Stop! 7 Things You Should Never, Ever Do in Social Media

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Social Media Crisis Management That You Need to Know

7 Things You Should Never Do in Social Media

Sometimes we all need common sense reminders on what we should—and shouldn’t—do or say on our social media accounts. Here are seven things you should never, ever do.

1. Never jump on board “trending” topics without investigating them first. You’ll see an actual list of trending topics on Twitter, but we’re also referring to anything that goes viral throughout social media, be it news stories, videos, etc.

It’s tempting to want to jump right in with a comment so that you can look current and relevant, but resist this temptation and make sure you understand what’s trending first. Ask yourself these questions: is the topic accurate or a hoax? For example, social media is famous for starting celebrity death rumors. Is the topic evolving quickly? This is true for breaking news, when lots of erroneous information is shared, simply because people don’t know all the facts. Is the topic controversial? We’re not saying you should never weigh in on a controversial topic—it depends on your brand, and you’ll need to make that call. But you should consider the pros and cons of doing so before making an offhand comment.

Want examples of brands and people who did not follow this advice? Ashton Kutcher famously tweeted what many viewed as an insensitive and misinformed comment back in 2011 during the Penn State sexual abuse scandal. Online retailer Celeb Boutique didn’t investigate why “Aurora” was trending in Twitter and tweeted that perhaps it was inspired by the company’s new Aurora dress, when, in reality, the word was trending because of the mass shooting at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Entenmann’s jumped in on a trending hashtag — #notguilty – and linked itself to the Casey Anthony verdict. Don’t make these mistakes. ALWAYS vet trending topics before commenting on them.

2. Never freely offer your login information. You need to protect the usernames and passwords for all of your social media accounts. Be smart about the passwords you choose. Never click on links in unsolicited emails telling you to reset your password (this is likely how Burger King’s and Jeep’s Twitter accounts were hacked). Be aware of everyone in your company who has access to your login information, and have a process in place for changing passwords whenever someone leaves the company.

3. Never use social media as a way to attack someone who has left a negative review. We know, we know. When someone posts or tweets an especially nasty review about your company or product, it’s tempting to want to fight back, especially if you feel the person is being unfair or misleading. Do not respond. At least, don’t respond in a defensive manner. Reaching out to an unhappy customer – offline – and trying to rectify the situation is perfectly OK. If you must comment, provide a genuine apology and then let the person know you’ll contact him or her offline.

Do not try to apply for admission to the “Brands Behaving Badly Hall of Fame” by “going off” on a reviewer, like the author Alice Hoffman did or like a renowned chef at an upscale Boston restaurant did last fall. Wondering how to deal with negative reviews? The best way is to get more positive reviews, which we talk about in this post (and we provide info on dealing with negative reviews as well).

4. Never post on the fly without stopping first and asking yourself these two “reality check” questions. Is the content relevant or valuable, and does it add to the conversation? Not all tweets and posts need to be mind-blowingly brilliant, but you should understand what’s motivating you to tweet or post. Never tweet or post just for the sake of tweeting or posting. Make sure you have something worthwhile to say, offer, or share. Could the tweet or post be considered offensive or controversial? This is why we recommend drafting posts and letting them sit for a day (or a few hours) before scheduling them. No, you don’t have to do this for every post, but some distance can provide insight, especially for more provocative content. When in doubt, have someone else review your posts and if you’re still not sure, don’t post it (better to be safe than sorry).

5. Never post questionable language. Here’s the thing: the words and language you use will depend on your brand. A cheekier brand like Moosejaw can use an irreverent tone that pushes the envelope, because that sort of tone reflects what the brand is all about. You wouldn’t expect the same sort of provocative posts from, say, a politician’s Facebook page or General Electric’s LinkedIn account.

6. Never post when overly tired, when you’re angry or you’ve had a bad day, or you’re under the influence of alcohol. Oh, this seems like a no-brainer, but it’s worth repeating. If you think you have an awesome tweet or post, draft it, save it, and review it later and see if it still seems like a good idea.

7. Never go into social media without a plan. The best way to avoid missteps in social media is to have a strategy going in. Your strategy will address many of the items we’ve outlined above (such as having a process in place for changing passwords), and it should provide guidance on what is—or isn’t—acceptable content (this is especially important if you have a team of people working on your accounts).

All of that said, it’s important to note that behind every social media account is a human being—or a bunch of humans. And, despite the best efforts, people will make mistakes. How your organization responds to social media missteps is important. Some tips:

  • Remove the offensive post. But realize it will live on in infamy since people capture screen shots.
  • Acknowledge the error right away and show genuine, sincere remorse. Don’t make excuses, become defensive, or claim your account was hacked (unless it actually was and you can prove it). Apologize. Here’s a great example of The American Red Cross turning a Twitter mishap into a positive.
  • Do an internal review of how the mistake happened. Some mistakes are honest mistakes: an employee might think she’s making a post to her personal account but it’s to the business account. Use this as an opportunity to discuss social media do’s and don’ts with your team.
  • Don’t wait until something breaks. It’s smart strategy to revisit your social media strategy at least once a year, and possibly more (such as when a new social media platform is released, like Twitter’s Vine).

Have you ever made a social media faux pas? Does your organization have a social media strategy in place? What’s the worst social media mistake you’ve seen lately? Share, share in the comments!

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