In late May 2014, Business Insider published an article about the processes by which corporations and their brands plan and manage their social media efforts.
It elicited derision and snorts of laughter in response.
Why? For starters, the story sported this irreverent headline: “We Got a Look Inside the 45-day Planning Process that Goes Into Creating a Single Corporate Tweet.”
And inside the article, it was revealed that it took the four-person agency team that handles the social media program for the Président Cheese brand 45 days to take a single tweet from conception to published reality.
For the record, here is the tweet as it finally appeared on Twitter:
On the one hand, it seems patently ridiculous that a single tweet should take so long to germinate, come to fruition and be published. At that pace, the Président Cheese brand is going to be left in the dust.
[To add further insult, the social media accounts in question had only ~100 Twitter followers and ~220 Facebook likes at the time.]
But let’s look more closely. The tweet is recommending serving camembert cheese at room temperature for better flavor, rather than straight out of the refrigerator.
It’s a mild enough suggestion … but it has potential negative implications concerning food safety — or at least the perception of such.
When one is a brand sold nationally, such considerations aren’t merely theoretical; a simple tweet can be turned into a cudgel to beat over the head of the brand in the case of a lawsuit over food sanitation.
Considered in those terms, it no longer seems quite so strange that it took the MarComm agency so many days to go from ideation through the review-and-approval process to get to publication.
And the four agency people involved? They’re the team assigned to the brand’s social media account, and the full group’s involvement was a single meeting to discuss the upcoming month’s social media topics.
It turns out that “planned” topics represent about one-third of the Président Cheese activity on social media platforms; the rest of the postings are done on the fly, responding to customer chatter, answering questions or weighing in on other comments, and responding to food trend news or other developments that tie in with the world of food, hospitality and entertaining.
So, like so many other factors in the business world and in life, the 45-day tweet isn’t a black-and-white issue of failure; it’s shades of gray.
Now that we’ve seen both sides of the coin, I think it’s still legitimate to question the length of time and the amount of energy required to post a single tweet.
Several ways to correct this come to mind. One is for brands to stay away from any topics that might expose them to the risk of public relations problems or potential legal repercussions.
But in a world where brands are competing against an endless crowd of other social posters … that seems like a pretty sure ticket to irrelevance and social media oblivion.
At the same time, any MarComm agency or in-house social media department needs to adhere to some practical standards of vetting so that some ill-conceived post doesn’t blow up in the company’s face.
The sweet spot — or at least the proper balance between interest, efficiency and prudence — would be creating a streamlined client approval process involving only one or two people (plus backups) who are sufficiently attuned to the brand’s market position and the best ways to advance it and protect it.
Oh, and the team assigned to the responsibility needs to be available 24/7 for vetting purposes (hence the need for backup personnel who are at-the-ready).
It may be a pesky responsibility, but in the “always-on” world of marketing today, it’s really the only way to go if one wishes to participate on the interactive playing field.
The alternative is a tweet that takes weeks to be published … and I doubt anyone is ever going to be satisfied with that.