5 DISASTERS IN SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING (AND HOW TO PREVENT THEM)
They say a fool learns from his mistakes; a wise man learns from the mistakes of others. Today you earn your wisdom badge by creating a web presence that steers clear of social marketing's biggest faux pas. (Aside: not sure how to pluralize a compound word that doesn't belong in an English sentence in the first place. Let's just apologize to all the French readers out there and move on.)
The first thing you've got to realize about building a brand with social media is that it is not social. Not at all. You don't post to Facebook, or shoot out a tweet in the middle of a conversation. That is, you shouldn't, though many do. Have you ever found someone tweeting while you are talking to them? That's just rude.
Most people update social media when they are alone or when it is a part of their job requirements. A strange psychological effect takes over during this process, which was first recorded with the birth of email sometime in the 1960's. Apparently email was never invented, it just evolved itself. Why do people still love this creepy tech?
What happens to you inside emails, and what has been intensified by social media, is called the ODE -- Online Disinhibition Effect. The combination of privacy, anonymity, and one-way communication make people say and do things that social filters normally catch in public. Hence, shortly after the first email, came the first flame email.
Social media, with its intimacy, ease of posting, and ephemeral nature makes it easier to post whatever goes thorough your mind without stopping at the station called “Oooops.” Here’s what happens when you engage your fingers before your good sense.
1) Bad sense of humor
Imagine if the following shoe were on your other foot. Many times companies link current events to flash sales or special promotions. Humor and controversy get the biggest responses, so why not combine them into one monster tweet?
In the midst of a violent middle eastern revolution, shoe designer Kenneth Cole infamously tweeted: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online.”
If you can't picture the response, here is one of the mildest examples:
“You should be ashamed of yourselves @KennethCole ! How tasteless and insensitive! People are dying there!”
There are no rules to comedy, but if your post is meant to be funny, get a second opinion, then a third and fourth. Humor depends on a surprise, and saying what you really shouldn't say is certainly surprising, so it could be funny. But it could also cost you thousands of customers while it racks up the ongoing negative press roll in articles like this one.
2) Post and run
"Push" tech is traditional media, where someone in a big corner office decides what music is on the radio and what shows are on TV. "Pull" tech began search engines, where people decide what they want first, then they go look for it. Web 3.0, that is social sites, represent "push-pull" where everyone is part media mogul and part fan club. The big mistake companies make when they start a new business presence online is to post for fans, followers and retweets rather than engaging in conversations. Ragu got in hot water for making cooking dads look bad, not because that's an original idea, but because they wouldn't stop. Encourage responses, promote others and stop going to virtual cocktail parties and shouting about yourself.
3) Did I type that out loud?
Civil discourse is no longer possible even on PBS, let alone cable news. Social media is swarming with experts and people who image themselves to be experts because they know how to cut and paste. Set the guidelines for what is right and wrong in terms of comments and enforce them. There is no need to get into responding to attacks with attacks, but you have to keep a firm control over what is being pasted onto your site. Hacks happen, posts to the wrong account happen, and unedited thoughts find their way onto business sites often enough to keep blogs busy at a constant rate of disapproval. However, a good business has monitoring in place, corrects things quickly, and has a good laugh at itself. See the Red Cross drunken tweet for guidance on how to emerge from a crisis as "adorable."
4) No embraces for enemies?
Within wide limitations, let people post whatever they want on your social media site. This relates to the above point. Nothing is more damaging to your credibility than to present the impression that people can only post fawning tributes. Don't be a quickdraw on the delete button, either. Your community should police itself. If it doesn't, you need to do some serious work on community building. Lowe's demonstrated where to draw the line when a rack of racist remarks were left up on their Facebook site too long and gave the impression that the company agreed.
Seek out people who disagree and engage with them. Find out what they don't like and correct misconceptions. You are not only educating the loudmouth, but the thousands who had the wrong impressions but said nothing. "Conversion" should mean more to you than an easy sale from someone who is already a fan. Squeaky wheels do need grease, or they’re going to fall off the wagon.
5) What does "Hero Up" mean?
Ah, PayPal. What would 2011 have looked like without a series of extraordinarily bad decisions followed up by bland corporate evasions? PayPal is certainly not alone in the "Poor Decisions in Customer Service" awards department, as any airline or cable customer can tell you repeatedly in all caps on your Twitter feed. What makes a mistake much worse is a slow (need I say Blackberry slow?) or passive response. If your company makes a decision that explodes on social media into a debacle, you need to stand up, own up, fix the situation and show some cyber-backbone.
When a PayPal CSR suggested that charity involves money for cats not poor people, of course that got posted all over the blogosphere. Result: dozens of hate posts per minute to their Facebook (used-to-be) Fan page. PayPal at first responded by deleting the comments, then posting that the situation was resolved, and they couldn't comment further. The social media public was able to comment further, though, and it wasn't very nice. In short, their PR problem doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon. In the meantime, in a gesture of goodwill, PayPal could sponsor LOLCats.
That's all we can tell you for now. We would love to hear about your most embarrassing moments online and promise not to retweet it everywhere. Actually, we were going to say something else entirely, but thought better of it.
Image courtesy of Creative Commons