Showing your personal side on social media can be beneficial for your business. As a matter of fact, showing your brand’s “human” side – when done correctly – can give your business a very welcome boost, netting you more followers and potential customers.
There is such a thing, though, as being “too human.” Especially since it’s your business social media accounts we’re talking about here.
If you’re not careful, the wrong kinds of social media updates can be detrimental to your business. The negative effects of careless updates can range from losing a handful of followers to inciting rage and stirring up controversy for your business. You may have heard the saying “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” Believe me, though – you do NOT want your business to be in the eye of a massive Internet rage-storm.
Much like in real life, it pays to think carefully about what you say and do on social media, especially since your updates are, to your fans, a reflection of your business as a whole. This is made even worse by the fact that it’s really, really hard to make the Internet forget things – especially when they’re brand blunders.
Read on and learn the kind of updates and behaviour you should avoid (and learn from the experiences of a few brands on social media as well) :
1. Don’t spam your followers with invitations and requests.
Social media is a great way to start conversations with your audience. The operative word here, though, is “conversation.” It’s a two-way street. Sending followers endless messages, sales pitches, etc. certainly isn’t a “conversation.” This is even worse than email spam – your customers can at least set filters for their inboxes.
Spammy updates, however, can cause your audience to get annoyed and completely lose faith in your brand, making them unfollow you (or even swear to never buy from you again). Remember: Respect your customers’ personal space, digital or otherwise.
2. Don’t be disrespectful and confrontational.
One of the best ways social media can help foster stronger ties with your clients is that it serves as a platform for them to send you feedback. Of course, you won’t be getting bright and sunny feedback all the time – and you’ll have to learn how to deal with negative feedback pretty quickly. Getting angry at your customers and adopting an offensive, confrontational tone is certainly NOT the way to do it.
Stay professional on social media; remind your social media managers to do this all the time.
Avoid the temptation to shoot out snarky and sarcastic retorts. We’ve all heard about how Wendy’s Twitter account gives sharp, witty replies to its followers, but it’s really not as easy as it looks. If you’re not confident that you can master the kind of humour that your audience appreciates, don’t bother trying.
3. Avoid shameless and incessant self-promotion.
You can’t take the “marketing” out of “social media marketing,” true. What you CAN do, though – even if you don’t mean to – is to put too much focus on it, without realising that too much marketing can make your brand seem irritating or even insensitive.
Case in point: Cinnabon’s tweet dedicated to Carrie Fisher, which contained a illustration of the beloved actress as “Star Wars”’s Princess Leia, with a Cinnabon Classic Bun standing in for her signature hair bun. Though your take on this issue may be different, it can’t be denied that it did ruffle a lot of feathers, especially from folks who felt that this was an insensitive attempt to capitalise on the passing of a beloved pop culture icon.
4. Never hijack hashtags.
Don’t piggyback on trending hashtags, especially if you’re not sure what they’re for. Kenneth Cole learned this the hard way when he used the trending hashtag #Cairo during the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt to promote his new collection, paired with a tweet that many users found insensitive.
Another example is DiGiorno Pizza’s tremendous #WhyIStayed blunder, in which the brand unintentionally downplayed the issue of domestic violence by tweeting “You had pizza” as a reason. Yikes.
5. Don’t share sensitive information (yours and others’).
Be mindful of the info you share on social media, as it could have massive repercussions. Not sharing your customers’ private information is obviously a given. What you might not be aware of, though, is that sharing critical information (such as financial earnings) could have grave consequences you never could have imagined.
In April 2015, investment information provider Selerity leaked their quarterly earnings. They justified this by saying that they found the information via Twitter’s Investor Relations website; this didn’t stop users from selling their shares, though, leading to a frightening fall in Twitter’s shares in just an hour.
6. Never, ever post rants.
Tempted to post a rant on your social media account? Here’s a tip: Don’t. Learn from Tinder’s rather baffling gaffe in 2015, when the company posted a series of Twitter updates complaining about the not-so-nice things Vanity Fair had to say about it.
Users were surprised to read a stream of angry and desperate tweets from the official Tinder account, which they deleted and apologised for the next day.
7. Avoid getting political (if it’s not your arena).
It is rarely a good idea for your business to get political on social media. There are way too many factors and delicate issues-within-issues that could cause your brand to accidentally slight, misrepresent, insult, or offend a specific culture, subgroup, or segment of your audience.
Take Starbucks, for example, when it started its #RaceTogether campaign that encouraged people to treat their stores as venues for discussions on racial issues. This did not go as well as they’d hoped, with some people finding this superficial, and others quickly pointing out certain aspects of the issue that the brand had a rather unfortunate association with. They stopped the campaign within a week, but… well, as I said earlier, the Internet sadly never forgets.
8. Do your best to avoid “That's not what I meant” moments.
Always think of the implications of your update before you post it. Avoid insensitive or careless messaging that can easily be misinterpreted. In 2015, BIC South Africa posted an image on Facebook in celebration of National Women’s Day.
Unfortunately, the post invited the brand’s followers to “look like girls, act like ladies, think like men, and work like bosses.” I guess I don’t have to explain why that didn’t quite sit well with a lot of people.
As a general rule, don’t post it on the Internet if you wouldn’t say it in person.
Have you made any of these business social media mistakes in the past (or do you have any other no-nos and examples to share)? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Liz Azyan is interested in the ways new kinds of social data and technology introduce challenges and opportunities to society. Get involved with Liz’s latest project here.