Social media is probably one of the greatest networking inventions of our time. You can share your opinions, thoughts, ideas & photos with just about anyone in the blink of an eye. You can use it to connect with friends and family, create new relationships or even start a business – social media is great for everyone and just about everything!
Except when it isn’t.
Many people like to forget that social media is just like any other sort of person-to-person interaction. You probably wouldn’t walk up to someone and tell them they looked ugly right? Well it happens on the internet. You probably also wouldn’t tell someone about the amazing sale you have going on 10 times per hour. But, we’re all human and these things happen. So, to make sure you don’t mess up on your next Facebook post, read through these top 10 ways you can (pretty much instantly) destroy your social media campaign.
While some companies may be able to get away with the odd “hell” or “damn” in their daily tweets or blog posts (in this case they are for educational purposes only…), most businesses need to steer clear of profanity all together.
When we say profanity, we are using it in the broader sense of the term and thus including all offensive content such as slang, racial slurs, graphic images and crude or distasteful jokes. Any of these can quickly (and permanently) damage your brand’s reputation and cause a loyal customer mutiny.
Take for instance the Kenneth Cole/Cairo fiasco.
After tweeting a very insensitive and badly timed tweet (this is from Kenneth Cole HIMSELF we might add) referencing the Revolution in Egypt being caused by the release of their “new spring collection now being available online”, the backlash was almost uncontrollable. Twitter spent the next few days boycotting Kenneth and his brand even after he deleted and apologized for the tweet.
And while his tweet is indeed “deleted” you can easily find multiple articles and screen shots simply by searching the web for “twitter fails” – ouch.
Gossip can be detrimental to a brand in two ways. First, the brand itself spreading gossip and secondly gossip about the brand going viral. While we hope brands won’t be gossiping on their business accounts (or any account for that matter) customer or client gossip about the brand can be just as detrimental to their online image.
As a brand or business, it’s pretty much inevitable that people will have questionable, crude or sometimes downright offensive things to say about you at some point in time (unless you’re perfect, in that case, let us in on your secret!). The key is managing these situations effectively when they come so they don’t spiral out of control like a terrible game of telephone.
Here’s an example of how one blogger accused Urban Outfitters of stealing artists ideas:
Urban Outfitters responded to this tweet by saying they were “looking into it“, which clearly wasn’t enough for the ever-growing, and truly irate, twitter mob. While this blog post may have had no substantial evidence to indeed show that Urban Outfitters had stolen anything, the internet’s infamous “mob-like-mentality” was too strong for followers to resist. Within 3 hours they had lost a total of 17,000 followers and the words “#urbanoutfitters” and “#thieves” were trending. This just goes to show, it doesn’t have to be you doing the gossiping, but you better have a plan to deal with it!
If you’re in any sort of business that is involved with any sort of client you should already know that the “customer is always right”. They are also always right on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
While most of the social media “feuds” we found were just plain entertaining (and most likely publicity stunts between brands), we are sure there have been many hidden instances where brands just couldn’t hold their tweeting tongues.
Here’s a fun one from Taco Bell and Old Spice, that we’re pretty sure is staged, but entertaining, none-the-less:
Just remember, if you wouldn’t say it in real life (or if you know you shouldn’t say it in real life) don’t say it on Twitter, Instagram or any other network because not only will you offend your customer, but they will make sure it gets to 100,000 other people as well.
4. Tweeting Before You Think
It’s easy to blurt out innocent things in everyday life that can be easily misconstrued. A thought pops into our heads, we have a quick “yeah, thats a good one!” and it’s instantly out of our mouths without a second thought. Happens to the best of us. But, you would think that since we have to take the time to type, check and publish something to get it on the internet we would have a better filter. Nope. Not even close.
Take for example what happened with Entenmann’s a few years back:
Seems like a perfectly innocent comment right? We all love eating treats and heck no we shouldn’t feel guilty about it! Problem is, this happened the day the Casey Anthony trail was coming to a verdict, and #NotGuilty was already trending on twitter (clearly not in regards to treats!). Many people saw this as the brand trying to gain leverage from a trending hashtag and people were quick to point out how “insensitive” and “inappropriate” the tweet was.
Since Entenmann’s really did mean no harm and were unaware of it’s hashtagging mistake, they’ve since been met with (mostly) acceptance and understanding for their slip of the tounge.
Twitter really should come with an, “Are you sure you want to tweet this?” function.
5. Username Confusion
Twitter can be hard. Sometimes who you think you’re tweeting to doesn’t turn out to be the right person. We blame it on all the similar usernames and everyday people who have snatched up some very obvious brand name accounts. If you’re active on twitter, you’re likely to have tried tweeting to a well-known brand once or twice only to realize you’re actually tweeting to someone with 2 followers and “Hello Kitty” as their photo. (Note: Netflix’s old “Quikster” brand’s account is not @Quikster…)
Here’s where someone got things really messed up.
While you’re unlikely to be doing things like this as a brand, people can tarnish your reputation pretty quickly by confusing you with someone else. Your best bet is to look up usernames similar to yours and check out what they’re posting. Then make sure people know your brand’s correct twitter handle by including it where you can (blog posts, website etc.). The last thing you want is someone yelling at you via twitter for something you most definitely didn’t do!
6. Politics (of any kind)
It’s pretty clear that the top two things you should leave out of your online (or any) marketing strategy are Politics and Religion. Not only are they deeply personal and often touchy subjects for many people, they can also make-or-break many brand/customer relationships. In order to appeal to a wide variety of customers, it’s best to stay neutral on such polarizing issues. Staying positive and un-biased about sensitive topics will help keep your brand out of the way of political tweeting firestorms.
Oreo learned this lesson the hard way back in 2012, when (in celebration of their 100th Birthday) they released different kinds of Oreos. The first one featured rainbow filling, in support of Gay Pride and Gay Marriage. This caused everyone, Gay advocates and Anti-Gay Marriage groups alike, to stir up a social media frenzy.
Kissmetrics said it best when they commented that, “[people on twitter] didn’t get as frantic about the Elvis version of the cookie, and there’s a lesson there.”
Moral of the story, if you must to relate your brand with something newsworthy maybe make it a Celebrity. They’re slightly less likely to cause mass chaos.
No one likes spam, the food or the annoying marketing strategy, so it’s best to steer clear of both when it comes to your tweeting/posting campaigns. There’s always been a fine line between awesome and successful marketing and straight-up, blatant spamming. Toyota proved this true during their 2012 Super Bowl stunt.
It all started off great. They simply asked their fans to post their experiences with Toyota using the hashtag #Camryeffect. Seems like a good strategy right? It would (ideally) get Toyota some positive feedback and big exposure since it was occurring during the Super Bowl. But here’s where they went wrong.
Instead of being happy with possibly getting a trending hashtag and lots of organic traffic, Toyota decided to spam everyone that used the hashtag with an automated message about a current contest. Clearly, this didn’t go over well with fans and it also got them suspended from Twitter. So even though Toyota had the right idea, it’s true that bad spam can happen to good people.
8. Anything You Don’t Want To Be There FOREVER
This isn’t just a threat for teenagers made by their parents, this applies to everyone. Social media doesn’t go away. Even if you delete the questionable tweet or post (like Kenneth Cole or Entenmann’s) people will screen shot it and it will haunt your dreams.
We’ve seen many news stories about people losing their jobs because of their social media accounts. While your private life and professional life should be separate, social media accounts tend to blur these lines and put everything on the same stage.
One infamous example is of things you don’t want around forever, is Paula Deen’s insensitive (and deleted) twitpic of her and her son dressed up as Lucille Ball and Ricky Ricardo.
While it’s pretty common to dress up like Lucy for halloween, people argued that Bobby Deen’s heavy brown face makeup (in order to look more Cuban) was comparable to “blackface” (the theatrical makeup technique used by white actors in the 20th century to stereotypically play African-American characters).
Clearly, this is a racist and unacceptable practice and the twitterverse was quick to let Paula Deen know.
While it didn’t help that Paula had previously been called out on racist actions, it really doesn’t help that this picture is going to be around forever.
So next time you go to post something on the internet, whether it be for your brand or yourself, ask yourself if it falls into any of these “no-no” categories. If you’re not sure, or things look a little iffy, don’t do it!
Better safe than sorry.