It’s 2014 and by now most businesses, large and small, have caught the Social Media bug. Businesses have realized that Social Media, if leveraged properly, can be quite beneficial and to many it continues to play a significant role in their overall marketing strategy.
However, despite businesses knowing the importance of embracing Social Media there still seems to be not enough emphasis on what to post (or, in this case, what not to post).
What I mean by this is that many appear to be taking full advantage of using Social Media but seem to be forgetting about the most critical element, the content, which is being shared to the public. Specifically, I’m talking about the serious repercussions and intense backlash that your business can face by posting distasteful, offensive and downright ugly content (including images/videos).
Yes, Social Media can be bad for your business. Not only can it be bad but it can quickly ruin (and potentially destroy) a business if the wrong message from your company is being put out there. Time and time again businesses are ‘virtually’ shooting themselves in the foot by making incredibly poor decisions in the Social Media world where one single tweet, post or update is costing them their reputations and more. Some businesses appear to be uneducated in this area, some simply have poor judgment, some outsource it to the wrong people, some tend to get a little too lax with their tongue, and some simply DON’T THINK – whatever reason it may be, bad Social Media is hurting businesses.
What am I talking about? Check out some of these ‘Social Media Fails’ from 2013:
- Did: Justine Sacco apologizes for AIDS in Africa tweet
- They: AT&T 9/11 Tweet
- Just: Applebee’s Social Media Meltdown
- Say: Food Website Exploits Boston Tragedy
- That: Lessons From Amy’s Baking Company
I know what you’re thinking: “Are you crazy? I would NEVER post anything like that!”.
Well, think of it this way. Think of the Social Media World as a concert. You and your business are the main act, waiting to go on stage in front of your massive audience. The microphone is your medium (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and the number of concert goers/attendees represent the number of likes, followers, connections etc. you have. Oh, and the ‘friends’ of those attendees are waiting in line trying to get in. Your audience is eagerly waiting for you to come on stage and announce your next ‘status update’. What would you do? You would probably take a few moments (at least), clear your throat, look yourself over in the mirror and practice the message you’re about to deliver. You want to convey the perfect message, in the perfect way, in the perfect tone so that everyone clearly understands your non-offensive, fantastic message, right?! You wouldn’t jump out on stage and just wing it (at least many of us wouldn’t). You would consider the crap-load of people sitting in front of you, watching your every move, and think to yourself ‘I better THINK before I make my next statement’.
The point of using that comparison is to emphasize that without seeing your audience, face to face, many tend to forget or lose sight of the fact that they’re posting to hundreds, thousands or millions of people. I imagine if you were physically sitting in front of 500,000 people (or whatever number your Social Media audience is) you might think about choosing your words wisely. Mix that mindset with some poor judgment to begin with and you have the perfect recipe for an epic Social Media crisis.
Consider the Following:
If You Post It, They Will Come.
This is not always the case. In fact, often times your posts and updates will go unseen by a huge amount of people. However, say the wrong thing and believe me, people will respond. You’ll get all the Social Media attention you were looking for but in all the wrong ways. In the event that you do offend your audience, be prepared to react and do not bother deleting posts or arguing an invalid point – that will only make things worse. Apologize and go in to PR crisis mode. Frankly, you should be thinking PR with your Social Media efforts anyways. Check out this excellent post by Lisa Barone: Bridging the Gap Between Social Media and PR
I know what you’re thinking: “Tim, I stopped playing with those years (days) ago”. No, I am not talking about those little guys, I’m talking about Internet Trolls. These types of individuals are out there only to cause a ruckus. Even if you don’t say the wrong thing they’re still looking to make your life difficult. But if you do have the unfortunate situation where the wrong thing was said, they will attempt to capitalize on that as much as possible and make your life a living hell.
Social Media Is Permanent.
You’ve probably seen/heard a PSA or two by now about how your actions on the web are permanent – including the good and the bad. Don’t think a quick post deletion will do the trick either, although there are delete options for most Social Media platforms it only takes a second or two for someone to screenshot your post and continue to share it. Frankly, doing so usually makes you look bad anyways. What you say/show is permanent no matter how you look at it. So, post wisely.
“What can go wrong, Will go wrong”. Next time you’re about to share something think about this statement. Think about what your message is saying and how others will perceive your message. Is there are chance that your message/image could be viewed as offensive, insensitive etc.? If so, you may want to reconsider.
Don’t just put anyone in charge of your Social Media voice! All too often companies are putting ‘Bobby‘, the young intern (who has little to no experience in writing or business), in charge of the Social Media efforts of the company. Why? Because he is young and it is assumed that because of his age he is up to date on the latest Social Media trends. Maybe he is – but there is a very fine line between managing personal Social Profiles vs Business profiles. His ideas of what is clever, funny and creative are far from the image your business is seeking. I’m not saying all interns are like this by any means – it’s just an example. Bottom line, hire someone you can trust (with top notch judgment skills) that can convey the values that your business encompasses. Oh, and if you think your staff doesn’t need Social Media training – think again, don’t throw them to wolves, teach them a thing or two about how you want your business presented.
Your Personal Account.
Don’t think your personal account is safe from disrupting things over on the business side. Countless amounts of people have been fired or not hired because of their on-goings on their personal account. If you’re on the hunt for a job your potential employer is likely having a look. Embrace similar etiquette and judgment when using your personal profiles as you would on the business side.
As the title of this post mentions: you have to Think before you post, I cannot reiterate that enough. Remember, in many cases, you’re posting to hundreds, thousands or even millions of people. Your followers have opinions and they are more than willing to share them with the rest of the world (whether or not you post something they don’t like!). If you suspect for one second that maybe it’s a bad ideas to post ‘XYZ’ then maybe it is. So, think before your post!
What To Avoid.
Don’t be spammy, don’t oversell yourself, don’t lash out and the list goes on. In most cases I recommend businesses avoid commenting on Politics, Religion and Controversial News – most of the time, nothing good will come of it. If you must post on these types of topics be sure to consider that these topics often generate very strong opinions – are you prepared for that? HubSpot also offers a nice list: 10 Taboo Topics to Take Off Your Social Media Account
Your Actions Outside Of Social.
This is very important. Just because this article is primarily about what you do on the web doesn’t mean that your actions outside of the internet won’t make it to the web from someone else. People are strapped with all sorts of phones and doohickeys (technical term) that can snap a photo, share a message, post a review in a heartbeat from their device. I’m saying that if you offend someone at your office, restaurant or place of business there is a chance that it will make it over to web. Screw up big time and those chances increase. Royally piss them off and prepare for a wave of Social Media negativity headed your way. So…be nice 🙂
Check your security. No more ‘Password’ for a password – c’mon people! Poor passwords leave you vulnerable to disasters that can easily be avoided.
Check your spelling. I admit, I’m guilty of uploading some typo-riddled posts from time to time. You look like a dope if you post updates with grammatical errors, people may also see that as a sign of not caring.
Check your timing. Did a major tragedy just occur? Is it a holiday? Be respectful of these times and maybe keep a lid on it.
How Should You Conduct Yourself? Check This Out:
I know what you’re thinking – this post was a total Debbie Downer but I thought it was important to reiterate the fact that businesses not only need to embrace Social Media, but embrace proper judgment when posting. There are tons of blogs out there (including my blog) that talk about all of the things to post (engaging content, pictures, videos, humorous, questions etc.) but I thought it is just as important for businesses to know what NOT to post. If you think you’ll have a hard time following the above tips then you may want to reconsider Social Media altogether.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t post things that may cause a reaction – I’m just saying you should consider the content before doing so.
Well, I hope you’re not drowning in Social-Media-Posting-Paranoia now, that wasn’t my intent – just THINK before you post!