Social media has progressed from the infancy stage, with most companies recognizing that they need to have a social strategy in order to effectively communicate with their customers in this day and age.
Social media can be an effective traffic driver when done well, and can truly alienate your customers when done badly, or when perceived to be done badly. Tales of social screw-ups pop up with disturbing frequency, yet some companies still don't get it.
Social as Brand Voice
To many customers, your social accounts are an extension of your brand. When they have an issue, they no longer pick up their phone and dial an 800 number, followed by a frustratingly long series of buttons that may or may not result in them talking to a real person.
Now your customers pick up their phone and tweet at your account, or they post something to your Facebook page. If they're suitably interested in your brand, they'll follow you and engage with you. So you need to ensure that your social presence has the same voice as your brand.
Whoever is in charge of the CIA account captured their voice perfectly with their first ever tweet:
We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.— CIA (@CIA) June 6, 2014
Other brands can be more questionable with their voice. While Pepto-Bismol is a product for when you're not feeling too well, is it really something that you want to push out as brazenly as they did late last year?
The most awkward places to experience, diarrhea? Go.— Pepto-Bismol (@Pepto) October 27, 2013
This tweet resulted in quite a bit of engagement, and quite a few amusing/disgusted responses. While it garnered some publicity for their account, and probably didn't negatively impact their customer base too much, it just seems like it went a step or two too far.
Make sure that your social team knows the voice of your brand, and stays on message without potentially alienating your customers.
Don't Use Unrelated Events to Plug Your Business
When you think about MLK day, you think about the man, and the message. It's a day for reflection. A day for... protecting your eyes?
At least ZZQuil tied in the "We have a dream” speech for their poorly thought out MLK day tweet:
Today is the day for dreaming. Happy MLK Day.— ZzzQuil (@ZzzQuil) January 20, 2014
If you're looking to tie your company into specific events, make sure they actually fit. If not, stay away from them, because you're just going to alienate at least part of your current customer base.
Pick the Right Content on the Right Medium
Harcourts decided to reuse an online ad in a newspaper. While I'm sure that it saved them some money on the creative, how exactly do you click on a newspaper?
Elsewhere, Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina found out the hard way that you need to take care when reusing content across platforms. The following was posted to her Instagram account:
Rather than creating a new post for Twitter, the exact same text was reused and posted there. The main difference between Instagram and Twitter is that Twitter has a 140-character limit. This resulted in the following being posted to Twitter:
As you can see, that's a completely different (and amusing) post, and was deleted/replaced shortly afterwards.
Your social team needs to ensure that any content is tailored to both the platform, and the audience on that platform.
Posting During Solemn Events
If something major is happening in the world, or your specific market (e.g., a major storm, a school shooting, a major world figure passing away), then immediately go to your social accounts and place a hold on anything that's scheduled to go out.
Don't let your account tweet out a 20 percent off special when everyone's in mourning over a national tragedy. Especially don't go back and push out posts about the tragedy tying them in to your brand, as Virgin Active Australia did when Nelson Mandela passed away last year.
Think Before You Post
If something seems like a bad idea, it probably is. Don't post it.
If you're a car company wanting to show off your low emission cars, perhaps showing that through a failed suicide attempt isn't the right way to go.
If you're a clothing company that states that women shouldn't bully each other, and be comfortable with who they are, then posting an image that goes against those statements, then arguing with the very customers that helped to build your brand is not a great idea.
Apologize and Take Your Lumps
When you mess up, don't take the "We were hacked” defense, unless you truly were. Instead, apologize:
Then detail the steps you're taking to make sure something like this doesn't happen again:
Official statement from Hyundai: 'Hyundai understands that the video has caused offence. We apologise unreservedly... (continued)— Hyundai Press Office (@Hyundai_UK_PR) April 25, 2013
continued from last tweet 'The video has been taken down and will not be used in any of our advertising or marketing.'— Hyundai Motor UK (@Hyundai_UK) April 25, 2013