losing clients over social media blunders, the most infamous of which just might be Chrysler’s recent F-bomb drop on Twitter, which cost New Media Strategies their relationship with the auto giant.

It’s not just agencies that sometimes get it wrong, in-house marketing teams also fall prey to social media snafus. Who can forget about GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons and his proud tweets about killing problematic elephants?

Now, the horror stories can be quite daunting, but there’s no need to shy away from social media. The social space is a very viable source of traffic and visibility and should definitely be considered as part of a comprehensive marketing mix. The trick is to take control of social media even when outsourcing by drafting policies and content guidelines to help community managers and agencies create content that is in-line with your brand or business.

Who’s managing your channels?

First thing’s first, businesses and brands need to put thought behind who they select to manage their social channels. Whether it’s a PR firm, a Digital Marketing agency, or an in-house community manager, Twintern or Tweetologist, there must be accountability and guidelines. Don’t make the mistake of putting a youngster behind your social media management without some sort of direction or you just might have to clean up some sort of PR catastrophe.

Remain in Control!

Before any content is pushed on any social channel, a social media policy needs to be in place. Save the drama for your mama and draft rules about who will manage the channels and what kind of content is ok to push through those channels.

Don’t get too carried away here, social media still needs to be managed in near real time and it needs to be genuine, but make sure the people managing the channels and content are aware that they will be held accountable for what they do with those channels. Define clear brand messages and the do’s and don’ts of what can and cannot be posted on these channels.

Have a strategy!

The easiest way to let your social channels get away from you is to manage them without a clear strategy in place. No matter your business, it’s important to make sure you have your goals and strategy clearly defined for implementation. This allows for structure to develop around content and management of the channels.

The use of social media to execute business objectives can be immensely successful, jut check out this Social Media Case Studies Super List for inspiration in planning your social strategy.

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