Social media is unique because it's the only advertising medium where companies and individuals compete on an equal playing field to have their voices heard. Anyone on a social network can be an influencer and have the potential to cause a viral backlash, especially when it relates to a oversight in a company's post.
So, how do you know if your business is on the right track or just "doing it wrong"? If your company is carrying out one or more of the following tactics, you might want to reassess your strategy or start preparing for a social media fallout.
Putting A Spin on Every Trending Topic
Marketing in real-time has been proven to yield higher consumer engagement, but when brands start leveraging unrelated topics as a means of promotion, they can skew their brand's voice and be perceived as insensitive. "When there's a big event going on, or something is trending, social media editors have a tendency to want to get their brands involved. But there's often a challenge there in fitting your company's mission into an external narrative," says Marketing Professional, Danny Groner
. "If there's no natural connection to be made, don't force your way in".
One notorious example can be taken from the marketers at Epicurious
, who reacted to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings by tweeting that cranberry scones and cereal would help the city get through the tragedy. Needless to say, it was a tasteless tactic that caused a backlash from consumers and the media due to the exploitive nature of the tweets.
Active correspondence is a great way to provide customer service and to advocate a company's brand. Keeping a close eye on content and updates will not only allow businesses to monitor the most successful content, but also allows a company to provide the best in community building practices by replying to comments and questions in real time. "Everyone wants to know that they have a voice, and that their voice is being heard." says Sherrie Rohde, Community + UX Lead at Rebellion Media
. "Countless times I've seen customers be grateful, and even surprised, that they received a response-even if it wasn't necessarily the response they were looking for. Listening is one of the most important skills as a community manager or social media manager, and replying lets people know you are listening".
In May 2014, Black Milk Clothing
lost thousands of followers after ignoring negative comments from a Star Wars Day post that embodied the opposite of the brand's culture "commandments". Its social media team even went as far as deleting comments and banning dozens of users from the Black Milk Facebook page, (including quite a few customers that had helped to build the brand). Hundreds of people took to the company's fan groups to express their disappointment in the way the situation was being handled, which created a multitude of memes and comments directed at the company, including some from media personalities and potential affiliates.
Using Automatic Responses & Scheduled Posts
Although considered to be a time-saver, there is nothing beneficial with taking the "social" out of social media by using automated and scheduled posts. More often than not, these automated and scheduled posts do more harm than good, showing insensitivity if posted at the wrong times (i.e. American Rifleman
) and a lack of customer care (i.e. American Airlines
Andrew Schulkind, Digital Communication Strategist for Andigo New Media
, feels that "Automation, unless done extremely well - and carefully - always runs the risk of being more announcement-like than conversational". These automated social posts give individuals the impression that your social media is run by a bot, which can affect perceptions of the company's communications and customer service quality.
In 2013, Mark Hamilton took to Twitter to talk about how he'd been chased away from a Bank of America by cops, leading to a stream of other tweets criticizing the bank. Unfortunately for the Bank of America, it only made things worse by responding to activist messages with automatic tweets that talked about helping them with account issues. Called out about the bot-like responses, a spokesperson explained that the tweets were not the work of bots, but rather real people. The incident and company's response only reinforced the point of view that the bank lacked "a heart and soul.
Reposting Content Without Researching
Rumours and hoaxes spread like wildfire on social media, so researching verified sources and finding adequate backup for posts is crucial to showing fans that you have the real story and that your brand can be trusted as a true expert.
Look at Delta Air Lines recent "giraffe tweet
" as an example of an unverified social blunder. They created a tweet that was meant as a celebratory message for Team USA, after defeating Ghana in the 2014 World Cup Match. The company posted a photo of a giraffe to signify the country of Ghana. Immediately, Twitter users informed Delta Airlines that while Ghana has abundant wildlife, it doesn't have wild giraffes. The lack of research on Delta's part gave onlookers the impression that they were smug and ignorant.
Creating Posts Without A Plan or Purpose
With social media, you can't be sure how a post will do even with testing behind it. The best method is to plan for both the good and the bad, while being knowledgeable about the public's sentiment towards the brand. Ensuring that your post is purposeful helps to streamline your comments and reposts, whether it's to discuss an event, invite specific people to a conversation, or to shed light on a topic. Samantha Pena, Content Strategist for Hudson Horizons
, feels that companies who experience the largest post failures are ones that hoped for the best without planning for the worst, which gained them, in the end, much negative feedback.
In November 2013, JP Morgan hosted an #AskJPM
Q&A session on its Twitter, without citing a context or specific topic. The vague tweet offered individuals the opportunity to bombard the company with hostile questions and negative comments. The company, in turn, had to cancel the session. If JP Morgan had researched and gained knowledge of public sentiment surrounding its brand before attempting to engage openly on Twitter, it could have avoided the harsh comments directed towards the company.
It is important to remember that social media is about community engagement and trust. Real-time conversations and great customer service can bring a business far in the social realm. Individuals are not ignorant, and being on a platform that allows for a voice to be heard means that each and every person is important. Actively managing your communities will allow your company to reap all the benefits that social media can provide, while avoiding the many potential pitfalls.