5 social media blunders and how to avoid them

Mistakes happen to everyone, but when you make them in an online network, you might never live them down.

Ever worry about making a “social media snafu?” That’s a good thing. Being concerned, alert, and watchful about what you do on your social media channels is better than posting blindly and not having a “method to your madness.” Time and again, brand representatives have made mistakes, and I will tell you: Blunders will happen to most of us. Whether it’s minor, like a mistaken tweet, or a larger gaffe, like a contest gone wrong, we all make mistakes. Here are some “snafus” that reps for major brands have made (a.k.a., they’re human, too); you can learn from them and avoid making the same missteps. 1. Errant tweet! Who hasn’t seen the Red Cross mis-tweet? An employee at the organization mistakenly sent this through the official Red Cross account, believing it was his own feed. It went viral, but Red Cross handled it with grace. The organization assured loyal donors that staffers were indeed “sober,” but the cool thing was that the tweets and hashtags used (which continued via Dogfish beer) raised even more donations. Who knew that showing a little human side could increase awareness and create more ROI? Despite the happy ending for the Red Cross, it is best to keep your personal and professional tweets separate. For example, on my iPhone I have the Twitter and Hootsuite apps for that purpose. Not a fan of those apps? Choose the apps you prefer for on-the-go tweeting. It’s great to do it this way, so you can use one for work and one for your personal brand. I have made the mistake of tweeting on the wrong handle, and I find it easiest to keep things separate in order to avoid snafus like that of the Red Cross. 2. Who has the keys? Although the “younger” folks know how to use social media—because they’ve been thrown into it at an earlier age—does that mean they know how to use it properly for business? When making hiring decisions and “handing over the keys,” companies should not hire based solely on social media experience, but also on experience in business strategy and implementation. Vodafone realized this after the fact. The company had a junior employee handling its online community, and the young gentleman foolishly posted a homophobic comment on the brand’s Twitter page. Immature? Yes. Inexperienced? Most definitely. Hand over the keys with care, folks—it’s just your brand’s reputation on the line. 3. Customer service? Ever had a customer service rep fall asleep while making a house call? That’s what happened to Comcast. Unfortunately for this guy, everyone else has shared in his nap, too. Comcast realized this type of customer service is intolerable. The company ramped up its customer service efforts on Twitter and has since become an industry leader in helping customers via tweets and DMs. Thus, it is possible to turn things around—and it’s imperative to do so as soon as possible. Customer service is crucial for many brands, and without it, consumer loyalty may vanish. Using Twitter the way Comcast does for instant and real-time customer service is a great way to go about it. 4. Video gone wrong. Motrin had a promotional video in which a woman said that wearing a baby sling is a great way to bond with her child, but that it can also cause the mother great pain. This video was controversial with its target market, and it quickly went viral. Isn’t that great? Not so much when mothers are vehemently protesting it. There were blog posts, tweets, Facebook updates, and more about the offending campaign. Yikes! Motrin shut down the video and apologized, but the clip’s still out there and many have seen it. Lesson? When focusing on a particular target market and using a medium that inherently has immediate impact—such as online video—make sure your medium and message truly cater to that target market. Not all campaigns work, and there can be backlash, as nearly every consumer has a voice via social media. It’s the risk that brands take in a venue where most content is consumer generated. It can also be rewarding. So, strategize carefully and realize what your target audience wants before you release your brand’s campaign. 5. Where’s your target market? Speaking of target markets, where are they online? Facebook? Twitter? Blogs? It is essential to determine where your brand’s target market is. Although it’s good to be present on all the main sites, it’s more important to have a “home base” and focus on where your consumers are listening and engaging the most. The Target chain made the mistake of not doing this. It ignored a blogger, saying its consumers don’t read blogs. Tsk! Tsk! Was there market research to back this up? Even if it’s there, you don’t ignore potential and current consumers, and definitely not bloggers who could and should be used for brand promotion campaigns. Old-school views are not going to work when the mainstream market is consuming most information via new media. In short, find your market online, listen, engage, and monitor. In the end, mistakes will happen. But be gracious, be honest, and be human. Brand reps are not impervious to mistakes, and we have seen that above. Consumers want to see and embrace the human side of brands, so let them. Just minimize the mistakes with an exceptional social media management team. Pam Sahota is a marketing communications and social media manager. You can read more from Sahota on her blog. A version of this story first appeared on oneforty blog. (Image via)

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