Let’s face it — social media has pretty much taken over our lives. As a Millennial who came of age just as Facebook eclipsed MySpace as the preeminent social media… erm… medium, I can hardly believe where Web 2.0 has taken us. What is MySpace? Don’t worry about it.
Anyway, Facebook, which started out as a simple way to stalk the kids you sort of knew in high school, has transformed into… well, a tool for keeping tabs on the kids you sort of knew in college. But it also has become a critical component of marketing strategy for businesses big and small.
If you are a small business owner, chances are resource constraints means that you are going to have to run your own social media accounts, or assign an employee to do it whose primary role is not “social media wizard”.
My father once told me, “If you are going to do something, do it right.”
Now, I may not have applied this wisdom so much to my childhood chores, but these words have since served me well — and so will they serve you as you embark down the social media road.
If you are going to pursue social media for your firm, pursue social media for your firm.
Great. So, where to begin?
One of best ways to learn how to do something (when you have no idea what you are doing), is to learn from the failures of others. Luckily, social media is absolutely transparent — so when somebody crashes and burns, the world will know about it, and you can learn from it.
Here are 5 epic fails your firm should try to avoid:
1. Being Vulgar — While this might seem intuitive (you wouldn’t curse in a board room), sometimes social media’s casual feel causes people to lose all sense of etiquette and tweet things their clients (not to mention, mothers) might frown upon. Take StubHub, which last year called itself a “stubsucking hell hole” via Twitter. The offensive tweet remained live for almost an hour before the company deleted it and issued an apology. This doesn’t mean you have to go all Leave it to Beaver with your tweets and status updates, but follow your gut — if you have to think twice about what you are posting, then maybe you shouldn’t post it?
2. Not Thinking Twice Before Tweeting — Okay, so this might seem to contradict what I just told you, but hear me out. Generally, thinking twice before you do anything is a sound practice for a long and prosperous life, career and business. Remember Weinergate? In case you’ve forgotten: Former Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York, a married man, thought he was sending a photo (which violated #1) as a private direct message to a young female follower. Unfortunately for Weiner, he had actually tweeted the picture to his several thousand followers. Though he immediately deleted the tweet after realizing this — the damage was already done. This eventually led to his resignation from the U.S. Congress.
There are several lessons to be learned from this. First, don’t be a dirtbag. Second, assume nothing is private on social media. Third, nothing you tweet, or post to Facebook and LinkedIn is ever truly temporary.
3. Not Keeping Your Personal Opinions Personal — Social media might be about sharing, but when it comes to using it for your firm, there are just some things you shouldn’t share. Like political opinions. Remember that time Cousin Brian defriended you after you bashed Obamacare? Or that other time your girlfriend left you after she saw you “liked” Ann Coulter’s Facebook status? Imagine what your customers would do. Just as you would stay thy tongue in the face of a customer’s conflicting political opinions, so should you refrain from hijacking your company’s social media accounts to soapbox.
With that in mind, you also should make sure not to accidentally mix up your personal social media accounts with your professional ones. During one of last year’s presidential debates, KitchenAid’s social media manager accidentally sent an offensive tweet about Obama’s deceased grandmother that went out to the company’s over 24,000 followers. The individual thought they were logged in to their personal account. Womp Womp.
4. Failing to Keep Promises — It’s pretty textbook that you wouldn’t make promises in your marketing you are unable to deliver upon — the same rules apply to social media. As we learned in #2, anything you say on social media never really goes away, so if you decide to announce a promotion, sale or whatever, only to change your mind and delete the post, people will not simply forget. This will damage your integrity in the eyes of your customers. If you want to get legal about it (as we often do around here), it actually is now illegal to delete social media posts that could be used as evidence in a court case.
5. Failing to Have Fun — This might be the most epic fail of them all. At its core, social media is most useful as a tool to convey your brand’s personality to the masses, and to distinguish it from competitors. Social media is about being social — interacting with your customers and potential customers in a more intimate manner than traditional marketing permits. While there are plenty of ways to fail at social media, it’s worth the risk in more ways than just ROI. Have fun with your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. Heck, dive into Pinterest, if you feel like it. The nascent world of social media may still be working out it kinks, but one thing is for sure — it is here to stay. Get with it, or get left behind.