Social media fail? All you need to do is apologise and move on

Justin Pearse is MD of The Drum's content marketing agency The Drum Works and is a member ofBIMA's executive committee. He is a former editor of New Media Age.

Social Media Week is a Marmite type of event. Greeted in some corners by squealing hysteria and wide eyed enthusiasm, it’s sneered at by others as a prime example of the vacuous digital marketing echo chamber.

Justin Pearse observes a growing maturity at Social Media Week

The, let’s be honest pretty hilarious even though it included one of my sessions, ‘this is not an insight’ Tumblr page of inanity from Social Media Week presentations sums up the latter attitude.

While it’s easy, especially if you’ve been around for a while, to be dismissive of Social Media Week, it remains an interesting barometer of thinking. Like any digital discipline, channel or media, the need for social media in particular to be singled out for its own week of celebration will fade as it takes its rightful place as an integrated element of digital marketing.

At present, though, social media remains a rapidly emerging discipline. While the social media experts in the close knit digital industry may assume its mainstream understanding, questions at Social Media Week, on top of the continuing flood of studies highlighting a lack of understanding at board level, show we still have far to go.

What is true and what I found hugely refreshing, is that the industry itself is evolving fast. At events though the week, issues that at last year’s Social Media Week were still a source of obsession, measurement and moderation, were today if not completely solved, then just a part of normal day to day business.

The theme of 2013 overall is the realisation that if you make a mistake in social media all you need to do is apologise and move on. That playground phrase ‘social media fail’ that you once couldn’t move in the industry for hearing is thankfully on its way out.

This isn’t because brands don’t misstep in social media any more, of course they do. Social media, digital in general, has irrevocably changed the relationship between brands and consumers. When you join your customers or potential customers in an ongoing conversation, of course you’re going to slip up and say the wrong thing from time.

That is just part of any conversational relationship and when we make a mistake in our normal relationships, we just say sorry and move on with no long term damage. Brands are slowly starting to understand this is the only way to behave on social media.

The days of panic-fuelled all night meetings about how to defuse a social media faux pas are thankfully drawing to a close as a new social media maturity settles in.

This maturity extends to how brands are measuring the effectiveness of their social media activity. What stuck out for me was Asda’s approach, which could be summed up as ‘if your Facebook post hasn’t received over 100 likes in the first few minutes kill it and start again.’

Nothing so simplistic obviously but head of social media Dominic Burch was refreshingly straightforward in his approach to ensuring content resonated with his customers, stating he had no problem killing a post as a last resort if it didn’t match his success metrics of a few hundred likes in a few minutes.

With any brand daring to delete its own posts being seen as near sacrilege until just recently, this is another great sign of maturity.

Social Media Week will no doubt be as divisive as ever within the industry next year but as a snapshot of an industry it remains illuminating.

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