By Kelly Gee, Account Coordinator

Every day, millions of consumers turn to online communities and social networks to share opinions, advice, grievances and recommendations. A 2012 Google and Ipsos study on consumer purchasing intentions indicates that almost 80 per cent of shoppers are likely to use social media and online communities to assist purchasing decisions over the Christmas period.

So how has your business prepared for the holiday shut down? While it may seem inconvenient to maintain social profiles when the business is closed, ignoring these platforms means:

• ignoring consumers at the busiest time of year;
• ignoring your legal obligation; and
• ignoring key opportunities for community engagement.

For B2B brands the holidays can be a slow period for online interaction, while consumer brands may find themselves enjoying a spike in engagement. Below is a checklist of things all brands should consider when heading into Christmas.

Assess
Consider the nature of your brand’s offline and online presence, the needs of your community and the platforms that you operate on. Identify potential threats that could cause an issue for your brand.

Plan
Establish a social media action plan for the break. Set out an easy to follow plan that addresses several likely scenarios and make sure the team knows what to do. Remember to include key contacts for this period, taking into account who will be out of reach and how this can be accommodated.

Assign
Give someone from the team the task of checking company social media accounts at least once per day. This person should have the ability to make decisions about how to respond and have access to key contacts in the business.

Be ready
Address issues quickly. Don’t leave criticisms and questions unanswered. Silence not only implies a lack of concern, but allows the conversation to continue and potentially grow into something unmanageable.

The Australian Advertising Standards Bureau recently released a report classifying company Facebook pages as a form of advertisement. This means that your brand can now be held legally responsible for comments made by users on a company Facebook account. Read more here: http://www.corrs.com.au/thinking/insights/brand-owners-beware-you-are-responsible-for-user-posts-on-facebook/

Whether your brand is large, small, consumer or B2B, the social world will not shut down during the Christmas break. Monitoring social media during the holiday period is not only important from a crisis management and legal perspective, it is also an opportunity that can be harnessed to drive engagement into the new year.