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9 social media mistakes your business must avoid

Christopher Null | May 20, 2013
One errant or rogue post can derail your business’s reputation. Learn what not to do from these real-world cautionary tales.

HMV, a global entertainment retailer, learned this lesson the hard way when it began a round of layoffs, resulting in a live-tweeting of the "mass execution" by its social media planner, who was among the fallen. It was sour grapes, to be sure, but the tweets also included allegations that the company's management had used illegal interns.

Hey, business isn't always pretty, and sometimes layoffs are the only option. But do yourself a favor and ensure that you've changed the passwords to key social media accounts before said layoffs take place. Managing the way such an event is presented to the world is a critical part of ensuring your company's long-term survival.

3. Confuse a reply with a direct message on Twitter
 
Don't act like a Weiner.

This one has actually been with us for decades. The original mistake got its start in email: accidentally "replying to all" instead of just to the original sender. Poof, your snarky remark about the president's bad breath just went to the whole company.

We've all been there, but Twitter has compounded the problem. When you send an @ reply to a message instead of the DM you intended, it doesn't just go to the whole company, it goes to the entire world...at least until you delete it.

Endless disasters have gone down this way. Charlie Sheen @'ed his phone number to the world. Economist Nouriel Roubini got in hot water when he unintentionally went public with an intended DM calling a reporter a loser.

Of course, the mother of all DM failures remains the tragic case of Congressman Anthony Weiner, who didn't just send an easily forgotten lewd remark to the universe, but also accidentally distributed a picture of his nether regions.

Twitter long ago tried to fix the arcane problem that made accidental DMs rampant, but the issue continues to crop up due to the simple and common user error of confusing the @ with the D. (A related problem is rampant on Facebook, as hapless commenters sometimes post ostensibly private messages on a contact's public timeline.)

There's no tech fix for this mistake: Smart business owners know that the best practice is to never use social media for private messages at all.

4. Commit rank insensitivity
 
Oh, Kenneth.

Corporate America probably isn't the best barometer for good taste, and when you add social media to the mix, things only get worse. Leapfrogging onto a trending hashtag (say, #Kardashian) is a popular tactic to nab a few extra followers, but if the topic is one of a sensitive nature, that tactic can backfire, badly.

 

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