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We live in an over-connected world. Social media has changed the dynamics of business. It is now possible to engage customers 24/7 – and others are already doing it. The onus is on you to get your messages right on your social networks if you want to establish and build on the quality of engagement.
We all stumble now and then, but on social media, we stumble in front of the whole wide world. This necessitates a better understanding of the medium. You need more prudence, empathy and awareness. There are lessons in each misstep and we can learn plenty from the mistakes of others. Let’s look at some of the social media blunders that businesses can easily avoid on social platforms.
1. Not Being Photogenic
Yup. Whoever said that a picture was worth a thousand words was right. Data proves it. If you are on social media, do not hesitate to use photos, vines, videos, GIFs, presentation slides, infographics and such.
Socialbakers.com analysed more than 30,000 Facebook brand pages and found that posts with images engage fans the most. They make up 87% of total interactions.
The stats on Twitter are similar. Twitter users get 35% more retweets when they include an image in their tweet and a 28% bump in retweets when they add a video.
2. Lacking empathy or awareness
Brands, especially those in retail businesses, try to their best to ride current events and seasonal occasions. Global Village, a niche retailer in Minnesota, unwisely decided to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by offering “25% off everything black.” In the subtext of a nation’s history with racism, it was a disastrous move.
Similarly, clothing giant American Apparel used its Tumblr page to post a picture of the space shuttle Challenger exploding to celebrate Fourth of July. Apparently, its social media manager confused the picture of the disaster with that of fireworks.
Reeling under immediate and intense negative feedback, the company deleted the post and apologized for their insensitivity.
3. Not covering all bases
In September 2014, Apple released the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. A few days later, a guy called Lewis Hilsenteger published a video in which he bent an iPhone 6 Plus. Soon, Plus owners started complaining that the phones they kept in their pockets were getting bent. Within no time, social media imploded with #Bendgate.
Competitor LG tried to have some fun at Apple’s expense.
The LG France account ran the same promotional tweet in French. However, they did it much less tactfully – they tweeted it from an iPhone!
Stop at witty teasing and friendly banter when you talk about other brands or businesses on social media. Think things through before you go for your competition’s jugular.
4. Dissing the trolls
You do need to talk a lot on social media. But remember – not everyone is nice. You will be mocked and rubbed the wrong way. However, your responses need to be professional all the time. You cannot go all ballistic on them.
Irritated by criticism over pissing off the host in a reality cooking show, the owners of Amy’s Baking Company bakery had an epic social meltdown on its Facebook page.
Needless to say, the internet has long memory and poor responses only serve to sour things up.
5. Not fessing up after messing up
Having multiple employees or devices connected to the internet all the time can bring a whole set of new problems. Specifically, rogue or inappropriate posts.
Red Cross social media specialist Gloria Huang erroneously tweeted about getting drunk on the organization’s official Twitter feed. But Red Cross averted a major PR disaster with an apt and light-hearted response.
If you mess up, own it up. Don’t try to ignore your mistake or push it under the carpet – that will only hurt your credibility. People will respect you more if you admit, apologize for and try to correct your mistakes.
6. Being clueless
Being social on social media could be a job for PR and customer care specialists, but that is no reason for the rest of the company and its management to stay aloof. Documenting and putting in place proper policies for the operation and maintenance of official social accounts is a no-brainer.
HMV found that out the hard way when it fired employees after going into administration – the woman managing its official Twitter handle live tweeted her displeasure.
Lesson: Don’t hire a Marketing Director who asks how to “shut down Twitter.”
7. Banking on the bots
Building up an online community of followers organically takes time. It is tempting for businesses to buy followers or likes just to look like they have popular profiles. This is not a good strategy. The followers you buy are not your real fans. For all you know, they aren’t even people. They can neither you real feedback nor can they engage in any authentic manner with you. You fool no one with 550 000 likes or 50 “Great post!” comments.
That’s not all. You could get your accounts suspended by the social network in question. You could also face legal action from the advertising regulator in your country.
8. Sprinting in a marathon
Social media is about starting conversations and building relationships. Most businesses start with gusto only to give up mid-way. Their posting frequency gradually tapers off, they don’t reply to queries on time, you know what I mean.
No, that’s not what I mean.
Broken-record fact: Social media is not a quick-fix solution to any of your business problems. I can say – from experience, with conviction – that you need to nurture your social accounts for a minimum of 12 to 24 months before you make any kind of major impact with them. Don’t keep your followers waiting; there’s always plenty to tell them. Be interesting, consistent and patient while you hang in there and build up your community.
Social Media is undoubtedly a very useful tool, but because it is real time and spontaneous, many under-prepared businesses end up with eggs on their faces. The inherent tenets of social engagement – tact, humor and humility – work just like they do in real life. The idea is to be match your audience’s social wavelength and bandwidth while you work towards your business goals.