Walking the Fine Line of Social Media

Four Strategies of Avoiding and Addressing Blunders in the Digital Realm

If we’ve learned anything from social media, we’ve learned that information travels fast. Okay, we already knew that. Recent blunders could fill an award-winning showcase titled “Failing in Social Media.” Between costly tweets (Celeb Boutique, James Taranto, Tricia Evans) about the Aurora theater shooting in Colorado and a distasteful ‘joke’ made by a now former Greek Olympian, we’ve seen just how quickly a few wrong words can turn the world against you. Every brand and personality wants to be a part of the big conversation. Tapping into current world events and trends can be a great way to engage, but it can also lead to the crossing of the very fine and invisible line known as acceptability. However, there are ways to keep in check:

1. Monitor Your Brand

It’s digital marketing 101. In today’s business world the customer has a louder voice than ever, so listening is extremely important. Just remember that a long time ago, not all companies cared what people said. Today, that’s just not the case. If you don’t have a keen eye on what people are saying about you on the World Wide Web, you’re probably stuck in the 80’s. Nobody wants that. Nobody.

2. Engage with Customers

At the end of the day, social media is about building a relationship. And it’s kind of hard to do that in silence. Chances are that you’ll hear both good and bad stuff about your brand on the web. Embrace the good (and spread the word), but don’t ignore the bad. If there is one place to find honest feedback, it’s online. Don’t just issue the apologies. Fix the problems, then show the world that you did. If someone came into your store and had a complaint, you wouldn’t awkwardly look the other way while pretending nothing happened, so don’t do it online either.

3. Don’t Get (too) Personal

Be interesting, be invested in current events, and share your opinion. But be sure to consider what your brand stands for, whom you’re speaking too, and whether the topic is relevant so you know where to draw the line. It may be appropriate to crack jokes if you’re Aziz Ansari, but if you’re Olympic jumper Paraskevi Papahristou, you should probably stay away from crude humor (especially during the Olympics). Remember, even when tweeting from a personal account, you are still representing a brand, company, team, nation.

4. Don’t Make Assumptions

Information is so extremely accessible today that this mistake is absolutely inexcusable — yet we see it all the time. The @CelebBoutique’s tweet in response to the #Aurora was a blatant example of this. One click could have saved them from the national spotlight. Some have questioned the honesty of their apologies, speculating that this was a stunt similar to Kenneth Cole’s #cairo tweet, in which the brand purposefully took light of a serious situation to get media attention. Just remember that building a relationship online is just like building one in person. Cheap stunts like this will only generate bad relationships. Awareness is crucial.

So in short, what we can learn from the blunders of others is to think, especially in emotional and high- tension situations, about your brand, your purpose and your audience. Just because the tools to tweet, post, Yelp, etc. exist, does not mean that every thought is a gem.


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