Five Tips for Avoiding Social Media Faux Pas
Avoiding social media mistakes is crucial in today's times. In this era of “if it’s not online, it didn’t happen,” the power of social media cannot be overstated. In the event industry, it’s the key to expanding audiences, extending the reach of experiential programs and keeping both live and digital customers engaged. Done right, social media can be an all-around brand booster. Done wrong, it can quickly crush an organization’s reputation and alienate its followers. Over the last few years, plenty of brands have learned the hard way that having a definitive social media strategy is paramount. Here, five tips for avoiding common faux pas, and developing a dedicated approach.
Perfect Your Timing
They say, “timing is everything” for a reason. And it’s especially true before publishing an open-ended question or call to action on social media. Take JP Morgan’s #AskJPM hashtag, for instance, which opened the brand up to public questions. If the timing had been right, the post may have created some authentic engagement with customers. But the brand’s recent scrutiny for influencing world financial markets, and subsequent criminal probes, turned the call to action into a marketing nightmare. Rather than asking respectful, service-related questions, users interrogated the company about its business practices. The #AskJPM hashtag even trended—but for all the wrong reasons.
Stay Apprised of Social and Political Trends
For event marketers, keeping up-to-date on pop culture and politics has always been an important part of creating relevant programs—but it goes well beyond figuring out the latest design craze or Snapchat filter. As unpleasant as it may be, brands have to keep up with the negative connotations associated with today’s trending topics as much as the positive ones. It’s a lesson Wendy’s quickly learned after tweeting an image of Pepe the Frog. Originally recognized as a harmless cartoon character and popular internet meme, the image has become a symbol of hate often used among white supremacists to denounce Jewish people. The brand quickly deleted the post, but not before angering plenty of Twitter users—and potential customers.
Keep it Interactive
Posting about your company’s latest events, products or services will likely be an important piece of your social media strategy. But just as critical is leveraging content in a way that encourages interaction with users. Social media, after all, was designed to be reciprocal. In that sense, responding to users’ comments and questions is key to keeping the ball rolling, and can create a meaningful dialogue between a brand and its customers. And if those customers are publishing posts that align with your brand, find a relevant way to join the conversation. Just like in live events, it all comes back to engagement.
In the event of a brand-related incident, it’s easy to get into the routine of sticking by your company’s policies, procedures and approved language, regardless of the circumstances. But the fact is, even if it’s from behind a computer screen, you’re still interacting with human beings. Offering a cookie-cutter response without any emotion behind it isn’t going to cut it. Case in point: The United Airlines debacle. We all remember the unsettling (and ultimately, viral) Facebook footage of the in-flight incident that left a passenger bloodied and bruised after he declined to forfeit his seat to airline maintenance staff.
The episode itself was enough to severely damage United Airlines’ reputation, but the brand’s public reaction to the incident added a whole lot of insult to injury. CEO Oscar Munoz issued an emotionless response, in essence blaming the victim and praising employees for following “established procedures.” The “apology,” which offered no sense of warmth or empathy, resulted in even more social media backlash for the brand when a simple, heartfelt message could have helped ease tensions and reclaim customers.
Use the Right Account
Of course you should use the appropriate social media account when posting on behalf of your organization, so why even bring this matter up? Because there are too many instances of personal posts popping up on official company social media accounts. All too often, an organization’s social media manager forgets to switch from their work account to their personal profile and vice versa, and it can lead to some uncomfortable and unintended consequences. Take KitchenAid, for example, which went from tweeting about its appliances to mistakenly taking a political stance on the presidential election when an employee failed to switch to the proper social media account. The employee was fired, but KitchenAid was left to pick up the pieces. Bottom line: It only takes one social media oversight to leave a dark stain on your brand’s reputation.
Avoiding social media mistakes saves your brand’s reputation and possibly money. Mistakes happen to the best of us. Learning from others’ blunders helps as well as hones your digital strategy to more deeply engage with your customer base. Now that’s something worth sharing.
Check out projects designed and produced by Sparks here.
Posted by Kristy Elisano | Request as a Speaker
Caffeine dependent Jersey girl. Northeast powder hound. Inspired by creative risk takers and underdogs. VP Marketing, Doodle owner and cocreator of my daughter.