How to avoid social media mistakes

Social Media fails

I saw some research earlier this week which showed that 18-39 year olds are more forgiving of brands, and I wondered if this was a result of social media – after all, it’s very easy to quickly make a mistake on social media, so today’s consumers need to be a little more pragmatic.

However, the same mistakes keep happening on social media.  Here are some of the more popular ones and how to avoid them:

Poorly timed Q&As:

  • Issue: JP Morgan’s ultra-optimistic #askJPM session attracted 8k responses, virtually none of which were constructive – the Twittersphere decided to take JPM to task for its part in the banking crisis of 2008
  • Solution: Ensure you get the timing right – it should follow some good news, not a PR catastrophe (British Gas held a Q&A the day after announcing a 10% price rise).  Also, it needs to be monitored closely by a team of people (not just those answering the questions), and have the relevant stakeholders to hand to answer any curve-balls

Scheduled Problems:

  • Issue: Marketing automation is a great help in social where the tasks can feel overwhelming.  However, Tesco had an issue with a tweet sent in the midst of the horse-meat scandal (“It’s sleepy time so we’re off to hit the hay. See you at 8am for more #TescoTweets”).  They took out full page adverts in national papers to apologise.
  • Solution: Check all of your scheduled tweets the morning that they are due to land – in many industries, things can change overnight, so make sure your post is still appropriate

Changing Passwords:

  • Issue: In January 2013, HMV made 190 staff redundant with immediate effect…including someone with access to the Twitter account.  So they live tweeted from the meeting, ending in the legendary “Just overheard our Marketing Director (he’s staying, folks!) ask ‘How do I shut down Twitter?”
  • Solution: It’s a really simple one here – firstly, change your passwords regularly and only share them with the core people who need to know.  And if someone leaves, make sure that you change the password and revoke access to any social media and content management systems.

Keep your views to yourself:

  • Issue: In 2012, Chick-Fil-A got into hot water after the company’s founder spoke out against same-sex marriages – cue the Facebook page being flooded about non-clucking content.  However, what they did next was probably the biggest error of judgement in this article: it was accused of creating a fake Facebook which defended the company’s position.  While Chick-Fil-A deny that they created the account, the damage was done.
  • Solution: You need to really think before you post.  It is easy to react quickly to a critical post, but you should take a deep breath and remember that you are talking to a group of potential customers – treat them as you would in the off-line world.

And if you do have a problem, admit it, hold your hands up and say sorry – mistakes will happen, but trying to cover them up in a world of transparent communications will rarely work.  What are your favourite social media howlers and what can we learn from them?

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