As illustrated by the response to many of those tweets emanating daily from #realDonaldTrump, social media can cause trouble for your brand if you're not careful. Very careful.
Marketing efforts in the business world illustrate this point all too well. Consider the reaction, following Carrie Fisher’s December 27 death, when, in a now-deleted tweet (which lives forever via the power of a screenshot), Cinnabon attempted to leverage Fisher’s death into an ill-timed marketing opportunity, releasing an image that replaced the actress's iconic Star Wars hairstyle with the company’s product.
Cinnabon later said the tweet -- which praised Fisher for having “the best buns in the galaxy” -- “was genuinely meant as a tribute,” but many questioned why Cinnabon inserted itself into the dialogue. The response to the tweet was swift and often scathing. In just one example, TV host Julie Alexandria implored the company to “stop capitalizing on the tragic loss of an icon.”
Observers have recognized that Cinnabon's tweet had no malicious intent. But the post -- which will undoubtedly live on via enterprise social media #fail listicles -- demonstrates what happens when a company tweet moves too quickly to publish. What's more, Cinnabon is hardly alone in miscalculating the impact of a poorly timed tweet or other social media release.
For as long as companies have used social media, they’ve made missteps. Those mistakes, whether the guilty party is Cinnabon or the president, highlight the need for better social media management. Here's how to improve yours:
Frequent social media blunder topics
Because there are so many social misfires out there, and because no brand or industry is immune, it’s worth breaking them down into a few categories:
The too-soon tribute tweet: Whether it’s Cheerios’ response to Prince’s death or Crocs’s reaction to David Bowie’s passing, there’s ample evidence that celebrity deaths aren’t an ideal marketing opportunity. This is especially true if the deceased did not have an existing relationship with your brand.
The public Q&A: If you’re a business struggling to connect with your customers, putting a Q&A on social media might seem like an easy and free way to rectify the problem. However, this approach doesn’t account for two significant variables: angry customers and Twitter trolls. Unfortunately, that’s a lesson Chase had to learn the hard way.
The failed attempt at cool: Few things are more creepy than a brand trying to be hip. Before you deploy on-trend lingo in a social post, make sure that that's not out of character for you, or you may end up getting the kind of publicity you don’t want.
“I was hacked”: There have been multiple examples of public figures using the “I was hacked” line to avoid taking personal responsibility. But for other social users -- companies included -- getting hacked is a real thing with real consequences. Every individual and business is vulnerable: Even global brands like Burger King have dealt with embarrassing hacks.
Four tips to avoid common blunders
The common denominator to these different categories is that all make a strong case for better social media management. Here are a few tips to ensure your own social media presence is a benefit and not a liability:
Checks and balances between “draft” and “publish”: Social posts that generate bad publicity tend to be hastily composed and quickly published. This often happens because companies empower their social media teams to execute without much oversight. But when a company lands in hot water for a tweet, it’s not usually just the small team that will answer for it -- it’s the whole business. Because a company’s social presence reflects the identity of the entire brand, all posts should go through a vetting process, with a light-touch oversight from a key stakeholder.
Scheduling of social posts: In addition to having an administrative vetting procedure for posts, another key strategy to prevent hasty tweets from causing damage is a posting schedule. Companies can achieve this kind of scheduling via social media management software, which provides a convenient platform not only for scheduling tweets and other posts, but for reviewing and revising these posts before they go live.
Asking millennials for help: In a global brand’s quest for relevance on social, there’s one obvious solution: Bring on young talent, complemented by experienced leadership. Despite over-generalizations about the millennial work ethic, there’s little doubt that most consumers and professionals are now accustomed to engaging in social media to some degree. That said, marketers should turn to their companies' employees who are most active on social media, to help craft a social strategy that actually taps into the latest trends instead of botching them.
Management of security risks: Even if your company’s internal social strategy is sound, there’s always the risk of a hacker commandeering your social platform. To prevent security breaches and the inevitable embarrassment that follows, companies should invest in vulnerability management tools that help to identify threats and protect data and network security. The best vulnerability-management resources will feature continuous threat monitoring that alerts network administrators to any potential security issues and provide effective tools for quick threat mitigation.
By following these steps, companies can harness social as an effective promotion and engagement tool and limit their exposure to bad publicity.