Speak up! On social media, silence is rarely golden.

In the constant struggle for influence, many brands dream of having their time in the social media spotlight. Two weeks ago, Poland Spring missed a golden opportunity to capitalize on a fortuitous situation with their decision to ignore a place where millions of conversations happen every day. Following President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s sip from a tiny bottle of Poland Spring water turned his Republican rebuttal into an immediate viral storm. The sip seen around the world quickly sparked a #watergate hashtag, a Lil’ John remix and innumerable GIFs. It got our PR brains churning: How was Poland Spring going to respond to one of the greatest spontaneous self-promotion opportunities of all time?

JiminyCricket

It turns out, they did next to nothing. Instead of capitalizing on a fortuitous event that could have brought them new followers by the bucketload, Poland Spring’s Twitter handle remains now as it did three years ago - silent. Eventually, they uploaded this photo to their Facebook page, along with the caption, “Reflecting on our cameo. What a night!”

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Although something is always (well, usually) better than nothing, Poland Spring’s lengthy delay addressing the fun being had at Rubio’s expense, an embarrassing public comment from a company spokesperson (“I haven’t seen what’s going on on Twitter.”) and the ongoing lack of Twitter engagement illustrates that the brand has ceded control of its Twitter presence to others on the web, including parody accounts, like @RubioH2OBottle. It’s the Twitter equivalent of this distressing phenomenon: Facebook is the most visited social website in the world, with over one billion monthly users. If your brand doesn’t have a Facebook page, it is missing out on the opportunity to engage with thousands of potential and current consumers. Even scarier, if your brand doesn’t have a Facebook Business Page, Mark Zuckerberg and his Band of Merry Programmers will simply pull information on your company from Wikipedia. Since Wikipedia entries can be edited at any time by just about anybody, it leaves your brand vulnerable to misrepresentation.

YourBrand

In this case, Poland Spring was lucky and simply missed out on some easy publicity. However, 58% of consumers expect brands to respond to complaints via social media, so the possibility of negative backlash also exists. Brands need to keep in mind that social media conversations about them are already happening, with or without purposeful involvement. Being a good listener on social media platforms will increase internal awareness of both good and bad buzz circling your brand and help the brand to become an engaged participant in the online dialogue with their consumers.

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