Imagine you built up a vast social media following — but because of one small oversight, your reputation started to crumble right before your eyes. Sadly, this scenario is not that farfetched, because some businesses leap into the social media arena without understanding how to maintain a relationship with their customers while avoiding some obvious pitfalls.
By studying some mistakes by other companies that have resulted in negative exposure, you can learn how your business can avoid a similar fate. Here are five easy-to-avoid mistakes.
- Being crass about current events. Last year, designer Kenneth Cole used the publicity of an international crisis in Cairo to post about his products. He even used the hashtag #Cairo to try to build buzz and reach others who were searching for tweets on the crisis. The reaction was so strong that you won’t find Kenneth Cole’s old Twitter account anymore. It has been replaced. Reacting to current events can be plus for your brand, but consider how some people might react if it looks like you’re trying to capitalize on a very serious situation. Be respectful and tread lightly when talking about current events. Take a minute to put yourself in another person’s shoes and ask how your post could be perceived. It’s possible that if Kenneth Cole had taken a few extra minutes to think through his tweet, he may have decided not to publish it.
- Getting too personal. Be careful when posting personal content, whether or not you feel it is valuable. Your customers consider your social accounts the face of your brand. Bob Parsons, Go Daddy founder, posted a video of his trip to Zimbabwe on his blog. In the video, Parsons told the audience how he kills elephants because they damage crops, which endangers the lives of the starving locals. After Parsons published the video, the media outlets ran with the story, and some customers boycotted Go Daddy and its services. Though Parsons explained the story in more detail, the damage had already been done. Regardless of whether Parsons was doing a good deed, this type of personal content is not appropriate for customers. Occasional personal content is effective for creating connections with your customers, but keep it light and don’t antagonize people.
- Being spammy. Resist the temptation to capitalize on the popularity of another company to promote your products. Habitat UK tried to take advantage of the trending topics #Apple, #iPhone and others to acquire some traffic. Unfortunately, the strategy backfired because the tweets had nothing to do with Apple computers or any of its products. Tweeters posted negative messages to Habitat UK’s account, complaining about its “spammy” behavior. Your customers are not stupid. They know when you are trying to manipulate the system. Stay genuine, and don’t piggyback on other companies’ successes. It will only make you look desperate.
- Putting your account in the wrong hands. The people who tweet or post on your company’s behalf have the fate of your company’s image in their hands. What they post could potentially damage your reputation. Invest enough resources into finding the right people who will put their opinions aside and prioritize the integrity of your company. Ensure your social media managers understand the essence of your company culture and how you want your brand portrayed.
- Pretending your mistake didn’t happen. If you ever make a mistake, own up to it and apologize. Your customers will respect you for admitting your mistakes and you can save your brand from any negative backlash. People forgive transparent mistakes much more than they excuse complete denial.
Have you made any of these social media mistakes? How have you resolved them?
A.J. Ghergich is the CEO of Authority Domains.