Every now and again we stumble across something that makes you think “this person really shouldn’t be allowed near the internet”. It is increasingly easier to achieve your fifteen minutes of fame by posting something reprehensible, or making quite the grave error when starting a campaign. The latter is particularly true for some businesses, who experience PR nightmares when a rogue employee (or ex-ployee around 15 minutes later), a hacker, or simply someone doing the social media that forgot to proofread, ends up dooming their campaign to hilarity and mockery that ends up becoming more famous online than the brand themselves.
Famously when HMV was firing hundreds of employees, the first we knew about it occurred when an irate team member in charge of their social media broke the news to their many thousands of followers, before spreading like wildfire in the Twitter-sphere. The inside look at the catastrophe even ended with a quote overheard from the HMV Marketing Director: “How do I shut down Twitter?” Then you have the #ask campaigns, where our least favorite companies try to engage their followers by answering their questions. I’ll let you make your own mind up about how the #AskSeaWorld campaign went …
My personal favorite has to be when David Cameron (or whatever sentient computer AI is in charge of his Twitter) posted the painfully cringe-worthy image of him apparently on the phone to Barack Obama trying to work out the civil unrest in Ukraine. This prompted the likes of Rob Delaney, Graham Linehan and Patrick Stewart to respond by holding random household items up to their ears pretending to be in on the obviously imaginary conversation, leading to people in their thousands doing the same, with items such as dogs, vases, and in one case at least, sex toys. Before long the wizards of Photoshop around the world got creative and patched in Putin holding an ostrich, face-swapping Cameron’s face and the phone.
Whilst these mishaps can be bad publicity, they can almost always result in a huge amount of free advertising. If thousands of people are sharing and re-tweeting your mistake, that’s an enormous amount of exposure. But outside of humorous mistakes and misfires when trying to start a campaign, there are other ways businesses can utilize social media badly, in a way that results in your company going completely unnoticed. Let’s run down a list of mistakes you to avoid when trying to raise your brand’s image and visibility online.
Too Much, Too Little
The see-saw movement of social media is a difficult one to balance at the best of times. On the one hand, having regular content and posts is something Google drools over when it comes to your ranking, and it’s important to keep your customers engaged to have a flourishing business online.
However, it would be bad practice to over-do it. Think about just how much that one person on your Facebook feed you hate constantly posts attention-seeking rubbish? Now imagine a business doing that. You’d break your finger hitting that “unlike” button. Remember, how you appear online is your primary image to the average consumer now. Constant sales posts all day is a sure fire way to turn people in the opposite direction.
On the other side of that see-saw is the blank page approach – lacking content. This can occur in many ways; from lack of branding on your social pages, to general lack of content. It makes it far harder to find your business without regular content. Lord Google will shun you down that ranking list, and without regular, consistent branding, customers will find it hard to recognize you, or even trust you. Blank pages look a little more like fan-run pages with little effort, or the auto-generated ones that LinkedIn provide. Without a presence on these accounts, your potential customers will drift away to your competitors. But, with your theme and ethos overlapping into all of your accounts, with regular content that isn’t solely focused on selling, it’s easy to keep people intrigued.
Choose Your Words Wisely
OK, now you’ve found how to balance the content you are putting online. You’re not going into overdrive with your sales pitch, and you’ve got your select few accounts to focus on. Now, the next step is how to approach the inevitable comments you’re guaranteed to receive from people. I know, I know, talking to other people is frustrating. But this is the face of modern customer service now – gone are the days of the private phone call between angry man #438 and John, your customer care adviser. Complaints are public domain, and so are the responses, or lack thereof.
This is the first mistake some businesses make: ignoring them altogether. Tough, strongly worded complaints aren’t easy to deal with, especially when they contain the most creative uses of our favorite four letter words. One famous example of customer service failure came courtesy of the London Underground, advising a traveler who was complaining about line closures to simply “Leave earlier”. Be polite, be sincere, and make an effort to solve a problem, and resolve the issue. And, the more this happens, the more you will see glowing tweets and posts about how nice you are.
Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
Too many times we have seen companies go into damage control mode in an attempt to put out the flames of a social media disaster. I have fleeting memories of American Apparel celebrating July 4th with what they must have believed was a picture of fireworks, which actually turned out to be an image of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. Then you have US Airways tweeting an extremely NSFW image to someone who complained about their flight being late, bearing in mind that the image wasn’t in any way censored, nor did you have to click a link to open it.
And here is our next lesson, kids. Double. Check. Everything. Triple check if you must. Posting something that could be deemed as dangerously insensitive or offensive to people (e.g. DiGiorno Pizza making light of a well-publicized domestic abuse case) can lead to spending a lot of time trying desperately scrambling to repair your image online. But beware; the general Twitter and Facebook populous have faster reactions that you. One slip can make you infamous for a day, and famous for life because of one a mistake.
Goals and Analysis
We’re approaching the conundrum of our social media car-crash avoidance guide here, so it’s time to discuss everyone’s favorite school subject: statistics. Don’t worry, we won’t linger here for long. Let’s say you’ve taken the above into consideration, balancing the post-load, branding every account accordingly, making sure not to offend anyone or calling them names, and the campaign is running smoothly with no backlash or widespread coverage. How do you know if this is having an effect on your visibility?
It’s worth setting yourself milestones to achieve, a certain number of likes or followers, mentions or shares, to help motivate yourself towards a specific target. Then, taking note of everything, running analytics, seeing which posts are more successful than others. This way, you can focus on the most successful part of your company’s online development. It’s disheartening to put so much effort into campaign without tracking clicks, likes and shares – it’s important to measure these stats so you know which campaigns have the highest success rate.
We’re not trying to imply that you’ll make the same horrific blunders as HMV or US Airways, we know you’re smarter than that. If you’re unsure on what you’re about to post online, ask a colleague or friend and see what they think. Don’t be famous online for your mistakes, be famous for your success!