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4 Ways to Avoid Social Media Blunders

Oct 14, 2014
Alexandra Barcelona
Alexandra Barcelona

Frustrated woman covering her face

Though social media is no longer the Wild West it used to be, there are still many social media blunders being committed by brands. Whether it’s coming off as disingenuous when a brand tries to post about a national tragedy (think 9/11 tweets) or when a brand mistaking jumps on a trending hashtag without looking into the context in which the hashtag is being used (think #Aurora), the fact that brands are still making these mistakes blows my mind every time.

Social media has been around for awhile, but social media marketing for brands is still relatively new and mistakes are bound to be made; however, you can avoid blunders by following these four steps:

1. Always know what a hashtag is before using it.

Hand holding a hashtag pin

Like the #Aurora example above, it’s always best to check out a trending hashtag before using it in one of your tweets. It’s too easy to check the context of the hashtag to have your lack of knowledge of the situation be any sort of excuse for this type of error.

If you’re researching a trending hashtag that you want to use and you find that it is linked to a controversial topic, please just stay away. Trying to tie it into your brand (think Kenneth Cole) can have catastrophic consequences. Which leads me to my next point.

2. Learn when to jump in and when to stay out!

Squirrel jumping from a fence

Just because there is a major event happening that you can guarantee a majority of your audience will know about does not mean you should tie it into your social media posts. Things like the 9/11 tweets mentioned above are one great example of where a brand is better off staying quiet than trying to say anything that will come off as promotional.

Another prime example of this is when The Gap tweeted out a promotion about Hurricane Sandy. This hurricane devastated the East Coast and The Gap used this event to promote online shopping to their customers.

When it comes to major events, it’s usually best to stay out / quiet. However, if you do feel that your brand needs to say something to show support or sympathy, make sure it is in no way tied to any sort of sale or promotion of your brand. In fact, if you can take your brand completely out of the post, that is best.

3. You’re a person. Don’t use a robot for your social media

Robot toy

The whole point of social media is that people can now interact one-on-one with their favorite brands. They can take down the ‘fourth wall’ that used to separate brands and customers, leading to better, more human communication.

The problem here is that some brands have become overwhelmed (or lazy) with how to handle this onslaught of conversations and have turned to automated services to interact with their customers. This is a big no-no. Take the time to respond to each message (that warrants a response) individually. If you don’t have the time to handle them all, it’s time to bring in other people to your social media team. This doesn’t mean they have to be full time workers, but your sales and customer service team should be able to help you when things get to be too much to handle. This should only be a once and a while situation (if it turns into more than that, time to expand your full-time social media team).

4. Stop selling.

SALE ad in store

Seriously, stop. Social media is for connecting with your customers. It’s for learning about what they like and don’t like about your brand. It’s for building awareness. It’s for offering solutions to people’s problems. What it’s not for is pushing your product.

But what about coupons and discounts? Yes, those are listed as some of the main reasons people follow brands on social media, but that doesn’t mean that’s the only thing your profiles should have. You should be sharing information and entertaining your audience (general rule of thumb, 80% non-branded, informative / entertaining content and 20% branded content).

While social media marketing isn’t quite the Wild West it used to be, it’s still relatively new to most businesses which can lead to blunders. Following these four tips will help your team avoid blunders, however, one of the best things you can do is step back and look at your social media like a customer. Would you follow a brand who posts what you post?


Images courtesy of jazbeck, Beth Kanter, Rhys A., Radio Saigon, and Ged Carroll via Flickr Creative Commons

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