When it comes to social media and popular culture, building products brands don’t live in such a high-stakes world like consumer brands. But in a way, that makes it even more dangerous, because your guard is down.

A building materials company may not command the attention of the masses, but one offensive Tweet and suddenly the weight of the world is coming down on you. All of the sudden, your brand equity and reputation is in play… getting all kinds of attention.

And not in a good way.

So what can building products brands do to avoid social media fails while still maintaining a productive digital presence?

Know Your Culture

This is an area that, to a large degree, is under-emphasized by many companies. Especially companies that are manufacturing-, engineering-, or sales-driven… like many building products companies are.

But it’s extremely important.

Company culture is more than just having casual Fridays and celebrating people’s birthdays. It’s found in how employees are hired, developed, treated and retained. It’s seen in the way companies value their customers and develop products and services for them.

It’s a huge part of a company’s identity. It’s only natural that this identity finds its way into the social media feeds.

So if there is anything about your company culture that, could be construed as permissive of offensive language or behavior, you need to identify that and deal with it as soon as possible. Because it’s only a matter of time before it gets out.

Find Your Voice, and Stick to It

Think of a person, an individual. Anyone you know. That person has a specific way of talking and expressing themselves. The words they use, their inflection in certain situations, the ways they express different emotions.

That’s their voice.

In a very real sense, a company’s social media feed is its voice. It’s how the company “speaks” to the world. And for anyone tasked with managing a company’s social media feed, they are largely responsible for maintaining the voice.

So it’s extremely important that there are processes, procedures and safeguards in place that keep that voice consistent. Once you start permitting deviations from that voice, it can be a slippery slope that leads to big problems later. As we learned in the Zuckerberg Facebook hearings in congress, it’s time for our senior leaders to get “cyber-woke” and now.

Articulate your Desired Culture

A new vision can’t reside only in the boardroom… it must be clearly shared with all forward-facing troops. We recommend creating a Brand Vision book — that complements your brand identity manual — which clearly outlines the hallmarks of your desired culture and values.

Focus on the Customer

This is a sure way to avoid social media problems. To be a fully integrated brand… insist that everyone in the organization (including those employees whose jobs aren’t customer-facing and who might assume that it doesn’t apply to them) embrace their role in the vision. Maintain an inclusive posture, that ensures every employee — from customer call center to accounting — feels like an indispensable part of the team.

Almost all social media fails happen because companies — or their social agencies — get too caught up in themselves, trying to be memorable in garnering attention. Be careful not to lose sight of your customers, who they are, their sensibilities, and what’s important to them.

Moreover, if a strong focus “on the customer” permeates your organization — and is a defining part of your culture — it will be very difficult for inappropriate content to sneak through.

Why? Because anyone in a communications role, especially in social media, will have been trained and indoctrinated into the company’s customer focus. Developing content that focuses on helping, celebrating, inspiring, or educating customers rarely if ever, will be perceived as offensive.

Align Your Sales & Marketing

Culture, voice, and customer focus. You could argue that they’re all harmony on the same sheet music.

Effective company brands ensure that their sales and marketing communities all understand the importance of those things. When both departments are fully aligned, it actually creates a very powerful safeguard against social media gaffes.

As representatives of the customer in the field, the sales department is plugged into target audiences, their “personas” and what resonates with them… they must share that information with the marketing department. Then, when creating social media content (or directing their communications agency to do it), the marketing department can be certain to capture those messages.

With such an approach, social media fails are nearly impossible.