Friday, July 18, 2014

A Remedial Lesson in Social Media Protocol

So what do you do when your "funny" social media post is universally attacked for being in poor taste, insensitive, and flat out not humorous?  As one celebrity of a poorly-crafted Tweet found out today, don't try to explain it, defend it, and then attack the masses who've pointed out your grievous mistake.

It's just the latest example of social media gone wrong.  In fact it's the equivalent of the home owner who paints his house fluorescent orange and green. When his neighbors complain and he refuses to repaint it, he replies: "Fine. I'll just burn it down."

Deleting an egregious post is the first thing to do. It doesn't make the problem go away nor is it meant to pretend it never happened. And though some might contend that it's an admission of fault, it's not. It's an admission of at the very least a post that wasn't completely thought out and one that is causing outrage instead of providing entertainment or information. And that's what social media is meant to do.  Remove it out of respect.

Did your audience misinterpret your words? Did they not get the joke? Are they overreacting? The answers are irrelevant. If the negative reactions outweighs the positive ones, then you failed in your primary directive. To entice, engage, or entertain your followers. Just swallow your pride and apologize if not for the remark then for at least how it was not your intent to great a negative reaction.

The other lesson individuals and companies can glean form this is to stay within your frame of reference. Make comments and observations about what you know. If I follow a football player, I'm interested in his opinions about the game, players, the draft, heck even commercials. But not only does he have no sphere of reference regarding the fluctuating dollar in Europe, the important part is that do I not care about his take on it.  I watched all the World Cup games this year and I have plenty to say about them and its players; how to best kick a ball into the goal is not one of them.

Unfortunately many people don't have that filter of what is and isn't appropriate. Just ask your Uncle Phil about his comments about the turkey last Thanksgiving. We can respond to anything that moves or touches us regardless of the relevance it has to our lives or business. But if you plan to make it public, make it relevant to you or really don't say it at all.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Avoiding Careless Social Media Brand Strategy

Yet another nail salon opened up in my neighborhood. I think that makes 20 in a three block radius. Like many men, a "nail salon" for me is a hot shower and a nail clipper that my Dad gave me 20 years ago. In my book, if the nails are trimmed neat and clean, then I've done my job. I don't begrudge anyone -- man or woman -- who patronize these establishments. But for me, color on the tips of my fingers and toes is way down on my priority list. Just ahead of starting a wasp circus.

I walk by the new nail salon sometimes four times a day. And if I see the proprietor in the window I'll smile and nod.  Yesterday I introduced myself and welcomed her to the neighborhood so it came as a surprise when she looked at me contritely and did not introduce herself.  Instead of shaking my hand, she grabbed my hand without saying a word not to shake it but to examine it. "You need a manicure," she said. "Come inside now my girls need the work." Most people would agree that this tact showed bad manners and bad business, yet this is exactly the way some brands approach social media.

So many brands and services take the shotgun approach in social media, hoping to hit as many people they can in the crossfire. Problem is no one likes to get shot. Like the nail salon owner, many brands are uninterested in getting to know me, my likes and dislikes. And if they do, they discard me when they find I don't hit the demographic.

Social media is a reflection of our daily lives that is repackaged and then delivered in digital format -- or at least it should be.  The nail salon owner surmised quickly that I wasn't in the target market. Who knows? Maybe I'm considering a future career as a foot model?  Tough to tell with my shoes on. What the nail salon owner could have done was assessed that I was not a likely customer by asking rather than assuming, then show interest and kindness ahead of trying to bully up business with a hard sell. By not doing so, she lost me as a referral to those who would use her business.

Social media done wrong, in turn, can have a similar counterproductive affect. Not engaging potential and current customers may be the best it does. You may alienate them and lose potential referrals. This is what sets good social media brand strategies from bad, and hitting the nail on the head, rather than hitting the nail with a hammer.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Living with Your Social Media Regrets

Have you made a post, shared a photo, or commented on one of your social networks that you later regretted?

If you answered, "no," then you're doing it wrong. It means you're not posting enough. We all have regrets in life, and I'm willing to bet it's more what you haven't done than did. If you're in social media, you've got to be in all the way. Not that there's anything wrong with reserving comments. I think there are many people who post far too much -- or more to the point, far too much uninteresting junk. No one's ever gone to a comedy show and complained "He was great, but he made me laugh too much." Like wearing yoga pants, everyone has the right to post, not everyone should.

However, if you answered "yes" to the question, then congratulations are in order. Not for your poor choices, but for your decision to take chances and recognize your mistakes. Most successful people do both.

When I post, I do indeed envision the consequences of my words. If I lose friends or followers on a comment or photo I found humorous or important, well then so be it. But most of the time, the ones I am most hesitant about posting receive the most acclaim.

But these are on my personal accounts. The posts I make on behalf of the companies I represent, however, is a different story. Decorum can be learned, but the dumbest choice companies make is enlisting the wrong people (i.e. non PR professionals) for making social media posts. In short, the best way to avoid dumb posts is to avoid dumb posters. That's the smartest choice a company can make.

So what if your social media pro does make a dumb choice? The best thing to do is fess up ASAP. Don't blame the poster's judgement or apparent lack of sensitivity. Remember, publicly making an employee look bad does to make your organization look good. Period. Apologize when it's appropriate, and not as a panacea to make all the complaints go away.

Finally, understand that your faux pas is bigger in your world than in ours. The heat will soon subside because there are other people and other companies around the corner whose mistakes will be....dumberer.