The immense power that resides in the virtual hands of social media is undeniable. From world-breaking news to marketing campaigns to pop-culture scandals and personal opinions, the rate at which information can be shared in today’s high tech world is astounding.
Although the rapid ability to share has positively improved the ability of individuals, corporations and non-profits to make and maintain personal connections, expand their reach and ultimately influence the masses; this significant clout has proven to be the source of failures that have squandered the reputations of many. While to you and me, these social media failures may seem like rookie mistakes, some of the largest corporations in the world are guilty of committing what I refer to as “social media suicide.”
The good news? This public form of embarrassment is highly preventable through the establishment of a sound social media policy that will help protect both your personal and/or your organization's brand image.
To fully understand these preventable measures, it is imperative that you understand what NOT to do when managing your various social media accounts. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, or any other media outlet, be sure to avoid making the following costly mistakes:
Top 5 Social Media No-No’s
1. Automation Station: Know when to turn off your bots. Let’s face it; automation and technology have made life easy. While the vast majority of businesses can save an abundance of time and resources by automating their tweets, this is not always an effective way to personalize responses, and more importantly, establish lasting relationships with clients and customers.
A prime example of an automated slip-up occurred in August of 2011 at the Indiana State Fair. After a tragic stage collapse at a summer concert prompted the cancellation of the next day’s activities, prescheduled posts were still sent out reminding fair goers of future event times and locations. As to be expected, this instance of automation was viewed as insensitive.
The lesson to learn? Automation does have its place, and can often be used as a tool that helps to consistently deliver content such as event reminders or contest updates to your followers. Make sure that someone is actively monitoring and updating the account to ensure that accurate information is communicated.
2. The Meltdown: Learn to channel your inner feelings and don’t make content emotional. As an active social media user, you and/or your organization are exposed to the ridicule of all members of society - who unfortunately do not always have the kindest of words to say. However, regardless of the mockery and scandal that you may face, you should never use your social media account to deny and defend attacks in an inappropriate or insulting manner.
Take Amy’s Baking Company’s (Scottsdale, Arizona) word for it. After the local business was featured on an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares,” the owners quickly retaliated with an unforgettable rant, only worsening their situation and further exposing the company to public embarrassment.
3. Standardization and Inactivity: Customize your content and engage your followers to build brand equity. Simply sharing your organization’s weekly press releases, webinars and publications is not an effective way to engage your followers, customers and/or clients. Moreover, signs of inactivity, such as neglecting to post information for days or weeks at a time, reflect negatively on your organization. Make sure to keep content updated and relevant, actively engage other social media members to participate in chats/groups and customize responses to build relationships and create value.
Tips for Success: Use the ‘80-20 Rule’ as a rule of thumb when sharing information via your social media sites. For every post that you push to promote your organization’s content, you should share/retweet outside content four times.
4. PR and Marketing - Large and In-Charge: Allow employees across all functional departments to be actively involved in your entity’s social media strategy. While social media has proven to be a cost effective and efficient way to market ideas, goods and services, its management is too often left under the sole responsibility of PR and/or marketing departments.
A social media account should offer the perspectives of employees across all departments to honestly and accurately represent your brand image. Encourage trustworthy employees to be active participants in your social media feeds and incentivize customers to share/retweet your promotional content.
5. You Tweeted What?: Take the necessary precautions to ensure that not just anyone has access to your social media profiles. In order to effectively portray the diversity of a company and its brand, it is important to incorporate multiple voices from a variety of departments across an entity. However, it’s never smart to make social media passwords a public commodity within the walls in the organization.
It is imperative to realize that employees, and anyone else that is associated with your organization, are extensions of your brand. This means that whatever comes out of their virtual mouths is a direct reflection of you and/or your association.
Make sure to set social media guidelines, monitor employee’s personal social media sites and adopt sound policies to mitigate risks. Failure to do so may land you in the uncomfortable position of dealing with the next Justine Sacco.
Sacco, a former PR executive for InterActive Corp., sent the following tweet before departing on trip to Africa:
This mere 64 characters not only resulted in Sacco losing her job, but it negatively impacted the image of her employer.
Be social media smart. Tweet, post and share information responsibly, establish the strategies, policies and procedures necessary to mitigate risks, and most importantly, wisely take advantage of the immense value that social media can add to your association.