I write quite a bit about social media, so I get a fair share of e-mails and comments asking for advice. Most of these come from marketers who've been asked to resurrect some deeply flawed or problematic social media campaigns.
I've dubbed people in these situations "social media medics" -- they're asked to repair the damage and bring back to life a social media strategy that's been utterly knackered by their ill-informed predecessor.
There's a real skill to being a social media medic. Maybe the marketer who came before has written a controversial, ill-informed or simply stupid blog post. Maybe the Twitter account became embroiled in an online storm. Maybe their Facebook work was intrusive and alienating.
Hundreds of things can be done badly in an attempt to market using social media.
Starting afresh is comparatively easy -- and there's a ton of best practice information available on websites such as this one. But fixing a broken campaign, well that's harder.
Here's my advice to someone who's stepped into a new job and been asked to repair damage.
Don't Let Your Employer Expect Miracles
Fixing a brand's reputation takes time, effort, and still more time. Perhaps you've breezed into a new role talking confidently about your social media marketing skills.
If you then discover that your new employer's reputation is lying in tatters thanks to some social media gaffe, then you need to manage their expectations fast.
First, assess the damage. Next, formulate a plan of action and make some decisions about when you hope to see some results. Outline your conclusions to your boss.
Don't be tempted to play down the problem or to exaggerate the successes you're hoping for. Otherwise, your predecessor's failure could end up reflecting badly on you.
Draw a Line
Make sure the online community knows you're a new broom by introducing yourself. Whether it's a blog, Twitter account, forum, whatever -- make sure people can see you're new and don't be afraid to show some personality.
This will draw a line under the previous, flawed marketing -- giving you a platform to start afresh from.
While the web is a spiteful place, it's also surprisingly forgiving if you'll only acknowledge the error and take steps to fix it.
After introducing yourself, you could acknowledge mistakes made and state that they won't be happening again. Your online peers will like you more for admitting there have been problems rather than if you simply tried to breeze over it.
Of course, you should only acknowledge there have been problems if the company has been hit by a social media disaster and people have been publicly complaining about it.
If you move to a new company and think the previous blogger was boring, don't go public with your criticisms! Only acknowledge mistakes that have already been noticed, don't go drawing attention to them.
Follow Best Practice From the Start
Don't allow yourself to carry on with any of the flawed efforts that have been used before, even if your new employer wants you to.
If you know something won't work, then don't do it. You've told people that you're new management, so make sure everyone can see just how differently you intend to go on.
Your new employer has brought you on board to remedy their social ills. Don't allow yourself to be pressured into continuing anything you consider less than perfect.
Ask for Feedback
What hasn't worked previously? Ask for feedback and listen to what people have to say about your marketing -- the Internet is filled with people who are all too willing to discuss where you went wrong.
For example, if a blog was too spammy or contained inaccurate, or even plagiarized content, then you could ask visitors if they have any suggestions for the future of the blog, ask what kind of content would be useful to them.
Maybe you won't get any responses, but you'll look good for inviting the feedback. It effectively draws the sting from your online critics.
Social Media Medics
Fixing a damaged brand using social media is difficult, time consuming, and pressured. However, if you can turn an online campaign around and create a success, then you have something to talk about at every future job interview you ever attend.
In a world where so many companies mess up their online presence, social media medics will always be in great demand.