The new nightmare for brand marketers is commonly referred to as #socialmediafail—putting out the wrong message, through inadvertence or ignorance, in social media channels.
It makes the blood of any marketer or PR professional run cold just thinking of the social media crises that can occur as a result of one errant tweet.
In college, I majored in radio. Back in the days vinyl still ruled, the common nightmare was failing to put the needle on the record resulting in dead air. Another waking dread was leaving the microphone on and unknowingly uttering one of George Carlin’s Seven Words
Like the dead air of my radio past, misguided and often offensive or accidental tweets, Facebook posts, Reddit posts, and so on, keep folks like me up at night—on a regular basis.
There is no shortage of examples:
• Chrysler’s Twitter feed profanely complaining about Detroit traffic—whoops!
• An agency guy complaining about/insulting his client’s home city—ohmygosh!
• The nonprofit worker talking about getting slizzered on the nonprofit’s Twitter account—yikes!
• Kenneth Cole making light of violence in Egypt to promote a shoe sale—faux pas!
Add to that list two high-profile examples from the past week or so:
• KitchenAid’s Twitter account publishing a highly-offensive message about Obama—oh-no!
• StubHub’s Twitter account taking a rather profane approach to the “TGIF” tweet—holy sh*t!
Each case is different, and the reactions and consequences have differed as well. Because I help brands manage their online social media presence, I have my own waking nightmares of seeing this happen. Thus, I have a few thoughts:
Notice that most of these problems happen with Twitter.
That is not an absolute, but Twitter is especially dangerous due to its ephemeral nature. Many times we publish and move on, and it’s easy to make a mistake. In the early days of Twitter, even I experienced the occasional private direct message go public due to a simple mistake. I survived, but as these brand issues show, that can be a matter of luck or circumstance.
Never add client accounts to your personal publishing tool.
I use TweetDeck largely for Twitter and Facebook, but under no circumstances do I add client accounts. Ever. I know myself too well—hilarity would not ensue.
Use separate browsers when logging in to a client or corporate social account.
The best side effect of the Browser Wars is that I can have my own accounts on Google Chrome, and clients’ accounts in, say, Safari or Firefox. Think of it as using separate kitchens to bake cookies due to peanut allergies. (OK, that’s a stretch, but it’s the best analogy I can muster for a Monday.)
Always log out.
What’s a bigger pain, logging in anew for each session or explaining how that offensive tweet got on the corporate account? I’d let you consider it, but if you have to think about it, I don’t want you in charge.
Don’t be profane in your personal accounts.
Anyone who knows me well understands that I can swear like a truck driver (those poor truck drivers get a bad rap by the way), but you will rarely see me swear in my public social media posts. I may get edgy here and there, but the fewer F-bombs I drop, the smaller the risk of one slipping into the wrong social media stream. It’s a personal choice with which others will differ, but I like to lower the odds (metrics!).
Reconsider hiring interns to do your social media (if you still are).
A lot of this, outside of the mechanical mistakes, is relying on the judgment of someone representing your brand. I’m not going to say a 25-year-old can’t manage your social media (and people on my teams might fall into that age group; you all are exempt if you read this, of course), but I will say that maturity—regardless of age—is an absolute requirement (please leave your concerns about my own personal arrested development in the comments).
So, you decide. What’s it going to be? Are you going to be careful with your brand by taking a few easy protective measures as outlined above, or are you going to roll the dice?
I’m entertained by the mistakes for the most part, but these things are keeping a lot of us up at night. But if your goal is to have one less social media crisis to manage, for all that’s holy put the needle on the damn record, make sure the mic is off, and avoid dead air—or worse.
Doug Haslam works with the PN Connect team at Voce Communications, a Porter Novelli Company, running social media publishing programs for companies both large and small. You can find him online at @dough, stalk his blog, or connect with him on LinkedIn. A version of this story first appeared on the V3 marketing blog.