Friday, August 21, 2009

Live by the (Social Media) Sword...

When I posted just a month ago that Whole Foods Market had just become the first consumer brand to pass one million followers on Twitter, I didn't foresee how great a lesson they would become for brands just starting to use social media. Of course, Whole Foods Market is a company with a Facebook presence, a CEO blog, a Twitter presence and RSS feeds, and seems very focused on using tools of the times.

Therefore I guess it shouldn't have come as a surprise that when the CEO contributes an Op Ed piece on the hotly-contested Healthcare debate, the social media spaces where they have a presence reacted - well, strongly!  It is not ever clear whether you're speaking as an individual or as the leader of a company (or as an elected representative, or professional association, etc.) when you make public pronouncements. It is even more open to interpretation in today's world of digital sound-bytes, that get quickly cropped of context, then instantly broadcast, copied, re-tweeted to an eager-to-jump-to-conclusions hungry audience.   

I think at least one lesson for the newbie-in-charge of social media for any brand today is that social media is a two-edged sword that can help you clear a space and stake a claim for your brand, but can quickly and easily be turned against you. Yes, use it. But as with any tool - "With great power comes great responsibility." So be prepared to monitor that same social media space closely. 

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