It seems that some companies are viewing social media through the thoroughly outdated prism of a conventional “pitch it and they’ll buy it” advertising paradigm. What they’re failing to grasp is that while in traditional advertising you’re selling the product, in the social media sphere you’re selling yourself: your values, your ethics, your policies and your responsibility. The essence of social media is instilling extreme trust and confidence in your customers so that when they think of your brand, they consider it in the same league as their most trusted friends.

Boneheaded Boardroom Blueprints

There have been various corporate debacles lately where a brand has attempted to sneak in some particularly unpopular change and has been forced to reverse it after online consumers expressed their outrage. The most recent examples form a fool’s gallery of boneheaded boardroom decisions:

  • RIM claiming that their October service outage was over while millions of Blackberry customers were still disconnected.
  • Bank of America rolled out a $5 a month fee just to use their debit cards, and had to quickly roll it right back.
  • Netflix decided to split their company and snuck in a 60% price hike in the process, hemorrhaging 75% of their stock price and tossing the split idea outright.
  • AMD had long trumpeted their Bulldozer microprocessor as an Intel-killer but released a severely hobbled underperformer, leading to their abandonment of the entire high end CPU market.
  • HP got out of the consumer computing market and blew out all its TouchPads for $99… then they ordered a second, full price production run.

Execs Living in Reality-Free Zones

In all of these cases, these brands had made decisions in the rarefied air of the corporate stratosphere where the affirmations of yes-men echo down the hallways and top executives exist in a reality-free zone of private jets and truffled fois gras. They had all forgotten that they are in business only to please the customer. In order to avoid the mistakes of those who run major corporations with less business savvy than a grade-schooler’s lemonade stand, make a determination today to commit your entire company to proactively serving your customers through implementing these top seven social media strategies:

  1. Open up your entire company and make it just as easy for a client’s comment to reach the CEO as it is your customer service staff. When the top executives become detached from how their company is being viewed by their average customer, you can officialy begin the countdown for the first epic fail.
  2. Ensure that your business has taken the interests of each and every one of your customers to heart, and you’re doing everything in your power to make sure that they’re satisfied.
  3. Conduct your business in a fully transparent fashion so that the most ardent diggers of dirt will find absolutely nothing but an ethical company implementing responsible policies.
  4. Have your company’s offers make sense to the consumer because they are clearly superior to the competition, not simply because you have hyped them to the point of incurring mass hypnosis.
  5. Accept the blame publicly without pointing fingers when something goes wrong, and work hard on your social media presences to divulge all information related to the problem, while apologizing profusely.
  6. Refuse to profit from errors, misunderstandings or consumers failing to claim what is rightfully theirs. By ensuring that a customer’s experience of your company is free of red tape and obfuscations, you will cement your reputation as an upstanding corporate citizen.
  7. Be explicitly clear as to what you expect from your social media investment of time and resources. If you’re participating because your consultants have told you that you just have to be there you’re missing the point. Your social media presence is a channel to establish a two way conversation with your customers where both of you can learn from the other, it’s not a “Buy Now” direct sales opportunity.

Embracing the clarity and responsibility of advancing your company’s reputation through social media interaction is the best way to ensure that you won’t be lumped in with the executive lumpheads.