MEDIA MATTERS: Advice from World-Class Journalists and Intriguing Media Minds
Jay Baer is a world-renowned social media strategist and co-author, along with Amber Naslund, of The Now Revolution, a seven-part playbook on how companies should harness the power of the Internet to operate in an era of instantaneous business.
Q. You’re a guru in the social media world. What’s your background?
A. Well, it was an accident. I’ve been involved in digital marketing since 1994 when I really didn’t have any idea it had such promise for the future. Two University of Arizona friends of mine had started the first internet company in Arizona and invited me leave a job I hated in order to help them market their company. I’d never even been on the Internet and I had no idea what they were talking about, but I said, “I’m in!” We grew the company about 10,000 percent in the first year and had customers in 25 countries. It sounds absurd at this point but my partner actually invented virtual web hosting. It went big and it went fast.
Q. What does your book teach about the need for companies to get off the fence and jump into social media?
A. It’s about more than just social media. It’s about transforming the way we do business to embrace real-time communication with our most important audience – our customers. Customers are going to talk about their business interactions – good and bad. The only way for a company to be in the conversation, whether it’s to set the record straight, apologize for a mistake or just solidify important relationships is to have a presence where the customers are. And they’re in social media.
Q. Many a CEO is still afraid she might be creating a platform for public flogging about a mistake the company might make. They are still tentative.
A. Social media doesn’t create negativity; it puts a magnifying glass to it. If you don’t participate you have zero ability to respond to an accusation or change public perception. A CEO would never permit someone at their call center to refuse to talk to people with complaints. Not engaging where your customers are is like not picking up the phone when it rings.
Q. So when is it time for a company to put social media into its communications and customer relations strategy?
A. You want to be in social media before a crisis hits. The idea is to have established a peace time relationship with customers and other publics so that when you do have to reach out and tell your side of the story, you’ve already got followers and an audience that has some interest in hearing what you have to say.
Q. Do companies just need to give their employees full reign when it comes to talking about the company in through their social media?
A. Let’s face it. Companies have already given employees enough to kill the business. We give them business cards, email accounts, phones, cars, proprietary information. Sure, you’ve got to have specific policies with regard to what is and isn’t permitted for an employee to write about…but if you’ve got a problem with an employee bad-mouthing an employer, it’s a staffing problem, not a social media problem.
Q. What do you think is the purpose of the media today?
A. As a former journalism major, I believe it is the role of media is to find the truth. When everyone is a content creator and, therefore, a reporter, I want the media to tell me what is legitimate and what is not. What can I trust as the truth?