Did you see the surprising tweet this past week from U.S. Airways? Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms blew up immediately with comments about the accidental post by the airline company. Every respectable online media professional says the same thing – you must jump on the social media bandwagon or risk losing a great way to communicate with your customers. That's a scary thought, but an even scarier one is that your company, like U.S. Airways, could nullify its efforts in one moment by offending even a small subgroup in its audience. In this post, we take a look at a couple of memorable social media "fails" and how companies can avoid them or even clean up after themselves if a mistake is made.
Do you remember the issue with Progressive Insurance and its robotic responses to several tweets criticizing the handling of an insurance claim? How about Gap's insensitive marketing ploy during Hurricane Sandy? There are many other examples of poor judgment exercised by company social media handlers. In short, it seems to be easy enough to make a mistake on your company social media account, and anything that offends someone enough can blow up online in a matter of minutes. Information sharing and social media have become a double-edge sword where one day you can interact with your customers to generate business and the next a campaign has launched to boycott you and any associated companies.
In order to avoid these potentially business-crippling mistakes, we must note what types of posts are likely to be misread. Posting advertisements in relation to any sort of emotional issue is likely to land your business in hot water. From mass shootings to natural disasters to legislation relating to human rights, the news is filled with hot-button issues. Don't use your company page as a platform for any controversial views you hold personally, especially if you are advertising something at the same time. Another common misstep seems to be advertising on holidays in memorial of fallen military members or community members. Remember that you do not always have to be part of the public conversation about something. However, if you choose to post something, make it respectful and lay off the marketing language for that day.
Most of the companies having large-scale problems with social media are actually very large companies. With giants like American Apparel and McDonald's clogging the airwaves with their social media gaffes, you may think that smaller companies are safe. That may not be true though. Take for example the case of Amy's Baking Company in Scottsdale, Arizona. This small company made headlines when the owner herself responded to negative reviews and comments on multiple platforms with name-calling and rage. This restaurant did appear on a national television show, but the fact that it is a small business that erupted on social media should scare any business owner. The lesson: no matter how large or small your company, poor Internet interaction can cost you.
If your company does happen to offend audience members, consider apologizing and let that be the end of it. In the case of Esquire Magazine, their apology after accidentally tweeting an ad of a man falling out a building on the anniversary of 9/11 was really no apology. While the mistake was fixed quickly, telling everyone to "relax" was probably not the best idea.
Avoiding these social media mistakes can be tough, especially when you hire a person or team to handle this part of your business. Keep in mind that these people are managing your public face and on the Internet, the whole world may be watching. Hire someone that is trustworthy and knows how to be responsible. Set in place an approval process so that no half-baked post ideas make it to the web because once they do, you cannot take them back. Social media is a business blessing and can help you to gain more customers and supporters, but remember to be sensitive to your audience!
Readers: Does your company have a page on at least one social media platform?