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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.

The jury is out on whether trying to invent a hashtag is a smart idea, but remember that once you unleash it, you can't undo it. Ensure that sentiment is squarely in your favor before trying this trick (and perhaps gaming the system a bit by offering a prize to your favorite tweeter).

7. Get political

Never mix chickens with politics.

Savvy business owners know to never, ever bring politics into the workplace. With the country split down the middle on most political issues, even the most innocent of political comments is likely to offend 50 percent of your customers.

But that didn't stop Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy from speaking publicly about his opposition to same-sex marriage last year, which culminated in a war of words across the social media landscape. Chick-fil-A eventually had to distance itself formally from political discourse, but the months-long siege against the company did its damage, with boycotts, lost partnerships, and general ill will that could have been avoided had Cathy simply shut his big mouth.

8. Fail to understand the mechanics of social media
Hashtags, @ replies, tagging--this stuff isn't necessarily easy or intuitive, and it's forgivable if you make a mistake once in awhile. That said, the stakes are higher when you're using social media in a business setting, so it pays to get things right.

Case in point: CVS Pharmacy created a new Twitter account, @CVS_Cares, and asked customers to follow it and provide feedback to the company. The problem: @CVS_Cares was locked, so no one could see its tweets or even follow the account without requesting permission.

Related to item number 4, Entenmann's found itself looking stupid when it tweeted "Who's #notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want?!" in the middle of the Casey Anthony trial. It's hard to tell whether this post was an intentional attempt to irresponsibly jump on a popular hashtag or just plain stupidity. The company lobbied hard that it was the latter.

Such stupidity was taken to the extreme earlier this week in the already infamous case of Amy's Baking Company. When the business found itself slapped with a few negative Yelp comments and Reddit users started heckling the owners' appearance on Kitchen Nightmares, Samy and Amy Bouzaglo attempted to fight back, primarily via the business's Facebook account--in all caps. Fueling the fire quickly made the problem worse, turning an amusing story that could have burned out in 15 minutes into a disaster that will stand as a case study of how not to engage critics on social media. Understand that hive mind, and do not feed the trolls.

 

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