For a company, deciding to go social and begin using or expanding the use of social media is a big step. One of the challenges described in digital communications and social media today is the loss of control that companies face when moving to social media marketing. In the Watson-Helsby Report, loss of control refers to the loss, or perceived loss, of control by the company of its communication message. Once the message is live, people can comment on it, copy it, forward it, etc. Companies have to deal with the reality that they will need to constantly monitor to be sure their message is clear.
Loss of control may be a great challenge, but it can also serve to be a great strength for certain organizations. Companies with loyal consumers and followers can count on those followers to stand up for the company when the message is relayed incorrectly. Have you ever experienced a consumer jumping in on behalf of a company when someone posts or tweets a negative message?
CVS and Twitter
CVS is a pharmacy retail store across the country. According to Sprung (2012) and Fenwick (2011), when CVS launched a Twitter account @CVS_Cares, it decided to protect its tweets. This meant that consumers wishing to follow the feed had to request approval to do so.
Privacy and control are important, but when a company decides to use social media it must commit to doing so to take full advantage of a particular tool. CVS may have maintained some control by approving those who could follow it, but lost a great benefit of social media: transparent connections that develop into meaningful relationships.
Would you follow a brand which protected its tweets or otherwise tried to control access to its social media networks? Why or why not? Is your response different for an individual?
Learning from CVS
The lesson we can learn from CVS is that a company needs to commit to social media if it decides to start using it. It is usually worse to have a social media presence but overly control and restrict content users can post than to have no presence at all. The point of social media is to allow transparency in order to build meaningful, long-lasting relationships. Companies must be willing to give up some control in order to achieve the benefit. Even though CVS tried to restrict access to its Twitter feed and thus gain some control over the discussion, CVS cannot control the rest of the social media world and what people are doing and saying about CVS outside the realm of an official-CVS site.
@CVS_Cares Twitter was officially closed in June 2010.
What do you think?
Was CVS’ attempt to control its social media presence helpful or harmful to spreading the word about CVS?
In terms of control, there are certainly better ways for a brand to maintain control. The first, and most important, should be to develop a plan for what to do in the event of a loss of control – a social media crisis plan. What are some other suggestions you as a consumer have for brands?
CVS now has a Twitter handle @CVS_Extra, and no approval is needed to follow these Tweets. The messages are personable and reflect transparent conversations with consumers. CVS appears to have changed its perspective on control, and the dialogue is much more positive.
Fenwick, I. (7 March 2011). Marketing in Social Networks. Retrieved from http://blog.digiaindra.com/2011/03/marketing-in-social-networks/.
Sprung, R. (16 February 2012). 7 Rookie Social Media Mistakes by Big Brands. Retrieved from http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/31310/7-Rookie-Social-Media-Mistakes-From-Big-Brands.aspx.
The Watson-Helsby Report. (2010). Digital communications and social media: The challenges facing the PR industry. Retrieved from http://www.scribd.com/doc/31722606/Digital-Communications-and-Social-Media-the-Challenges-Facing-the-PR-Industry.