Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How to Avoid Becoming a Social Media Disaster

Mashable recently posted an article on the 11 Biggest Social Media Disasters of 2012 (thanks @suzannecohen01 for sharing) featuring major brands like McDonalds, Gap, Kitchen Aid and Stub Hub. This begs the question – if major brands like these can slip up, what does a smaller organization need to do to effectively govern their social media messaging?

Here are four tips to help ensure your organization doesn’t make this list next year:
1.      Leverage Available Workflow Controls

On many of these posts, it’s clear that the author had a quick thought and posted it immediately in hopes of achieving the maximum engagement. However, “striking while the iron’s hot” isn’t nearly as important as ensuring that the message is appropriate before posting. I get that the post about Obama’s grandmother was time sensitive (being that it happened during a debate, right after he made a comment about it), but in almost any other context (whether you like him or not), that type of comment wouldn’t be well received. And while many social media tools don’t have integrated workflow capabilities, many web content management systems like (and including) Ektron do, which can really help here.

2.      Test Humor Before Posting

We’re all super funny on Twitter and Facebook – we’re like a universe full of Jerry Seinfeld’s and Louis CK’s. Not quite. In fact, we’ve all probably posted a thing or two that we found really humorous only to find that no one else found it nearly as enjoyable. Humor is something that definitely needs to be used on social media outlets to make your messaging more human, and while more crude posts might be ok on Facebook (where you’re likely more surrounded by friends than customers/partners/potential consumers), you still need to exercise caution. Think before you post.

3.      Remember Driver’s Ed

Maybe your Driver’s Ed teacher didn’t tell you this, but mine did, and it’s stuck with me. He said, “Would you do X if there was a police officer next to you?” It could have been turning on a No Turn on Red or doing a funky U Turn in an area where they’re not allowed, but the exercise was meant to get you thinking about whether or not you’d do something if the person able to punish you for doing it was right there. There isn’t really a social media police to speak of, but think of your boss, a customer, or a social media person you look up to and ask yourself the same question – it should help keep you out of trouble…

4.      Use Common Sense

The one element that carries true in these examples is that if a little common sense had been applied, many (if not all) of them could have been avoided. Take McDonalds for example – if you ask people to share stories about their experiences with McDonalds and only expect positive responses – that’s simply na├»ve. In fact, research shows that users are much more likely to share a negative experience via social channels than a positive one. Same goes for the retailers that tried to use the shooting in Aurora, Colorado or Hurricane Sandy as an opportunity to move merchandise – common sense definitely would have prevailed in those instances.
To err is human. We all make mistakes and for better or worse, social channels like Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Instagram, Foursquare and others allow those mistakes to be magnified. But, if you apply a little common sense, you’ll be that much better off.

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