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5 social media mistakes businesses need to avoid making

Social Media has been vaunted as the ultimate go-to marketing tool of our age. It has been said that if you are not involved in some level of social media marketing with your organisation, then you are missing the boat and your business prospects are going to sail away without you. What is not being spoken about so freely, however, are the extremely large social media marketing FAILS.

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How can it all go wrong?
One of the best examples of how social media can go wrong for a company is the infamous Dell Computers incident, which started in 2005 when blogger Jeff Jarvis blogged about his horrific experience with Dell. He wrote an article on his blog entitled “Dell lies. Dell Sucks. Dell lies. Dell sucks.” Jarvis’ blog triggered hundreds of other unhappy and dissatisfied Dell customers to do the same thing and soon the internet was alive with stories of exceptionally poor Dell service.

Jarvis called his experience with Dell, “Dell Hell“. Dell Hell has now grown into a platform where Dell allows its unhappy customers to air their grievances about the brand and its service as well as write about any good stories that they feel need to be heard. After three months of trying, and failing, to get the attention of Dell executives to listen, Jarvis took back his Dell computer and gave up.

It took Dell’s stock shrinking and lower customer satisfaction rating for the company to eventually change its blogging policy.

Another example is a bit more recent than Dell’s. Designer Kenneth Cole was in Egypt to launch his new spring clothing collection; at exactly the same time that the Egyptians were having severe political unrest. Cole thought that he would try and use humour to drum up some viral exposure for his launch and tweeted: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumour is they heard our new spring collection is now available online…”.

Kenneth’s tweet did go viral; but for all the wrong reasons. In hours Cole was seeing an average of 1 500 tweets every hour responding to his poor attempt to jump on a much publicised issue. Cole eventually deleted his tweet and a few days later publically apologised on his Facebook page.

What went wrong?
There were five critical things that went wrong with these, and numerous other examples of failures in the social media space.

  • 1. Lack of adequate social media policies
  • Social media is not a free-for-all; anything goes environment. There are real people listening to what you are putting out there and what you say needs to adhere to your brands personality and philosophy.

  • 2. Lack of real-time social media monitoring
  • Just because you are offline and can’t check your online reputation does not mean that your online presence is safely tucked in bed. People are talking and commenting about you even when you are not listening.

  • 3. Not responding to customers concerns
  • In the same way that ignoring people who are talking to you in person is rude; it is equally bad form when you don’t respond to what people are saying online, especially if they are seeking a legitimate response to a problem.

  • 4. Employees not sufficiently trained in company policies
  • Just because the receptionist has a Facebook profile, and is on it all day, does not mean that she (or he) is qualified to handle your brands online persona. Accountability stops with you. Ensure that all staff are able to adequately communicate on your brands behalf.

  • 5. Too much focus on shameless self-promotion (lack of relationship building)
  • Stop looking for ways to earn a buck and get famous. Striking the balance between sales and relationships is vital especially when your audience has the ability to make or break your brand with just 140 characters.

How to make sure this never happens to you
Constantly listen and try to understand what your audience is saying and further to that, who your audience is.

Once you have an understanding of what’s being said you need to analyse how this affects your business and what communication can be issued — that will still hold true to your business objectives, personality and philosophy. It is now safe to engage your audience with the knowledge that you have put out a rational response and not an emotional one.

Now you can repeat this process with specific emphasis on listening and understanding not only the micro environment around your brand; but the macro as well.

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