Why Businesses Need To Be Careful On Social Media

Be careful on what you say on social media

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Everyone on social media has had that moment when they tweet or post something that they realize after the fact is wildly inappropriate, and they wish they could just delete everything and start over. For businesses, the consequences can be much more far-reaching.

The Importance of Being Cautious

Emphasizing Social Media Ethics and Online Reputation Management: In the age of instant communication, a single misstep on social media can lead to a public relations nightmare. Businesses must adhere to social media ethics, ensuring that their posts are respectful, accurate, and aligned with their brand image on social media. Using a Facebook business page effectively involves more than just posting updates; it’s crucial to engage with your audience through meaningful content and timely responses to maintain a positive brand image.

Social media ethics involve moral principles that guide behavior and decision-making on social media platforms. Reputation management is the practice of shaping public perception of an entity (especially in crisis situations) to maintain a positive image.

For example, the misidentification of Whoopi Goldberg as Oprah Winfrey at the Oscars by Total Beauty played into classic racist assumptions, leading to an intense backlash. Such mistakes not only damage a company’s online reputation but can also have lasting impacts on customer trust and brand perception.

The significance of social media ethics and reputation management has grown with the internet’s expansion. Early social platforms like MySpace and Friendster laid the groundwork, but the rise of Facebook, Twitter, and others made reputation management crucial for businesses.

A study from Altimeter found that the average cost of a social media mistake to a company is approximately $4.3 million in terms of litigation, lost revenue, and brand damage.

Tips and Potential Consequences: Being cautious on social media is not just about avoiding mistakes; it’s about strategically leveraging platforms to enhance brand image and engage with the audience. Here are some tips:

  • Double-check facts and spelling: As seen with the Total Beauty blunder, a simple mistake can lead to significant consequences.
  • Avoid controversial content: Remember the dentist who faced international outrage for killing a lion named Cecil? Avoiding highly sensitive topics can prevent such backlash.
  • Implement safeguards: If multiple employees have access to social media feeds, having safeguards in place can prevent accidental posts, as witnessed with US Airways.
  • Understand trending hashtags before using them: DiGiorno’s insensitive use of the hashtag #WhyIStayed serves as a lesson to research before jumping on trends.

Understanding the Permanent Impact of Social Media Mistakes

In the vast and unforgiving world of social media, a momentary lapse can lead to a permanent scar on a brand’s reputation. Consider a well-known fast-food chain that once posted a seemingly harmless tweet, only to find it misconstrued and spread like wildfire, tarnishing its image for years. This isn’t just about a temporary dip in sales; it’s about a long-lasting dent in customer trust and brand loyalty. In an era where digital footprints are indelible, a single post can resurface at any time, reigniting controversy and damaging reputations anew.

But why do these blunders stick around for so long? The digital world is like an echo chamber, where information, once released, resonates indefinitely. The notion of “deleting” is a myth; screenshots and shares mean that your words can live on far beyond their intended lifespan.

Think before you post, and then think again. Each message should pass through a filter of cultural sensitivity, brand alignment, and factual accuracy. Implement checks and balances, especially if multiple people manage your social media accounts. Remember, in this digital age, your social media presence is as crucial as the face you present in the physical world. It’s not just about avoiding mistakes; it’s about crafting a thoughtful, consistent, and respectful online persona that reflects your brand’s values and resonates positively with your audience.

Legal Repercussions is More Than Just Bad PR

Let’s talk about libel. Libel is a false statement that can harm someone’s reputation. For businesses, this means being extra careful about what they say about competitors or even customers online. A single tweet or post that’s seen as defamatory could lead to a lawsuit. For example, a small business owner once faced legal action for a negative comment made about a competitor on social media. The case served as a stark reminder: words have power, and in the digital world, they have a lasting impact.

Copyright infringement is a significant risk when sharing content online. Using images, music, or text without proper authorization or attribution can lead to lawsuits and large fines. For instance, a business using a copyrighted image for a campaign without the owner’s permission might find itself in a legal battle, facing demands for compensation. This scenario underscores the importance of understanding and respecting intellectual property rights in all social media activities.

Businesses must also navigate various regulations, including advertising standards and privacy laws. Missteps here can lead to fines and damage to the company’s reputation. For instance, failing to disclose paid endorsements or not adhering to data protection standards can have serious legal and financial consequences. As a business owner, you need to stay informed about these regulations and implement strict compliance measures.

On Social Media, Your Audience Can Be Everyone

When we talk content marketing, we often remind users to target their content very specifically. Content marketing works and does best in niche areas, bringing specific products to the attention of specific users.

It’s important to remember, though, that there is always the potential for your audience to suddenly become everyone. Remember the dentist who took pictures of himself after killing a lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe? Perhaps his customers would have appreciated his vacation pictures, but the international community was not so forgiving. His business was crushed by the anger.

Lesson learned: while speaking directly to your audience is good, remember to avoid extremely controversial content like racial or gender-based slurs. If you have content that is likely to be inflammatory in some way, look for a more private way to distribute it – but remember, the Internet is never really private.

Check and Double-Check That You’re Sending Things Where You Meant To

Last year, an employee at US Airways hit the wrong button, and instead of reporting a pornographic image of a woman with a toy airplane, tweeted it onto the company’s official account. The mistake went unnoticed for about 45 minutes, while the Twitterverse entertained itself by mocking the image and the company.

While this incident didn’t have any deeply lasting impact on US Airways, it did show the downside of having multiple employees with access to a company’s social media feeds. It certainly didn’t help the airline win any fans, and having your brand associated with social media failures isn’t a long-term winning business strategy.

Lesson learned: Always double-check before you hit the send button. If multiple employees have access to the company’s social media feeds, it might be a good idea to have an extra safeguard in place to ensure that everything posted is appropriate and matches branding.

Be Careful of Spelling, Names, and Identities

Remember at the Oscars, when the company Total Beauty misidentified Whoopi Goldberg as Oprah Winfrey? Twitter does, and users were furious, especially since the blunder plays into classic racist assumptions. It’s likely that the mistake was merely one of typing too fast and not double-checking an assumption of who the actress was, but the backlash was intense and lasted for hours (a feat, when there was so much else wrong with the Oscars this year!)

Lesson learned: If you aren’t sure that you’re using the right name, spelling, or fact, double-check. Ask someone else. Get it right. The Internet doesn’t have a delete button.

Don’t Take Advantage of Trending Hashtags as a Company

We’ve never seen this one end well. It seems like a great idea! Find a trending hashtag, make a relevant post, and get your post seen by thousands! It doesn’t work out.

The latest company to learn that was DiGiorno. In response to the backlash against Janay Palmer for continuing to stay with her then-fiance Ray Rice, despite a video that appeared to show her abuse by him, abuse survivors created a hashtag #WhyIStayed, detailing the structural and emotional reasons why they had chosen not to leave abusive partners. DiGiorno tweeted “#WhyIStayed You had pizza,” at once appearing both insensitive and out of touch. Well done!

The company later apologized.

Lesson learned: If you’re going to try and capitalize on a trending hashtag, take a couple of minutes to research the hashtag and learn what’s going on. Better yet, just don’t.

Strategies For Responsible Social Media Engagement

In the ever-connected world of social media, businesses must navigate with precision and tact. One wrong tweet or post can spiral into a public relations disaster. So, how can businesses engage responsibly? First and foremost, know your audience. Understanding who you’re speaking to can guide the tone and content of your posts.

Double-check facts and spelling, as a simple mistake can lead to significant consequences. Avoid controversial content that might alienate your audience. Implement safeguards if multiple employees have access to social media feeds to prevent accidental posts. And always understand trending hashtags before using them; a misstep here can appear insensitive or out of touch.

Tools to monitor and manage content

The digital landscape is filled with tools designed to help businesses monitor and manage their social media content. Platforms like Hootsuite, Buffer, and Sprout Social allow businesses to schedule posts, track social media engagement, and analyze results. These tools can be invaluable in maintaining a consistent and responsible social media presence.

Additionally, using social media listening tools can help businesses understand what’s being said about them online, allowing for timely and appropriate responses. Research by Convince & Convert suggests 42% of consumers expect a response on social media within 60 minutes.

By leveraging these tools, businesses can ensure that their social media engagement aligns with their brand image and values, fostering trust and connection with their audience.

Here’s What You Need to Remember

Social media is a powerful tool for your business, but like all powerful tools, you need to make sure that you’re using it with respect and with care. The rules for personal social media accounts and professional ones are very different, and you should make sure that you’re aware of what you’re saying before you’re saying it.

As a company, you want to react to things that are happening authentically and in real-time, and that’s a powerful and useful instinct, but you also need to make sure that you’re doing things the right way. If you’re not sure what to do at a given moment, wait. Get some advice from an expert in social media before moving forward.

  1. Industry-Specific Risks: Different industries face unique social media challenges. Finance companies must navigate strict regulations, while retail brands are highly susceptible to public perception shifts.
  2. Global Variances: Social media regulations and user behavior can vary greatly by country, requiring a tailored approach for international brands.
  3. Evolving Algorithms: Platforms frequently change algorithms, affecting how and who sees your content, necessitating constant strategy adjustments.
  4. Rise of Video Content: Cisco predicts that by 2022, 82% of all online content will be video, making it a critical format for engagement.
  5. Employee Advocacy Programs: Companies are increasingly leveraging their employees as brand ambassadors on social media, amplifying their reach and authenticity.

Metrics and Monitoring

In the dynamic world of social media, understanding the impact of your content is essential. Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) is like having a roadmap. Metrics and monitoring allow you to measure engagement, spot potential issues, and fine-tune your strategies for better resonance with your audience. Imagine each post is a conversation starter; you want to know who’s engaging, who’s passing the message along, and who’s passive. Tools like engagement rates, reach, and shares offer a snapshot of how your message is received.

But where do you start, and what should you focus on? Think of your social media presence as a garden that needs regular tending. Key metrics like click-through rates, hashtag performance, and audience growth are your tools for pruning and nurturing. Monitoring these indicators helps identify what’s working and what needs adjustment. It’s not just about spotting a misstep before it becomes a slide; it’s about leveraging insights to foster a stronger, more engaged community around your brand. And remember, the landscape is always shifting. Stay curious and keep learning. Use these metrics to pave new paths to success.

Your First Line of Defense is To Build a Robust Social Media Policy

Building a robust social media policy isn’t just a good idea; it’s your shield against the unpredictable tides of the online world. Think of it as a guidebook for your brand’s digital journey, setting out clear paths to follow and pitfalls to avoid. Here’s how you start crafting this crucial document.

Your policy should be like a compass, guiding every post, tweet, and share. Outline what’s acceptable and what’s not. This isn’t about creativity; it’s about ensuring every message reflects your brand’s values and ethics. Specify roles and responsibilities. Who’s at the helm of your social media ship? Who checks the facts and tones before a post goes live? This clarity isn’t just for control; it’s for empowerment, allowing your team to engage confidently and effectively.

But a policy isn’t a one-and-done deal. It’s a living document that needs regular check-ups and updates. Why? Because the digital landscape shifts faster than dunes in a desert storm. New platforms pop up every day, trends change, and what was okay yesterday might be taboo today. Regular training sessions are vital. They’re your crew’s drills, ensuring everyone knows what to do when the social seas get choppy.

Finally, think of your policy as a conversation starter. It’s not just a list of do’s and don’ts; it’s a dialogue about your brand’s voice, values, and vision in the digital world. Engage your team in its creation and implementation. Their insights and frontline experiences can transform a good policy into a great one, turning potential mistakes into opportunities for connection and growth.

According to Ambassador, 71% of consumers who have had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others.

How Long Does It Take to Repair a Brand Image Damaged by Social Media Errors?

Fixing a brand’s image after a social media mistake is a tough road that can take a long time. How long it takes can really differ. Usually, it’s not a quick fix but a long-term effort that might last from a few months to even years, depending on how bad the situation is and how well the response plan works. Quick actions might stop things from getting worse, but real healing is about earning back trust. This is a slow process that needs steady and honest efforts, plus real talks with people. Brands should remember that every post, answer, or campaign after the mess-up is a step toward fixing their public image.

The journey to making things right usually begins with a real “sorry” and owning up to what went wrong. Then, you should clearly share what steps you’re taking to avoid the same mistake. This could be training your team, changing your rules, or reaching out to the community. The real test of how long it’ll take to fix things is how the company works this event into its ongoing story. Does it just become a thing of the past, or a moment that changes how the brand acts for the better? Staying positively connected and showing that you’ve really changed matters a lot. It’s not about just waiting for people to forget; it’s about actively moving in a new direction with every step, showing both customers and critics that the brand has not only learned its lesson but has grown from it.

Some Current Trends or Emerging Threats

A new trend is the growing skill of “deepfake” technology. This tech lets people make very real-looking fake videos or sounds, which can be a big problem for how much people trust a brand. Picture this: a video that looks real shows a CEO saying something shocking, and it spreads like wildfire. Even if it’s proven false fast, the harm to the company’s image can be deep and hard to fix. As this technology becomes accessible to more people, companies need to be ready to act fast and clearly if someone uses it against them.

Another big issue is “cancel culture,” where people’s anger can lead to big boycotts or negative attacks on a company. One wrong move or confusing message can start a huge problem, really hurting how people see the brand and their sales. This shows why it’s so important to get the cultural and social setting your business is in. It’s not enough to just stay away from hot topics; you need to work to keep a positive, welcoming image online.

A Deep Dive into Social Media Caution for Businesses

  • The Algorithmic Echo Chamber: Social media platforms use algorithms that can amplify mistakes. A small error can get repeated exposure, making it harder to move past. Businesses need to understand these algorithms to better manage and mitigate risks.
  • The Impact of Employee Personal Accounts: Employees’ personal social media accounts can reflect on the company, even if unintentionally. Training and clear guidelines are crucial to ensure that personal posts don’t become public liabilities.
  • Crisis Amplification Speed: Information spreads faster than ever, and a company’s response time is critical. Having a crisis management plan in place can mean the difference between a quick recovery and a prolonged disaster.
  • The Underestimated Value of Social Listening: Many businesses don’t fully utilize social listening tools. These tools can provide early warnings about negative sentiment and allow companies to address issues before they escalate.
  • The Legal Landscape of Social Media: Beyond libel and copyright, there are specific laws like the FTC’s Endorsement Guides affecting how businesses must operate online. Understanding these nuances can prevent costly legal mistakes.
  • The Psychological Impact of Social Media on Decision Making: Social media can create a pressure to respond quickly, which can lead to rushed decisions. Training in mindful social media use can help prevent this.
  • Emerging Technologies and New Threats: As technology evolves, so do the threats. Businesses need to stay informed about new risks like deepfakes and how they might impact reputation and trust.
  • The Power of Employee Advocacy: Leveraging employees as brand ambassadors on social media can be powerful but also risky. A clear policy and training are essential to harness this power effectively.
  • The Global Stage of Social Media: Mistakes on social media don’t just have a local impact. Understanding global cultural nuances and sensitivities is vital for international businesses.
  • The Longevity of Digital Footprints: Content on social media might never truly disappear. Educating employees about the permanence and potential future impact of their posts is crucial.

What is the biggest mistake you see companies making on social media?


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