I recently witnessed a full scale fire in a flat across the road from me. I’ve never seen anything like it, except on the TV! Thankfully no one was hurt, but the naked flame from an unattended candle resulted in the whole block of flats being evacuated at 5pm on a Sunday evening, two fire brigades arriving and eight burly firemen spending over six hours putting out the fire and checking the safety of each flat independently.

Understandably, the whole affair was a nasty shake up for all concerned, so being a good (and very English) neighbour, I took over a tray of sugary tea to calm down any frayed nerves. As I was washing up the tea cups, I reflected on the incident and some interesting parallels sprung to mind about the damage that an unattended social media channel can have on your brand. (What can I say, it was Sunday night, I was making plans for my week ahead and I’m always on the hunt for an interesting blog angle!)

Ok, so an unattended social media channel won’t result in any one being physically hurt (thank goodness), but it’s certainly worth considering the serious negative impact that it could have on how your brand is perceived. Gone are the days of one-way communications with your target market. Social media has opened up a dialogue between brand and consumer and with this should come a change in mindset about how you approach your marketing. Social is an ‘always on’ form of communication, it allows consumers to have a voice and to be able to give their input directly to a brand. It should therefore be treated as such, which takes a continuous investment of both time and energy. You need the right strategy in place, followed by ongoing content planning, implementing and community management. And if you get it right, your brands social channels can be one of the most powerful marketing tools at your disposal.

However, many brands are guilty of having great intentions initially when it comes to setting up their social channels and then they struggle to sustain them. A common mistake is to set up a brand channel on every social platform going in order to avoid missing out, but then the reality of maintaining each channel sets in. Post become irregular, messages go unanswered and there is little community engagement? Sound like a familiar story? If so, then you could be doing more harm than good! Put yourself in your consumer’s shoes! What does it say about your brand when people discover a branded Pinterest page that was set up several years ago, posted on a few times and then seemingly abandoned?

A generally agreed rule when it comes to this situation is to apply this phrase ‘Fan the flames or put them out!’ It is far better to focus on really nailing a couple of key social channels (the ones that are most effective for your particular business), than to have numerous channels that are limping along. To establish your focus, first you need to be clear about which social channels your consumer base actually use and then sense check that they are also right for your brand. Next, get realistic about the resource you can put behind your social. Once you have established your focus channels, be brave and put out the smouldering flames of any lingering channels. This will allow you the time to really focus on fanning the flames of your chosen few!

This might be easier said than done, so don’t forget, your friendly neighbourhood tea lady is always at hand to provide support, advice or a much needed cuppa if needs be.