4 social media don’ts for businesses

Over the past few years, social media has proven itself to be a major game-changer for marketers in every industry, and it’s safe to say that firms still refusing to jump on the social networking bandwagon are missing out on a wealth of outreach opportunities.

When it comes down to it, your customers are online, whether or not your company is…

When it comes down to it, your customers are online, whether or not your company is – and, chances are, so are many of your competitors. So, what’s stopping you from setting up accounts on the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to interact with – and market to – your audience via a whole new channel?

When you take the leap, it’s important to approach social networking in a structured and strategic way. In previous posts, we’ve discussed putting together the optimal Facebook strategy, using hashtags to boost your social posts’ traffic, coming up with contests to engage your audience and humanizing your brand in a virtual setting – in other words, we’ve provided a lot of advice about what to do. Now, how about social media don’ts?

Here’s a list of things to avoid when it comes to posting on your company’s social networking accounts.

1. Polarizing views and questionable humor

There’s a reason people say you should never bring up touchy subjects like politics and religion on a first date, and the same advice is true of social media. Just as you should stay away from controversial topics, it’s also best to refrain from making off-color jokes that push the envelope. After all, you’re supposed to be engaging with your followers and strengthening your brand’s image, not offending people’s sensibilities and pushing them toward competitors.

2. Inappropriate or thoughtless commentary

When the power went out during the Super Bowl XLVII at New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome in 2013, Oreo quickly put together a tweet and graphic that read “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.” The social media team behind the tweet was widely praised for their real-time marketing prowess.

On the flip side, fashion house Kenneth Cole was lambasted for a similar effort two years earlier. So, what went wrong? When the #Cairo hashtag was trending in connection with the Egyptian revolution of 2011, the brand tried to insert itself into the conversation with the pithy tweet, “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online,” quoted by Mashable (the tweet itself has since been deleted).

3. Poorly thought-out hashtags

Hashtags have the potential to significantly boost social engagement, but if you fail to put enough thought into them, they can quickly take on a life of their own – and not in a good way.

In 2012, McDonald’s fell victim to the disparagement of its #McDStories hashtag (what Forbes eventually termed a “bashtag”) with users cracking jokes, making inappropriate comments and telling tales that painted the brand in a harsh light. The worst part? McDonald’s paid to promote the hashtag as one of Twitter’s Trending Topics.

4. Combative language in social media

One of the things that’s so great about social media is that it allows brand representatives and consumers to directly communicate with each other. That being said, as anyone who’s ever read the comments on a YouTube video knows, people’s sense of decorum sometimes goes out the window when the Internet is involved. However, when you’re tweeting, Facebooking or Instagramming on behalf of a brand, you absolutely must remain above the fray. Descending into a war of words with a disgruntled customer won’t accomplish anything except damaging the company’s reputation.

Social media can be a useful tool for expanding the reach of your brand, provided you steer clear of the four social media don’ts outlined above. Need help navigating the social media waters? We’re happy to answer any questions!

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