5 Tips: Avoid Being A Social Media Turkey

Consider these lessons learned from companies and people who have gotten the social stuffing kicked out of them.

Debra Donston-Miller

November 22, 2011

4 Min Read
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10 Smart Enterprise Uses For Twitter

10 Smart Enterprise Uses For Twitter

10 Smart Enterprise Uses For Twitter (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

In honor of Thanksgiving, we've collected some of the social media gaffes that have made companies (and, in one case, a certain celebrity) look like, well, turkeys. Following is some advice on how to learn from their mistakes and avoid getting the social stuffing kicked out of your company.

1. Don't overstep social bounds. Last fall, Gap introduced a new logo. Maybe it's never a good idea to tinker with something iconic, and, sure enough, the new logo was met with much derision. Gap's response was to take to the community, fielding suggestions for better ideas in a sort of crowdsourcing model. However, the company was unclear on how budding or even professional designers would be acknowledged and compensated for their work. Asking the community to make decisions on, say, what color a new shoe should be (which Lands' End has done) is effectively leveraging social, but betting something as important as a company logo on it is a tone-deaf misuse of the medium.

2. Don't ignore compliments or complaints. A new study by Conversocial shows that 65% of customer complaints on retailers' Facebook pages go unanswered. For example, the study shows that 41% of complaints on Walmart's page, 35% of queries on Macy's page, and all complaints on grocer Kroger's page were essentially ignored during a five-day period. Companies with social presence need to commit to interacting with their community, whether they are thanking a user for a compliment or responding to a complaint. And, all of that needs to happen in plain sight. It could very well be that these companies responded to users offline or privately, but it looks to others like the situation is being ignored. The entire resolution process doesn't need to be broadcast, but a simple public note saying something like, "We are sorry you were disappointed with [insert product/service name here]. Please contact us at [insert phone number/email address here] and we will take care of the issue right away," is needed.

[ Are situations like these making bigwigs balk at your social media plans? Learn 11 Ways To Explain Social Business Benefits. ]

3. Train employees and develop social policy. In early 2010, offensive comments were tweeted from Vodafone's Twitter page. While there was speculation at first that the account had been hacked, it turned out that a Vodafone employee had posted the comments. Vodafone quickly admitted that its page had not been hacked and that the comments were posted by an employee. It also confirmed that the employee had been let go. Clearly it was the employee and not Vodafone that made the serious blunder here. However, this situation points to the importance of employee training and tight social media policy that is clearly (and often) communicated to staff.

4. Pick your battles. Candy-maker Nestle got into it a bit with its Facebook fans after it asked them not to use an altered version of the company's logo as their profile pics. Said fans were miffed, and, this being social media and all, expressed their frustration for all to read. Nestle went on the offensive, spouting off about intellectual property and the like. Nestle wasn't inaccurate, of course, but it picked a battle that didn't need to be fought, antagonizing its fans along the way.

5. Know of what you speak. Maybe it's not fair to pick on Ashton Kutcher here, but when you have as many Twitter followers as he does (and any company should be so lucky), you need to take a moment before you post to make sure you have your facts straight, especially when it comes to controversial topics. I'm talking about Kutcher's now-infamous comments on Twitter where he complained about the firing of Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno seemingly without knowing about the growing abuse scandal at the school. Kutcher has since apologized and said that he won't be tweeting anymore until he can figure out how to manage the feed. Like Kutcher, companies need to find a balance between timely commenting on relevant news and some kind of oversight. They also need to make sure that they apply appropriate resources to the management of social platforms.

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