Avoid Social Media Disasters in 2013

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Chris Mayhew Search Marketing Executive, Marketing By Web

Posted on February 3rd 2013

Avoid Social Media Disasters in 2013

We are all aware of the impact that social media has had on a number of different industries including PR, Marketing and SEO, but is it always good to be so social? It is obviously true that a great social media campaign can go a long way to putting your business on the map and increasing its online presence, but it can also be very damaging to a company’s image if used in the wrong way.

2012 saw a spate of incidents in which the misuse of social media led to brands having to cover their tracks in order to protect their image. So in 2013, it is more important than ever for business owners and managers to not only run a successful social media campaign for their company, but to also keep tabs on what their employees get up to on the sites too.

 

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Learn From Other People’s Mistakes

Last year, two of the biggest fast food outlets in the world were hit by social media storms which were both caused by employees posting on personal accounts rather than a company posting from their official page. In July, a Burger King employee posted a picture on the social media site 4chan. The picture showed him standing in two tubs of lettuce with his shoes on and included a caption stating that this was the lettuce that we all eat at Burger King.

Similarly, a Taco Bell worker thought it would be hilarious to tweet a picture of him urinating onto a plate of nachos, thinking that the fact they were ‘going to be thrown out anyway’ would get him off the hook. Needless to say that both these individuals lost their jobs immediately. But are companies really doing enough to prevent the damage being caused in the first place?

Monitoring The Media

With the outreach that social media allows you, anything that is posted is instantly seen by millions and once it has entered the virtual world, it can’t be undone. Therefore businesses have to face up to the tough task of monitoring their employee’s use of these sites on and off the work premises. This may seem like a difficult thing to do, but regulations such as ‘no phones at work’ and a zero tolerance approach are sure to help.

It may seem like an invasion of someone’s privacy to constantly monitor what they are posting on social media sites, but it could be a necessary evil in order to stop the people that choose to abuse the privilege. Employers already check up on any potential employees via these sites before they hire them, so surely the next step is to let them know this will continue throughout their employment.

"Views Are My Own" Means Nothing

You see this written on many people’s profiles on various social media sites and for some reason they see this as a get out of jail free card. Just because you have stated that the things you post are your personal opinions, it doesn’t stop people associating them with the company you represent.

If you are a recognisable face in your industry or people know you work for a certain company, no amount of "views are my own" spiel is going to protect the brands image if you choose to post something controversial. It’s even less likely to help if the company logo can clearly be seen on your uniform and you are obviously at work at the time.

If things carry on the way they’re going, we could end up with employees being banned from using social media; even if it’s purely for personal use. At the very least, we may get to the stage where new workers have to sign some sort of agreement that limits their social media usage. Companies all around the world, from technology PR agencies to independent fashion boutiques, will vastly increase the public's awareness of them with the use of social media, but they could require an extra pair of eyes to keep track of just how much of a ‘social’ life their employees are having.

CBM23

Chris Mayhew

Search Marketing Executive, Marketing By Web

Chris is part of the content marketing team at Marketing By Web, specialising in creative writing. Blogs about a wide range of topics including sports, business advice and of course SEO on behalf of company's such as Technology PR agency, Eclat. Not content with just writing at work, he fills his spare time by writing poetry and stage plays. Find him on Google+

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Comments

This article brings to light something that companies are really starting to have to get ahead of in the social media world. Employees are going to have to realize that the company's main objective is to limit the amount of negative media that they have. It is not that the company wants to invade their privacy, it's that a few bad apples ruin it for the whole bunch. I can see the social media disasters happening to companies such as Taco Bell, whose employees are usually not the most educated people in the world. What I can't understand is when it happens to companies such a Kitchen Aid. It's twitter disaster, during the election of President Barack Obama, was something that is inexcusable. What I would not agree with is if the company tried to ban their employees from being on social media. That is something that, legally, I don't even think they can do. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming years.

Many companies are having a social media manager, some of the companies are having social media policies or guidelines in place, but is that enough? In my opinion the awareness of employees must be sharpened about what might happen when doing things on social media. The examples of Burger Kindg or Taco Bell are quit heavy issues but there are thousands of smaller ones happening each day like posting images from factory sites were confidential material might go public or employees disussing cool new products on twitter or google+ communities which did not yet hit market. I am sure each one of us knows good examples of such small disasters. In most of the cases not caused by purpose. So how to make sure the "small disasters" are not happening. In my opinion social media responsibles and internal communications must engage with employees via all possible channels within the company like internal company news, small videos addressing the issue of raising awareness of "think before you post" or the "CNN and mother" rule, offering social media meetings to present best practise along with Q&A sessions. Having social media key users in a company can also help. Giving a helping hand and explain, explain and again explain what seems so clear for social media professionals. We have to accept that not every employee using social media in private life is automatically the naturally born brand ambassador for a company, knowing exactly how to act and what to do when using social media in a corporate context.

The fact that companies such as Kitchen Aid are falling into these pitfalls just goes to highlight how easy to is for disaster to strike. I guess we will just have to wait and see what the future holds regarding social media regulations.

Thanks for dropping by Zach.