Like other powerful tools, social media is a double-edged sword. Its massive reach opens up new horizons of communication and increases the speed that information flows. On the other hand, when your company commits a social media blunder, a lot of people may notice and talk about it. Fortunately, there are a few simple things that will reduce the risk.
Insults and profanity bombs
The decidedly un-controversial U.S. housewares manufacturer KitchenAid found this out first-hand last week, when the following tweet popped up on the company’s official Twitter account during the U.S. presidential debate:
"Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! She died 3 days b4 he came president #nbcpolitics"
Of course, such a derogatory post instantly drew a great deal of attention, especially with the #nbcpolitics hashtag attaching it to a massive ongoing discussion. KitchenAid is no slouch when it comes to social media management, and it quickly shut down the brewing crisis by deleting the post 8 minutes after it appeared, publishing an apology, and announcing the cause of the tweet—a member of the social media team (who “won’t be tweeting for us anymore”, as KitchenAid’s Twitter manager put it) had accidentally posted from the company account, rather than their personal one.
Most corporate social media crises are caused, not by malicious behavior, but simple mistakes. Chrysler encountered similar circumstances when an employee at their social media agency erroneously posted the following Tweet to the corporate feed in the midst of their Detroit-centric #motorcity campaign:
“I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to ****ing drive”
Sometimes it’s a top executive himself who slips up, as CEO Kenneth Cole did during the Egyptian revolution last summer when he posted the following:
“Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online…”
Using social media management software
Nearly every organization wants to be involved with social media, which is a good thing, but it needs to be done carefully and purposefully. The very best social media work comes from putting smart-thinking people behind the keyboard, but no matter how smart the person, the possibility of human error very much exists.
Popular social media software like HootSuite or Radian 6 allow users to manage multiple accounts and coordinate as a team. The tendency for many is to lump both personal and business profiles together under one easy login, especially because your typical social media team member is a heavy user outside of work.
Not a good idea. This leaves you one mis-click away from posting a hilarious picture from the last night's party to the corporate feed—rather than a personal one—which your stakeholders won’t find entertaining.
How to reduce human error in social media posts
Never mix personal and business social media accounts in one login, no matter how convenient it may be. Use separate logins, and consider using separate software tools for business and personal accounts.
You may also want to consider segregating feeds that post as the voice of the company from those that belong to private business-oriented accounts, such as the CEO’s Twitter.
Regardless of whether it’s a fresh intern or a vetted member of the board typing in the words, when they post under that company handle, they are the company as far as the public is concerned. Consider carefully who is given the reins to drive your social media activity. It takes business and social media savvy, to be certain, but you also need good judgment.
You can't set it and forget it
This isn’t to say that your organization’s leadership can “set it and forget it” when it comes to social media. They need to be involved to ensure that messaging is consistent across not just social media, but all forms of communication. This means following and actually reading your own company feeds (something too many organizations fail to do).
When a post involves an important or potentially sensitive subject, make sure at least one person proofreads the post before it's sent. Occasionally, some posts need to first be vetted by someone from corporate communications, PR, marketing or a similar department.
Use social media software, such as the ones mentioned earlier, to setup alerts for new messages, mentions of your organization, specific keywords, competitors, shared posts, and more. Managers and execs can setup feeds that show all the organization's social media activity in one convenient location, which simplifies monitoring.
By taking these steps, you greatly reduce the risk of committing a blunder and having your organization get publicity for all the wrong reasons. Better to take steps now than have to go into crisis management mode to protect your organization's reputation.