#too #many #hashtags #areannoying (and avoiding other social media blunders)

Posted by Garfield

Considering social media’s brief history – “The Simpsons” already had been on the air for 15 seasons and was considered past its prime when Facebook debuted in 2004 – it’s no surprise that the business world has been slow to figure out how to use it and, especially, how to handle blunders.

It seems as if hardly a week goes by without some prominent company (or person) that should know better doing something really stupid. Whether it’s an airline employee mistakenly tweeting a graphically obscene photograph, a recipe website suggesting Boston bombing victims enjoy whole-grain cranberry scones, a certain former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver flashing gang signs or a PR executive telling everyone she hoped she wouldn’t contract AIDS on a trip to Africa, there’s no shortage of idiotic behavior.

And that’s saying something, considering how people these day actually take into consideration what people such as Kim Kardashian (initially famous for being friends with noted scholar Paris Hilton), Ted Nugent (nickname: Motor City Madman) and Jenny McCarthy (famous for taking her clothes off a lot) have to say.

OK, back to the topic at hand.

Once a post, tweet, photograph or other form of expression is out there for the world to see, you’re screwed.

Yes, you can issue a solemn apology and remove the offending item (although it will live on indefinitely somewhere on the Internet). You can even fire the person responsible for the stupidity, but that doesn’t really change anything.

For starters, you need a social media policy. That policy needs to detail several things.

  1. Who is responsible for posting and, perhaps more importantly, who has access to corporate social media accounts. Hint: Don’t give passwords to disgruntled employees or twentysomethings who think nothing of posting pictures of them guzzling vodka or smoking joints on their personal accounts.
  2. How often you post. Social media posts needs to be made regularly to build an audience, but oversharing is just as bad as neglect. And make sure you vary posting times; you don’t want to appear robotic and post at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day. Variety is the spice of life.
  3. What your goal is. Obviously, the ultimate goal is increased traction among key audiences, but social media posts shouldn’t simply be product pitches. You want to build and engage a loyal audience – it’s better to have 10,000 enthusiastic followers than 100,000 people who really don’t care. Social media is a two-way street and good way to collect customer feedback.
  4. What you post. This is where many companies get in trouble. A good rule of thumb is to not post anything you wouldn’t want your mother to see. There’s no need to be bland, but social media is not the place to be edgy. Leave edgy to Chris Rock or Sarah Silverman.
  5. How to monitor social media. Every company will run into critical social media posts, but this is a chance to turn a negative into a positive, so don’t simply ignore it. Careful engagement of negative posters (don’t call them morons, even if they are) often can turn them into supporters; this is an avenue for showing that your company cares. And respond quickly.
  6. What you don’t post. Financial data, confidential materials, legal issues, talk about competitors (don’t bash them), personal information and the CEO’s credit card numbers don’t belong in social media.

A well-crafted policy should eliminate many problems, but there are other things to consider.

For example, the hashtag craze is getting out of hand as #too #many #hashtags #areannoying. Use them judiciously.

Don’t treat all social media similarly, and don’t post the exact same thing on every site. You don’t want it to appear that Dr. Sheldon Cooper of “Big Bang Theory” fame is responsible for posting.

Finally, avoid controversial topics (see the recipe website example mentioned in the second paragraph), and don’t exploit them in the name of sales. Be careful with holidays that have particular meaning to some people, such as Veterans Day or Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Given the ever-changing social media landscape, new issues are bound to crop up, so always take a somewhat cautious approach of “when in doubt, leave it out.”