The new nightmare for brand marketers is commonly referred to as #socialmediafail–putting the wrong message out, through inadvertence or ignorance, in social media channels. Makes the blood of any marketer or PR pro 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 then, in the days vinyl still ruled, the common nightmare was not being able to put the needle on the record, much like the victim in the horror movie who couldn’t get the car keys into the lock in time. The result was not slasher death, but dead air was close enough. Another waking dread was leaving the microphone on and unknowingly uttering one of George Carlin’s Seven Words.
And, like the dead air of my radio past, misguided, often offensive or accidental tweets, Facebook posts, Reddit posts and the like keep folks like me up at night. On a regular basis.
There is no shortage of examples:
- Chrysler’s Tweeter 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 – oh my!
- Kenneth Cole making light of violence in Egypt to promote a shoe sale – faux pas!
Add to that two high-profile examples from the past week or so:
- KitchenAid’s Twitter account publishing a highly-offensive message about Obama – O-No!
- Stubhub’s Twitter account taking a rather profane approach to the “TGIF” Tweet – Holy $%&#!
Each case is different, and the reactions–and consequences–have also been different. And since I’m someone who helps brands manage their online social media presence, I have my own waking nightmares of having this happen. Thus, I have a few thoughts:
- 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.
- I use Tweetdeck as my personal social publishing tool. I use it largely for Twitter and Facebook, but under no circumstances do I add client accounts. Ever. I know myself too well, hilarity would not ensue.
- I ALWAYS 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 allergy. Actually, that’s a stretch, but that’s the best analogy you’re going to get when I write on a Monday night.
- 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 think about 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 knows 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 are the fewer F-bombs that have a chance of slipping into the wrong social media stream. It’s a personal choice with which others will differ, but I like to take down the odds (metrics!)
- Are you still hiring interns to do your social media? 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.
My pal 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. He not only has two decades of broadcasting, PR, marketing and social media experience, he’s one of the funniest people on the planet. I’m so lucky to call him “friend.” (Among other things). You can find him online at @dough, stalk his blog or connect with him on LinkedIn. I strongly suggest you do.
This post first appeared on Doug’s blog at DougHaslam.com.