When it comes to avoiding social media disasters, there seems to be one simple rule: “duh!”
As individuals, we exhibit common sense every day (hopefully) in how we interact with the world and the people in it. We consider our audience, analyze the impacts of our words and actions, and decide where to draw our own lines of candor, decency and connection.
The importance of this kind of thoughtfulness is even more important for brands. And it amplifies exponentially in an increasingly connected world.
Take the two causal F-Bombs dropped during the Q&A session after Marla Erwin’s panel at SXSW Interactive. As individual’s comments made in a 150 seat conference room, we can assume they were relatively self-contained between the people in the room, most of whom chalked it up to “surprisingly colorful language used to emphasize a point at a business conference.”
Drop inappropriate language online and you likely won’t be so lucky. Even a small number of Twitter followers or Facebook friends have the ability to amplify your comments online in a matter of hours.
Such was the case with Kenneth Cole, whose snarky Tweet linking the upheaval in Cairo to the arrival of his spring line saw outrage, analysis and parody spike instantaneously.
The same is true for Motrin, whose TV ad targeting baby-wearing Moms outraged the all-powerful Mommy Blogger set and quickly led to countless parody videos mocking the brand.
There’s debate on the overall impact of such social media snafus. Some argue the spike in attention and followers can serve as a silver lining and give companies a broader audience to share an apology with; others point to the dramatic impact the social hive can impart on brand perception and resulting sales.
What’s inarguable is the ability of social media to immediately amplify anything a company says or does, good or bad. So why not follow some of the simple lessons Erwin outlines when engaging through social media?
- Have trusted staff in place. It’s important that your online presence have a real, human personality. It’s also important for that human to understand the company’s culture and values and know how social media works.
- Be thoughtful about what you say. Duh! (See Kenneth Cole.)
- Don’t be crass. Duh! Again. (Check out this example from Pepsi.)
- Mocking your customers is bad. More, duh! (See Motrin.)
- Sometimes, you are the problem. Threatening to suppress exposure can increase it. Don’t fall prey to “the Streisand Effect.”
- If you apologize, mean it. Your actions must mirror your words. If you don’t think you did anything wrong and don’t intend to change your behavior, don’t apologize.
- Be transparent. The social herd has a nose for the genuine.
- Update your tactics. Don’t respond to a parody video with an official statement. Make a cool, sincere apology video of your own.