Social media is a staple in our society. Research shows 70% of Americans have at least one social media profile, and more than half use two or more social networks.
With the growing number of social users, which is projected to hit 2.5 billion by 2018, it’s not surprising to see so many businesses use social media as a marketing tool.
While the list of benefits is lengthy, social media does have a dark side. It has the potential to hurt your business reputation – if you use it incorrectly.
Here’s a look at four ways in which particular companies made major mistakes on social, and what you can do to avoid it:
1. Employees complaining about work
You’d like to believe that every employee you hire has the company’s best interest at heart, but it’s just not true. Some employees, whether they’re disgruntled or not, tend to vent on social media. Whether they trash talk managers, reveal sensitive information or make false statements about your product, it can hurt your reputation in a hurry.
This McDonald’s employee, for example, told his fans that food dropped on the floor is still used. McDonald’s refuted the statement, but the post was up for hours before any response was made.
Lesson: For protection, businesses should create a social media policy specifically for employees that explains what’s appropriate to say about work and what’s not on social media. Here are a few social media policies you can use for inspiration.
2. Posts include wrong links
It takes seconds to post a message to a social media site, which is one of the marketing perks for businesses. However, in an attempt to reach customers quickly, sometimes we make mistakes.
ESPN, for example, sent out a sports update on Twitter but failed to double check the link. Instead of connecting readers to an online article, the link was to a pornographic website. The mistake was widely covered in the media, which damaged ESPN’s reputation.
Lesson: Always, always, always double-check your posts. Proof read them; check them for accuracy and follow the links that you add to make sure they lead where you want.
Be wary of ‘copy and paste’ too. While it’s a handy function, you can easily copy and paste something you didn’t intend.
3. Using trending topics without research
A lot of businesses check out the trending topics on social media channels and use them as inspiration to create a post.
By using a trending topic in a post the odds of your post being seen increase. In fact, one study shows trending topics see a 94% increase in click-throughs. It’s easy to see why businesses want to jump on the trending bandwagon; and when it’s done right, it can boost engagement.
Trending topics come and go, so there is a sense of urgency to join the conversation quickly. However, you should never use a trending topic without knowing exactly what the trending topic is in reference to.
For instance, Kenneth Cole was introducing a new fashion line called Cairo. The brand’s social media manager noticed a trending hashtag on Twitter, #Cairo, and used it in a post to promote the brand’s clothes.
The hashtag was referring to unrest and deadly protests that were taking place in Egypt in 2011. Kenneth Cole deleted the Tweet within hours and issued a public apology, but the damage was already done. A series of reports came out highlighting the insensitive nature of the company.
Lesson: Don’t jump on the trending topic bandwagon without doing research. Take a few minutes to read the messages around the trending topics, check news reports for any kind of connection and then decide whether or not it’s a conversation that your brand should be a part of.
4. Mixing personal and business
Make sure you’re logged into the right account before posting anything. During a Presidential debate back in 2012, a member of KitchenAid’s Twitter team thought he was logged into his personal Facebook page when he made a comment about Obama’s late grandmother: “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president.” It turns out, he was logged onto the KitchenAid site. KitchenAid quickly deleted the tweet and apologized, but the Tweet had already been instantly shared throughout the Twittersphere.
Lesson: Keep business and personal sites separate, and always double check which one you’re logged into.
Your personal site is where your opinions can go, but beware. If you’re a business owner, it’s still wise to stay away from posting anything that’s too controversial on your personal sites.
It doesn’t take much for a customer to learn an owner’s name, find you on Facebook and be turned off by a political rant or opinion that wasn’t necessarily intended for customer viewing. As a business owner, every post can impact your bottom line, so post with caution.