Ten things not to do on social media

We’ve been living in a social world for more than a decade now but plenty of people, and businesses, still seem to be getting basic things wrong.

Here’s a 10-point refresher on some of the things you should definitely not be doing on social media, with examples of how it can all go terribly (or hilariously) wrong.

1. Why do people think they can delete a post and it will go away – #screengrabs exist!

If you’ve tweeted something ridiculous, chances are someone has taken a screengrab of it. Same goes with any other social media material. Yes, you can delete a post, but that does not necessarily mean it’s not lurking about somewhere in cyberspace. This is what Facebook says on the matter:

When you choose to delete something you shared on Facebook, we remove it from the site. Some of this information is permanently deleted from our servers; however, some things can only be deleted when you permanently delete your account.

And Twitter:

You can delete any of your own Tweets from Twitter at any time. Please note that you can only delete Tweets you have posted, you cannot delete other accounts’ Tweets from your timeline.

Take note of this advice: “You cannot delete other accounts’ Tweets from your timeline”. So if the stupid or offensive tweet you sent happened to have been retweeted by one of the millions of mindless tweetbots on Twitter, it’s still out there. Remember: think before you post. And then check it back again.

2. Don’t get into nasty slanging matches with customers

As business owners, we’ve probably all been there. But it’s ultimately not going to do you, your blood pressure, or the reputation of your business any good to get stuck into difficult customers via social media. Don’t escalate matters and feed the flames of outrage; try to resolve any issues someone might have with your business away from the public glare of Facebook, Twitter or any other platform.

It’s probably best not to adopt the approach of this owner of a vegan cafe in the UK, who called one customer a “f**king control freak” and replied to another like this: “F*** you Bethany, and f*** your plans!”

3. Don’t trash the competition

You should have plenty of things to occupy your time if you’re running a business without making more work for yourself by furtively trashing your competition. Aside from it being unethical and legally risky behaviour, it could too easily come back to bite you and expose you in a less than flattering light. Get on with running your business and leave the nasty behaviour to the sad trolls out there.

This is unfortunately quite a common occurrence when it comes to reviews of hospitality businesses.

4. Be careful what you share

You might think it’s a great idea to share that inspirational Facebook post or Instagram pic, but who are you giving a de facto endorsement to with that share? Unless you’re running an adult business of some sort, you probably shouldn’t be retweeting pornography, which is what the Australian Capital Territory police ended up doing.

5. Does a disgruntled employee have your social passwords?

At one point you trusted this person enough to make them an admin on your social media accounts. But things turned sour, quickly. Amid the fallout you find out this person has hijacked your accounts, in effect locking you out. They have the keys to your social media and the reputation of your business in their hands.

An outlandish scenario? It wasn’t for HMV in 2013, when the HMV social media manager decided to live tweet mass sackings: “We’re tweeting live from HR where we’re all being fired! Exciting!!”

The lesson? Stay on top of your accounts and know your admins. Act quickly if you think your accounts could be compromised.

6. Bin the bot

Part of the power of social media is it allows us to converse and interact with people all over the world and in real time. At its best, it’s dynamic, organic and fun. The opposite of that is achieved when companies hand over their social accounts to software programs and bots.

There’s definitely a need for scheduling platforms like Hootsuite if you have an active social program, but there’s no place for auto response bots or automated posts. Employing bots is a sure fire way to consign your brand to irrelevance. Keep it real.

7. #Hashtag #Fail

Hardly a week goes by when we don’t encounter some sort of #hashtag fail. The hashtag certainly has its uses, but it loses its purpose when it’s employed willy-nilly for no reason. The hashtags have to be relevant.

Even more importantly, make sure your hashtag isn’t setting you up to become an internet laughing stock, as in the case of poor Susan Boyle and her #susanalbumparty; or accidentally piggybacking on an existing hashtag that has a far different meaning to what you had in mind, which is what fashion label Kenneth Cole did with #Cairo.

8. Don’t tweet drunk

You shouldn’t post to social media after you’ve been drinking—especially if it’s about work. The temptation might be there on late Friday afternoon after a few beers at lunch to unleash your alcohol inspired comic genius—don’t. Someone in the social media team at JC Penney seemed a bit sozzled when they were live tweeting during the 2014 Super Bowl. The spelling was a bit of a giveaway.

9. Check your facts

We may now live in the age of alternative facts and post-truth, but that’s not going to get you very far with sceptical consumers. There’s no excuse for making basic factual mistakes in your social media, other than laziness and sloppiness. Before you post or tweet something out, double check it’s right.

This is doubly important if it’s directly related to your line of business. Otherwise, you might end up in the unenviable position of making both Russia and Ukraine unhappy.

10. Stay classy

At least this business got one thing right: it made a video to post to Facebook. But it should have thought a little longer about the concept it came up with for the video: a 9/11 inspired ‘Twin Towers Sale’ mattresses. It goes without saying that if something reeks even a little, it might at very best be worthwhile running its merits past a few people before you go ahead with the idea.

The thing with social media is that it is so quick and easy to get your message out that a rush of blood to the head might spell disaster for your business reputation. Unless you are 100% sure you can do it right, stay away from topics like death and destruction, and anything else that could badly offend your customers’ sensibilities.

Fi Bendall is chief executive of The Bendalls Group, a business that leads STRATEGY : ADVOCACY : MOBILE delivering the business acumen to drive effective positive results in a disruptive economy for the C-suite. Fi has recently won a Westpac/AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence award. 


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